In a bit of damage control last week, the UA athletic department issued a news release and photograph of basketball player Solomon Hill meeting patients at the University of Arizona Medical Center - Diamond Children's.
The UA said that its student-athletes volunteered more than 3,800 hours in community service during the 2011-12 academic year.
But all of that goodwill came tumbling down in Josiah Turner's repeated series of off-field disciplinary issues. (Can you believe a 19-year-old college student has never bothered to get a driver's license?)
The UA's image had already been smudged in a late-night skirmish after which two key UA football players, Fabbians Ebbele and Jourdon Grandon, were separated from the team during spring practice.
On top of that, Wildcat basketball player Jesse Perry was charged with domestic violence, aggravated assault of a former girlfriend, a Class 4 felony.
Then I turned on ESPN last week to see ex-UA center Jordan Hill surrounded by cameras and microphones at the Los Angeles Lakers' practice facility, trying to explain why he had been charged with felony assault of a former girlfriend.
He stumbled and mumbled and had difficulty with the English language, just as he did during his three UA seasons. He embarrassed himself and his alma mater, and that has nothing to do with his police-related issues.
I didn't get to know Jordan Hill in his three seasons at the UA - the players are put into a cocoon and kept off-limits from outsiders - but I must've sat through 20 or 30 media sessions with him and they were all as uncomfortable as his ESPN footage.
From 2006 to 2009, I thought it was incumbent on former UA athletic director Jim Livengood to take action.
Everyone could see how much Jordan Hill struggled to express himself. If you are going to take advantage of a ballplayer's skills, isn't it on the athletic department to get that future lottery pick into a program where he can learn life skills and not just how to run the pick-and-roll?
The UA athletic department helps to develop hundreds of productive students and citizens every year, but all it takes is a Josiah Turner and a Jordan Hill to forget that Solomon Hill is at the hospital, visiting sick kids.
Help appears to be on the way for struggling pitching staff
After giving up 10 runs to UCLA in Friday's softball loss, Arizona's team earned run average was 2.81.
Until 2009, no UA softball team ever had a team ERA in excess of 1.77. But in the last four seasons, the staff ERAs have been 2.98, 2.19, 2.99 and now the 2.81. No wonder the Wildcats have slipped from their long position of dominance.
Here's some potentially good news: Mike Candrea has signed Simi Valley, Calif., pitcher Nancy Bowling, which initially was below-the-fold news in November.
But given the continued struggles of Arizona's pitching staff, Bowling now projects as a potential top-of-the-rotation starter in 2013.
She was 20-2 through Friday, with a 0.44 ERA and 193 strikeouts in 126 innings at Royal High School. She has 15 shutouts. Bowling's signing was initially downplayed because she suffered a serious knee injury last year. She has returned to top form, developing as an elite pitcher under 1994 NCAA Player of the Year Susie Parra, the Arizona All-American who has been Bowling's pitcher instructor.
Also on the way is Yavapai College pitcher Estela Pinon, who last week was selected as the ACCAC Player of the Year. The Sunnyside grad took a 20-2 record and 1.49 ERA into this weekend's league playoffs. She has struck out 249 in 152 1/3 innings.
Arizona can hit with anybody in college softball. Its lineup is loaded. But if you can't pitch, as Arizona has discovered in four painful seasons, you can't play.
Ironwood Ridge graduates star in auto racing, volleyball
Ironwood Ridge High grad Alex Bowman won his third ARCA racing series championship last week at the Salem Speedway in Indiana. Bowman, who won his only two starts as a 2011 ARCA rookie, had the fastest practice times at Friday's Talladega International Motorsports 250, but encountered engine trouble in the race and finished 32nd. He has won three of his six lifetime races on the ARCA circuit. … Another Ironwood Ridge grad, Michaela Christiaansen, helped Pepperdine win the first college Sand Volleyball championships last week in Gulf Shores, Ala. Christiaansen, who was an All-WCC freshman selection during Pepperdine's Elite Eight volleyball season, won the No. 5 doubles title in the sand finals. … Former UA assistant volleyball coach Chris Gonzalez led Switzerland Volero Zurich to the Swiss Super Cup championship last month. He will now return to Tucson to coach the VBC Dinamo 15 Elite team this summer, one of Christiaasen's former teams. Two of Gonzalez's top VBC players, who helped the team finish fourth in the Far West Regionals in Reno, Nev., last week, are daughters of former UA standouts. Catalina Foothills' Delaney Dunagan is the daughter of ex-UA golfer Wade Dunagan, and Jordan Weatherless is the daughter of ex-UA softball player Renee Weatherless. … Fifteen-time Sunnyside High state championship wrestling coach Bobby DeBerry last week said he has officially accepted the head coaching job at Tucson High, where he served on an interim basis last year. After DeBerry left the Blue Devils, the club's 14-year state championship streak ended. I'm guessing that DeBerry, much like ex-Sabino football coach Jeff Scurran did at moribund Santa Rita, will soon have the Badgers in state title contention.
