The Arizona football team begins its 2013 season against Northern Arizona at Arizona Stadium on Aug. 30, which is 53 days away. From now until then, this Web site will count down the days with facts about the Wildcats, their players, coaching staff and opponents. This is not a ranking, only a list of 100 facts and observances related to the 2013 Arizona football team and coach Rich Rodriguez.
Arizona has not had to concern itself with an NCAA investigation for more than 30 years, but the Wildcats and other Pac-12 institutions kept a close eye on what the governing body might do with the Oregon program over alleged recruiting violations.
The NCAA ruling last week, essentially a slap on the wrist for Oregon, has drawn criticism from media and mostly USC followers.
The Trojans are coming off a four-year probation that included a two-year bowl ban in 2010 and 2011 and reduction of 30 scholarships. USC was also forced to vacate 14 victories in which former running back Reggie Bush played from December 2004 through the 2005 season.
The NCAA ruled that Bush received lavish gifts from two fledgling sports marketers hoping to sign him. The men allegedly paid for everything from hotel stays and a rent-free home where Bush’s family apparently lived.
Oregon will lose a scholarship in each season during a three-year probation period, but avoided a bowl ban and other major penalties under sanctions issued by the NCAA’s Division I Committee on Infractions last Wednesday.
The committee also placed an 18-month show-cause order on former Oregon coach Chip Kelly, who is now coaching the NFL’s Philadelphia Eagles. If Kelly leaves the Eagles in that 18-month time frame, a college that tries to hire him must go before the NCAA to state their case.
Oregon lost one scholarship for the 2012-13 academic year and will lose another in 2013-14 under self-imposed sanctions. It also will have its total number of scholarships reduced by one from a maximum of 85 each of the next three seasons, also self-imposed.
The NCAA cut Oregon’s official paid visits from 56 to 37 for the next three academic years, reduced its evaluation days for each of the next three seasons and banned the program from using recruiting services during the probation period. Oregon must also disassociate itself from Willie Lyles’ Houston-based recruiting service, which was at the center of the investigation.
“Now that the NCAA has concluded their investigation and penalized the University of Oregon and its football program, I want to apologize to the University of Oregon, all of its current and former players and their fans,” Kelly said in a statement. “I accept my share of responsibility for the actions that led to the penalties. As I have I stated before, the NCAA investigation and subsequent ruling had no impact on my decision to leave Oregon for Philadelphia. I have also maintained throughout that I had every intention to cooperate with the NCAA’s investigation, which I did.”
The NCAA investigated Oregon’s recruiting practices since a 2010 payment of $25,000 was made by Oregon to Lyles and his recruiting service, Complete Scouting Services. Lyles had a connection with Lache Seastrunk, a star prep running back from Texas who committed to Oregon in 2010, a month before the payment.
While use of services to identify potential recruits is allowed under NCAA rules, questions were raised about Lyles’ relationship with Seastrunk and other athletes from Texas, and whether he steered any prospects to the Ducks, which would be a violation.
Seastrunk redshirted for the Ducks his freshman year before transferring to Baylor prior to the 2011 season.
The infractions committee found that Lyles provided cash and free lodging to a prospect, and engaged in impermissible calls and off-campus contact with prospects, their families and high school coaches.
It also said the football program exceeded coaching limits by allowing staff members to engage in recruiting activity.
The NCAA said Kelly was unaware of Lyles’ involvement in recruiting, but the committee noted it is the head coach’s responsibility to know the rules and ensure staff and coaches comply with them.
ESPN.com reports that the “genesis” of Lyles’ relationship with Oregon’s football program occurred on or about Dec. 20, 2007, when Lyles called Kelly, who was then working as the Ducks’ offensive coordinator. According to the NCAA report, Lyles asked Kelly what kind of players Oregon was interested in recruiting. Kelly told him “skill position” players with “speed.”
ESPN.com reports that Lyles sent Kelly a video of recruits shortly thereafter, and then Oregon subscribed to Lyles’ recruiting service in May 2008. A year later, Lyles accompanied Kelly on recruiting visits to high schools.
This is Oregon’s third NCAA probation since 1977. The Ducks have served only one year of a bowl ban in 1982.
USC has the dubious distinction of serving the most bowl bans (six) among Pac-12 schools since 1952. UCLA is next with four but only once since 1958. ASU, Colorado and Cal have served three bowl bans. Arizona and Washington have endured two bowl bans, while Oregon and Oregon State have only served one.
Utah has served two separate NCAA probations but never a bowl ban. Stanford and Washington State have never served an NCAA probation.
The NCAA reported in 1983 that Arizona’s bowl ban in 1983-1984 was a result of significant improper benefits and substantial amounts of money provided to enrolled student-athletes by former members of the football coaching staff. The NCAA did not specifically name the coaches, although the probation was served by Larry Smith’s staff. The NCAA ruled that Smith or his staff were not part of the violations.
The previous staff included Tony Mason as head coach. Mason and some of his assistants were also investigated for submitting falsified travel vouchers.
In addition to the bowl ban, Arizona also was not allowed to play on national television in 1984 and 1985.
The best No. 53 to wear the Arizona jersey, according to TucsonCitizen.com’s Anthony Gimino is center Roger Twibell (1970) although he did not play for the Wildcats. The longtime TV announcer was listed at No. 53 in the 1970 media guide. His sportscasting career started in 1972 at KGUN-TV.
WILDABOUTAZCATS.net publisher, writer and editor Javier Morales is a former Arizona Press Club award winner. He also writes blogs for Lindy’s College Sports, TucsonCitizen.com and Sports Illustrated-sponsored site ZonaZealots.com.