September 16, 2008
Another off-season day, another coach doing something ethically questionable: Lute Olson sent a letter to boosters asking for donations to an AAU camp central to Arizona's yearly recruitment. Apparently, this is a very bad thing:
“A ‘personal and confidential’ letter was sent to Rebounders Club board of directors over the electronic signature of Lute Olson, requesting that they provide financial assistance to Jim Storey’s Cactus Classic AAU Tournament,” Livengood said in a July 2 letter to Ron Barker, Pac-10 associate commissioner in charge of governance and enforcement. “The letter expressed how important this tournament is to the Arizona basketball program’s recruiting. The letter also stated (correctly) that ‘The athletics department can’t assist in any way.’ Which would include requesting that donors make financial contributions.”
The governing NCAA rule here is that financial boosters and friends of the program aren't allowed to provide anything for potential recruits. Though not a car or a big stack of cash, arranging AAU tournament plans qualifies.
The truly shocking thing is not that this happened -- I would imagine it has happened many times, at many different schools, including, dear reader, your preferred collegiate institution -- but that Olson would be so brazen as to send a written letter asking for financial assistance. AAU tournament or no, that sounds like exactly the sort of thing a coach would never, ever want to do, even if his motives were as pure as Chase Budinger's jumper. Why leave a paper (or electronic) trail? If you "misspeak" over the phone, no one knows. "Mis-type?" You're royally screwed.
Anyway, I bet I can guess what happens next. Olson will be investigated by the NCAA. They will no doubt come to the conclusion that Olson did a naughty thing that violated the incredibly inviolable amateur spirit of college sports. They will then write him a strongly worded letter, and he will have to sit in timeout in the corner for five minutes. Without the PSP, young man!
The NCAA only wants what's best for you, Lute.