More short stuff
Maryland departure won't benefit Stoglin
Terrell Stoglin's forced departure from Maryland is regrettable and, in the long run, damaging to his wish to play in the NBA. He is not included in any of the NBA mock drafts I've seen and will likely need to spend a few years at a mid-level European team to get NBA-ready. Stoglin would've benefited greatly from transferring to an elite college basketball program, sitting out a year, and playing two additional college years. The demand for undersized, shoot-first point guards (a la MoMo Jones) is limited. One thing in Stoglin's favor: Dating to 1987, only two ACC scoring champions - Clemson's Terrell McIntyre, 1999, and Virginia Tech's Malcolm Delaney, 2010 - did not reach the NBA. … Former UA All-America swimmer Annie Chandler, preparing for the Olympic trials with the Tucson Ford Aquatics program, is also blessed as a skilled writer. Chandler recently wrote a piece for arizonawildcats.com on the friendship between UA NCAA high-jump champions Brigetta Barrett and Liz Patterson. It's worth a look. … Tucson High grad Osia Lewis, now defensive coordinator for San Diego State, returned home last week to offer Salpointe junior receiver Cameron Denson and Ironwood Ridge defensive back Tyler Williams scholarships. He expects to return to THS May 19 when the school celebrates 100 years of football at the new Hall of Champions. … Former UA running backs coach Jeff Woodruff, part of Dick Tomey's 12-1 team of 1998, has become head coach at Southern California prep powerhouse Oaks Christian School, one of the top two or three prospect-producing teams in the West. Woodruff was the head coach at Cholla High in 1996 and 1997, going 8-12, which, given the talent he had on hand, hinted that he knew his stuff. He has been an assistant at UTEP since 2004.
RichRod's assistants turn to Arizona preps
UA football coach Rich Rodriguez condensed his spring recruiting/evaluations last week by assigning all of his assistants to work in-state, at Arizona high schools. RichRod's plan is to get his staff's names and faces in front of every high school coach in the state. That's not exactly from the Mike Stoops school of outreach. … The Pac-12 football coaches will hold a first-ever post-spring ball teleconference on Tuesday. It should be entertaining. The new coaches in the league are all media-savvy, quote-on-demand types to rival Oregon's Chip Kelly. RichRod, Wazzu's Mike Leach, UCLA's Jim Mora and ASU's Todd Graham should help keep the Pac-12 in the headlines. … Finishing second in the Tour of the Tucson Mountains last week was Mike Ciasca. Sound familiar? He was a Parade All-America tackle at Sahuaro High School in 1990 and a starting UA tackle until injuries ended his career. Ciasca covered 73 miles in 2 hours 53 minutes. … Cienega grad Seth Mejias-Brean entered the ongoing Oregon-UA baseball series leading the Pac-12 with a .391 batting average. It's not a fluke. Since April 30, 2011, Mejias, a third baseman, has hit .399 in 61 college baseball games. He is likely to be drafted in the first six or eight rounds in next month's draft. … When UA freshman golfer Manon Gidali was selected to the All-Pac-12 first team last week, she became the sixth Wildcat female golfer in history to receive that honor. It's an impressive list: Annika Sorenstam, 1991; Marisa Baena, 1996; Natalie Gulbis and Lorena Ochoa, 2001; and Erica Blasberg, 2003.
My two cents
National is intriguing, but keeping Match Play at Ritz sensible
The WGC-Accenture Match Play Championship and the Tucson Conquistadores had an easy decision to return to The Ritz-Carlton Golf Club, Dove Mountain in 2013.
The other option, Omni Tucson National, will be access-challenged through the '13 tournament with ongoing construction at the Overton/Magee/Shannon area. Plus, expansion of the Foothills Mall has made off-site parking options near Tucson National limited, perhaps worse than those on Dove Mountain.
I like the romantic notion of returning Tucson's pro golf event to Tucson National, if only because it's more walkable and fan-friendly.
But the Ritz is a knockout on TV, in what has become a five-day marketing campaign for Tucson tourism. It's a hike to get there, but it has a big-league feel. If the Conquistadores can keep the Match Play event through 2018 - negotiations are ongoing - much of it will be a reflection on the Ritz's reputation as a big-league host.