The Arizona Wildcats will vacate all 19 wins from the 2007-08 basketball season, as well as eliminate a scholarship for both of the next two recruiting classes, after the NCAA Committee on Infractions stiffened the school's self-sanctions Thursday.
The NCAA ruled that two UA players who competed during 2007-08, likely forward Jamelle Horne and guard Jerryd Bayless, were ineligible because of benefits they accepted during the 2006 Arizona Cactus Classic recruiting showcase. Therefore, the 19 wins and the players' statistics will be vacated. Vacated wins do not give opponents a victory, however, and only are taken away from the winner.
However, the NCAA did not levy any postseason or television bans, the two penalties that can cause the most damage. Nor did it issue a show-cause penalty for former coach Lute Olson, who is at the center of the allegations that surrounded the Arizona Cactus Classic, a recruiting showcase run from 2006 to 2008 by the founder of recruiting website Goazcats.com.
The NCAA found that Olson impermissibly aided the Cactus Classic's finances by soliciting booster support, a charge the UA responded to in part by referring to Olson's medical issues on multiple occasions. Olson retired in October 2008 at age 74.
Still, the NCAA ruled that Olson was a longtime coach with many years of NCAA rules education and that Olson did not check with the UA compliance office to see if his contact with the Arizona Cactus Classic promoter, Jim Storey, posed a problem.
After the NCAA's announcement, the UA said it would not appeal the result and basketball coach Sean Miller said he was pleased it would not affect his current and future teams.
"We are all looking forward to a bright future as we continue to develop and build our basketball program with integrity at the forefront of everything we strive to accomplish," Miller said in a UA statement. "I am very happy for our current players that today's sanctions won't affect their future, nor will it affect the prospects that we are currently recruiting to our great university."
The ruling will hinder Miller's recruiting efforts somewhat, however. UA can offer only 12 scholarships instead of the maximum of 13 for both the 2011-12 and 2012-13 seasons - the school had self-imposed a scholarship loss only for 2011-12 - and Miller's staff will be able to offer only six official campus visits for 2010-11 and 2011-12.
The other major penalties affect the past, with the 19 wins and the statistics from the two involved players gone.
The NCAA and UA did not name the two players because of privacy rules, but UA had four players in 2007-08 who were involved with the 2006 Cactus Classic: Horne, Bayless, Zane Johnson and Alex Jacobson.
Only two of them had a significant impact on the season, Bayless and Horne, while Jacobson sat out as a redshirt and Johnson was only lightly used in 15 games. The NCAA said players who competed in the 2006 Cactus Classic and received impermissible benefits - UA admitted that the prospects involved with the event were given expenses worth double-digit sums - were ineligible in 2007-08 and therefore any wins they contributed to will be vacated.
Horne played in all but one of UA's wins that season, at Houston. Bayless played in all but one, at Oregon State. Johnson played in the Houston game, so it is not clear from the NCAA's wording which two players are involved.
Bayless did not play in the 2006 Cactus Classic, though he was present with his traveling team, the Arizona Magic.
The vacating of wins will not affect Olson, meanwhile, because he was taking a season-long leave of absence. Instead, interim head coach Kevin O'Neill will lose the 19 wins.
O'Neill said that didn't bother him. "To be honest that's the least of my worries," said O'Neill, now head coach at USC, which is also facing NCAA sanctions for violations committed under a former coach. "I feel bad for the fans of Arizona."
Olson also will not receive a show-cause penalty, which is sometimes handed to departed coaches who run into violations. The penalty means a new employer must demonstrate to the infractions committee that the coach has faced sufficient disciplinary action.
"The coach has retired," said Paul Dee, the infractions committee chairman. "I think that's the reason the committee considered that any penalty in that regard would not be appropriate."
Asked whether Olson's health ultimately lessened the NCAA's decision, Dee said "I can't say that his condition did not come into play."
Olson was not available for comment. UA athletic director Greg Byrne was on vacation and also unavailable for comment, though he issued a statement through the school.
"We're satisfied that the process has reached a conclusion," he said. "We have cooperated throughout and respect the findings of the committee."
The NCAA wound up increasing nearly every one of UA's self-sanctions, doubling the scholarship loss and halving the number of official visits for the next two seasons. The NCAA added the vacating of games and statistics, something UA had not proposed.
"I'd have to say we're pleased to say they self-imposed what they did but we went further," Dee said.