Arizona Athletics

Shut the Front Door: UA hoop notes and more …

Not sure quite what to think of University of Arizona officials/Regents attempting to amend and re-word Sean Miller’s contract.

But Arizona athletic director Dave Heeke says it’s the right thing to do.

It does come at a time when Miller and his program is desperately looking to get recruits and well the Arizona Board of Regents are meeting in Tucson today and Friday. And Miller, well, still having to deal with those thinking he’s guilty of wrongdoing in the FBI case. He has denied knowing or being a part of it.

Sean Miller addresses the media about the FBI investigation. (Photo courtesy Matt Moreno)

These are not good times when it comes to recruiting given that Arizona has seven scholarships to give and no one – NO ONE! – has decided to commit to UA for next year. And, Miller still needs to find a couple of assistants to join his staff.

Given what we all know – and well, don’t know – it’s shaky ground these days with the program. I’m thinking a deeper run into the NCAA Tournament would have likely helped sooth everyone’s thoughts on the program, but we all know what happened there.

So, back to the revised contract, one that is unprecedented in my three decades here. As it’s been reported locally and nationally, Miller will lose $1 million of the $4.1 million from the longevity fund that was established in 2014 if he is “criminally charged or found guilty of a Level 1 NCAA violation.”

Hell, if that’s the case, wouldn’t Arizona just fire him? That would be $1 million plus whatever else he makes.
If all this is is Miller putting his money (or money eventually due to him) where his mouth is – vehemently denying he did nothing wrong in the alleged FBI probe – then good for him. If this is the Board of Regents saving themselves from litigation or protecting themselves, well then, good for them, too. But shouldn’t this type of contractual stuff already be in place?

Heeke on Wednesday told Phoenix radio station 1580 Wildcat Country, “Sean and the athletic department have really come together to say, hey, let’s send a strong statement. This is who we are. This is what we are.”

Heeke called it “a partnership” and they “believe in each other, and we’re willing to put something contractually on paper that says that’s the way we feel.”

Heeke commended Miller for going “in this direction.”

Still, what comes of all this is anyone’s guess in as much as trials and investigations by the FBI and NCAA won’t happen or be over for a year or two … or more.

But, Heeke did add he’s excited about the future of Arizona basketball.

Oh, those silly polls and projections

Well, some in the national media are not too excited about the future. Throughout the week after Monday’s Championship game, media outlets ran their way-too-early Top 25 polls and not surprisingly no one had Arizona in their Top 25.

Not surprising given Arizona’s talent has been depleted with the departures of Rawle Alkins (sophomore), Allonzo Trier (Junior) and Deandre Ayton (freshman).

What was surprising to me, however, was in ESPN’s Bracketology look at next year’s NCAA Tournament, Joe Lundardi did not have Arizona in the 68-team field. Let me say this: Arizona will be good enough to make the field even under the current conditions.

All that said, what does it all mean? Not a darn thing just like it didn’t last year when UA was projected in the top five a No. 1 seed. I said it last year at this time: there are so many moving parts between now and the start of next season and in the next 11 months that it’s all a crap shoot.

Gronkowski in, horse with Tucson Ties Out

I was so looking forward to seeing the Santa Anita Derby on Saturday, given there was a horse I’ve been following for a few months now. It’s name is McKinzie, a 3-year-old owned by local businessmen Paul Weitman and Karl Watson. The horse is trained by Arizona alum Bob Baffert.

McKinzie is a star and was among the top three choices for the upcoming Kentucky Derby next month. But now it looks like he’ll be shelved for the coming couple of months to rest his hind-leg injury he suffered recently.

Still, don’t count out Baffert not having a winner in the Santa Ana Derby. He’ll have Justify in the race, another stud 3-year-old. Justify has been listed as the morning-line favorite. Baffert has won the Santa Anita Derby seven times.

I’d be remiss in not saying there WILL be a horse running in the Kentucky Derby … kind of. A horse named Gronkowski will run for the roses on May 5. It won the Burradon Stakes in England last week and has qualified for the prestigious race.

Gronk delivering his motivational message to a 13-year-old boy with brain cancer (Gronkowski video capture)

Owner Kerri Radcliffe, a New England Patriots fan, named the horse after Gronkowski given the height of the horse (6-foot-5) and the size of the horse (he’s big).

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