When he took over as interim head coach for Lute Olson in the 2007-08 season, Kevin O'Neill guided the Wildcats to a 19-15 record in one of the program's most turbulent seasons on record.

Well, not anymore. Officially, at least.

O'Neill now officially went 0-14 that season following changes ordered by the NCAA infractions committee that vacated UA's 19 wins and its NCAA tournament loss to West Virginia, according to NCAA statistician Gary Johnson.

O'Neill's 14-year mark now officially drops to 185-207 (.472) from 204-208 (.495).

"I did all that for zero wins?" O'Neill said jokingly. "Wow."

Johnson said, however, that he will place some sort of asterisk next to O'Neill's record indicating that his record reflects vacated games that arose from a penalty he was not involved in.

"This is the first case where something like this has happened," Johnson said. "In all my other cases, the coach was still the coach. I've had some where the coach does change from one year to the next and the same violations occurred  and I don't know if the new coach was found guilty. This is the only one where it's been a one-year penalty and it's been a different coach who they said" was not implicated.

Individual statistics for the two ineligible players from 2007-08, believed to be Jamelle Horne and Jerryd Bayless, will also be officially vacated. However, Johnson said both players statistics will be kept in cases where deleting them would cause an imbalance (such as in season statistics and boxscores).

If Bayless was ruled ineligible - the NCAA did not list names officially - UA will have to delete his single-game free-throw record he set with 18 against Houston on Jan. 12, 2008, as well as his 20 attempt record from that game, and a McKale Center record of 16 free throws against Stanford on Feb. 16, 2008.

Johnson said that first-place record holders are taken out of the top spot and typically a note is made after the list saying the player set the mark but it was later vacated.


On the http://dynamic.azstarnet.com/comments/viewcomments.php?id=/sports/blogs/pascoe/article_0a8398de-9b56-11df-91ca-001cc4c03286.html&h=How%20NCAA%20sanctions%20will%20impact%20UA" target="_blank">previous discussion thread, which contains a lot of opinion on the NCAA  ruling, Mrechs asked about what specific benefits were given to the players. The UA's response to the NCAA allegations says only that the players were directly given double-digit sums to cover expenses and that their teams were given additional expense money.

The central issue here, I believe, is that Lute Olson helped financially benefit the Cactus Classic, which might not have been able to exist (at least in theory) without that help. Therefore, Olson helped create what were essentially unofficial visits by hundreds of elite recruitable athletes, giving UA a recruiting edge.

That makes it different than anything Calipari or others have done. It may not have been a huge benefit given to one guy but it was benefits given to hundreds of players. That, in the NCAA's minds, could be just as significant or more significant than a one-time payoff to star player.

MCAT asked about how Horne became eligible in 2008-09. That's a great question and one that has not been addressed fully. The reason is that UA players paid restitution in November 2008 that made them eligible going forward but not backward -- therefore the 2007-08 season (the first that those in UA's 2006 Arizona Cactus Cactus alumni competed in for UA is the one that is affected.

UA might have been able to salvage the 2007-08 damage had it known  about the Cactus Classic issue in the fall of 2007, and  made them pay restitution then, but it did not. But the NCAA cited UA's failure to monitor heavily, so they probably felt that this should have been rooted out internally by the fall of 2007. Since it wasn't, the NCAA levied the penalty.


Here's my story from Nov. 15, 2008 discussing the  restitution (it was difficult to get anything on the record at that time):

The NCAA has questioned several Arizona players as part of its ongoing investigation into the Wildcat basketball program and the Arizona Cactus Classic elite prep tournament, but the school expects them all to retain their eligibilities.

An unsourced ESPN.com report Friday said an NCAA reinstatement committee was working with the UA to determine if six Wildcat players who played in the event as prep stars - Zane Johnson, Jamelle Horne, Kyle Fogg, Alex Jacobson, Garland Judkins and Brendon Lavender - would be declared ineligible and then need to seek reinstatement.

But UA athletic director Jim Livengood told the Star there are "no players at all" who won't be eligible for the Wildcats' season opener Monday against Florida Atlantic, and UA compliance director Bill Morgan also indicated their eligibilities are of no concern.

"There is nothing that would lead me to believe that they will not be playing Monday night," Morgan said, declining further comment.

Several Wildcat players told the Star on Friday they had discussed paying up to $60 for excessive benefits, which could have included pizza and rides given during the May event, although UA interim head coach Russ Pennell said they have not paid anything.

