EDITORIAL: Arizona athletics continues to embarrass UA
You can’t turn on local television, national sports television or local radio without hearing about the college basketball scandal. The team that is caught smack-dab in the middle of it: the University of Arizona. Regardless of what has happened so far in the FBI investigation, UA’s reputation has taken a significant hit. On a national level, the hoops scandal has brought out all the other roaches from the walls of McKale Center, and there is no light to be seen.
Since ESPN dropped the bombshell on the collegiate landscape a week ago, reporting sources have revealed Arizona men’s basketball head coach was Sean Miller on a FBI wiretap discussing a possible $100,000 payment for current freshman Deandre Ayton with former ASM agent Christian Dawkins, all hell has broken loose. It started with the national media dragging Miller and the university through the mud, and it ended with UA fans on Twitter and other media outlets, including NBC Sports and Yahoo’s Pat Forde, poking holes in ESPN’s claim.
Regardless of what truths lie beneath, the results have put the Arizona athletic program at the peak of irresponsibility and embarrassment — deservedly so. During ESPN’s telecast of Arizona versus Oregon, a graphic popped up detailing the trouble in Tucson; it didn’t stop at the FBI probe. The details of new allegations added to a Title IX lawsuit, including possible gang rape within the UA football program also popped up on screen.
Concurrently on ABC, the story of former track and field coach Craig Carter and his assault and stalking of former shot putter Baillie Gibson was on full display on “20/20.”
It’s all coming full circle.
For a couple of years now, Arizona’s athletic department has operated in a cloak of secrecy, especially when it comes to its flagship program, men’s basketball. Players are only available to the local media on a once-a-week basis or after games. This makes it so locals who support the school have no buy-in with players, despite what they see on the court or TV. That is unless, ironically enough, you are from ESPN or another national outlet, a platform that has more viewers nationally. Yes, the same ESPN that is currently raking Arizona over the coals.
The results of an athletic department led by Greg Byrne, former director of UA athletics, are seemingly filled with new information of past wrongdoings. Craig Carter, Elliott Pitts, Orlando Bradford, Emanuel Richardson and now Sean Miller are all contributing to a national morale killing of the Wildcat brand, with little to nothing to show for it.
Is selling your soul to the devil for a Fiesta Bowl bid worth it? How about the numerous attempts at a Final Four only to be beat by some guys who represent the cheese state?
And now Dave Heeke and UA President Dr. Robert Robbins find themselves cleaning up the mess Byrne and former President Ann Weaver Hart made. But they, too, are fumbling the ball. Since the report by ESPN, not a peep has been made by either of the two — a stark contrast by the supposed hammer dropped on Rich Rodriguez following hostile work environment claims a couple months ago, although officially, Rodriguez was not fired with that as the backdrop.
This school deserves better. It’s been made out to be a corrupt organization based on the perception of Arizona basketball and the several other instances of loathesome conduct. Changes need to happen, whether that means with Miller, the core of the athletic department or with the leaders of this school who see fit to accept such poor actions on a regular basis.
Scandal and legalities shouldn’t be the norm for a school wthat allegedly prides itself on doing things right, the motto of every single university. The problem is the culture; whether that is the coaches, athletes or administrators that find themselves in the crux of controversy, some type of re-evaluation needs to be done. A complete overhaul of the type of person this school is looking to represent it at the national level may be in order. There are plenty of model student-athletes. However, the shadiness doesn’t lie within those who perform and are available any time. No, it lies within the specific programs who are allowed to operate in the dark. Coaches who allow themselves to be shielded from answering questions they don’t want to, and the administrators who accept such behavior, need some type of recourse.
No one said being a multi-million-dollar coach was easy, and neither is being an athletic director or school president, but that is why they pay them the big bucks. Or is that set aside for other endeavors?
Editorials are determined by the Daily Wildcat Opinions Board and are written by its members. They are Editor-in-chief Courtney Talak, Opinions Editor Andrew Paxton, Content Editor Marissa Heffernan, Engagement Editor Saul Bookman and Arts & Life Editor Pascal Albright. Follow Daily Wildcat on Twitter.