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Olson on NCAA probe: Donation letter sent in error

Olson.

Olson.

University of Arizona basketball coach Lute Olson is under investigation for possible NCAA violations, UA officials said.

UA on July 2 reported an apparent Level 2 violation – or less severe – of NCAA rules regarding soliciting donations, Athletic Director Jim Livengood said in a statement released Monday afternoon.

A letter was sent this spring to the Rebounders Club board of directors from Olson’s office, encouraging members to donate to an amateur basketball exhibition tournament at UA, Livengood’s report said.

The letter was printed over Olson’s electronic signature and went out marked “personal and confidential,” said the report Livengood sent to Ron Barker, the associate commissioner of the Pacific-10 Conference.

Olson “adamantly denied” knowledge of the letter being sent and later sent a retraction, Livengood said in his report.

NCAA rules prohibit institutional representatives from arranging financial assistance for or paying costs of prospective student athletes.

Bill Morgan, UA’s director of athletic compliance, received the letter April 10 and “immediately contacted the Pac-10 Conference,” Livengood’s report said.

The letter, which referred to the Arizona Cactus Classic, read in part: “This tournament brings some of the top players in the country to Tucson and is very critical for our recruiting. . . . . To ensure the future of this tournament, Jim (Storey) needs support from private donations.”

Storey runs the Cactus Classic.

In his retraction letter to the Rebounders, which is not dated, Olson wrote, “A letter was sent from the basketball office under my electronic signature which I had never seen or approved in any way because it was a clear-cut violation of NCAA rules.”

In a statement Monday, Olson said, “This is an unfortunate and regrettable error. We have always prided ourselves on operating within NCAA rules and regulations.”

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FIRST LETTER TO UA BOOSTERS

Personal and Confidential

Dear Rebounders:

The Arizona Cactus Classic is an AAU basketball tournament run by Jim Storey. This will be its third year and the dates are May 9-11. This tournament brings some of the top players in the country to Tucson and is very critical for our recruiting. These are high level players that wouldn’t ordinarily have a chance to visit our city and the University of Arizona campus. This tournament is a huge tool for us and it is a big part of how we get our recruits.

To ensure the future of this tournament, Jim needs support from private donations. The athletics department can’t assist in any way. This is why your help is crucial.

Jim Storey will contact you regarding your assistance. If you want to contact him or get more information, I encourage you to call his office at 520-321-1616 x-13 or on the website at www.azcactusclassic.com. I want you to know how important this is to Arizona Basketball recruiting. It is a great way to bring these athletes to Tucson and our campus.

I hope you and your families are all doing well. Thank you in advance.

Go ‘Cats!

Lute Olson

Head Coach, Men’s Basketball

RETRACTION LETTER FROM OLSON

Dear Rebounders

A letter was sent from the basketball office under my electronic signature, which I had never seen or approved in any way because it was a clear cut violation of NCAA rules.

We have always been very diligent in following rules to the letter. We always make sure to cross our “t’s” and dot our “i’s” and do not look for a way around the rules.

I am very embarrassed that this letter was sent. I have already met with our compliance officer to apologize about this letter. Please accept my deepest apology. Thank you for your understanding.

Best regards,

Lute Olson

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