"It's a done deal and, unless they just totally surprise me, everything was good," Pennell said Friday. ESPN's report is "just stirring up the pot."

Even if the players remain eligible, Arizona could still get hit with an NCAA penalty over issues with the Arizona Cactus Classic.

In what it characterized as a secondary violation, the school self-reported that former UA coach Lute Olson signed a letter seeking financial support for the spring event, which annually brings in hundreds of recruitable elite athletes. The self-report was obtained by the Star in September via a public records request.

According to ESPN.com's report, Olson also introduced Cactus Classic organizer Jim Storey at a Rebounders Club event, turned the meeting over to Storey, and then departed while Storey discussed a need for financial assistance.

Under NCAA rules, a school or athletic representative cannot offer, provide or arrange financial assistance, directly or indirectly, to pay for a recruit's expenses for any period prior to his university enrollment.

An attempt to reach Storey, who also runs the recruiting-oriented goazcats.com Web site, was unsuccessful.

Pennell said he believed the players' questioning came about because of the investigation that Olson's letter triggered, although he said he has not been privy to all details of the investigation.

"This is something that's been ongoing for a while," Pennell said. "At no time were there guys ineligible. They're just looking into - I don't know exactly what they're looking into. All I know is, I've been told my team will be on the floor Monday night, and I was told that today."

Sophomore forward Jamelle Horne said he didn't pay anything for reinstatement, and wondered why the NCAA did not question the other hundreds of players in the tournament.

"They only came after us," Horne said after Friday's practice. "I think it was a Lute thing or something."

Center Alex Jacobson said the team met to discuss the issue on Oct. 31, and sophomore guard Lavender said having to pay $60 was a "worst-case scenario" that appeared to be based on incidentals received.

"We didn't even know. We weren't taking anything," Lavender said. "I guess it was the little van trip from the hotel to here. They paid for the gas, I guess. And the pizza they gave out to us. But every person got it, so I don't know why (they asked us). It was a weird situation."

Sophomore wing Zane Johnson said he didn't think any UA players would have to pay anything, noting that players didn't receive anything different at the Cactus Classic than at other elite events.

"They were all exactly the same," Johnson said.

While shoe companies sponsor many traveling-team events, Storey told the Star in 2006 that he seeks local sponsorship for the Cactus Classic so as to not scare off traveling teams that are affiliated with other shoe companies.

Storey said he typically gave teams four hotel rooms per night and meals while charging them a $500 entrance fee.

"The biggest motivation, which I've experienced (at tournaments) in Las Vegas and Houston, is that it's so exciting to watch the new talent of tomorrow, future NBA guys," Storey said in 2006. "I thought this would be fantastic for Tucson, which is such a good basketball town."


Here's another breakdown of UA's self-imposed penalties and the specifics about how the NCAA increased many of them:

1 -- Two years' probation beginning Feb. 5, 2010, when UA submitted its official response to the NCAA allegations.

The NCAA changed the probation period from today through July 28, 2012.

2 -- Reducing official recruiting visits from the maximum of 12 to 11 in 2009-10 and to eight for 2010-11. (The UA said the higher number in 2009-10 reflects the number already used at the time of their response).

The NCAA increased the reductions to six visits for each of the 2010-11 and 2011-12 recruiting years.

3 -- Reducing recruiting "person-days" from the maximum of 130 to 120 in 2009-10 and to 110 in 2010-11.

The NCAA increased the reduction to 100 days in 2010-11.

4 -- Reducing recruiting person-days from 60 to 52 this July.

The NCAA did not change this; the July period is almost over.

5 -- Reducing scholarships from the maximum of 13 to 12 for 2011-12.

The NCAA also took away a scholarship for the 2012-13 season.

6 -- Institutional recertification that the  UA's current policies and practices conform to NCAA requirements.


Thanks to Mrechs for posting the story about the schedule change with San Diego State. That story is correct, and  now http://www.signonsandiego.com/news/2010/jul/28/fishers-big-recruiting-push-is-for-games-not/" target="_blank">UA will face New Mexico State instead on Nov. 18 at McKale. UA basketball operations head Ryan Reynolds said it remains uncertain if UA will resume a series with SDSU.




Sportswriter for the Arizona Daily Star covering Arizona Wildcats basketball