In a three-part interview with Patrick Finley of the Arizona Daily Star, athletic director Greg Byrne weighed in on everything from the possibility of a downtown basketball arena in Tucson to his plan to get more fans at women's basketball games. Between the three interviews, Byrne touched on a couple topics heating up around college football and Arizona's plans for the future.
It's clear the NCAA is no longer sitting idly by when it comes to compliance violations. USC's two-year postseason ban certainly was no joke to the Trojans, Cameron Newton's name was (and still is according to the NCAA) under serious scrutiny and Jim Tressel is now out of a job at Ohio State.
The NCAA announced yesterday that LSU would be put on a year's probation in addition to self-imposed sanctions due to recruiting violations.
The Pac-12 got its own chapter in the saga of summer scandals when Willie Lyles opened up about his $25,000 paycheck and his interactions with Oregon's LaMichael James and other Duck players.
A.D.s around college football are quickly learning that compliance education is more important to their athletic programs than any booster. Byrne is no exception in his quest to ensure Arizona isn't slapped with any sanctions.
Byrne said that the Arizona athletic department is adding a new position in compliance.
When Finley asked his reasoning, Byrne simply responded, "Have you read the news (about Oregon, Ohio State, etc)?"
Byrne doesn't want any shenanigans happening at Arizona (that's not to say they won't happen, but he's doing his best to put up a front that all is quiet on the western front in Tucson).
CBSSports writer Tony Barnhart reports:
"Byrne sent out an email to alumni with his phone number, email and the phone number of his compliance director. He asked that if alumni found that Arizona athletes were getting extra benefits, pick up the phone and call."
While nothing may come of Byrne's request (Alumni probably won't be lining up to blow the whistle on players from their alma matters), it shows NCAA officials that Byrne is at least being proactive about Arizona's compliance. And for now, that's all the NCAA needs to see.
Apparently full-ride tuition scholarships aren't enough to cover the cost of attendance for college athletes anymore.
The stance of schools on the pay-for-play debate may largely depend on how large their athletic budgets are.
Arizona finished in the black during his first year as A.D., according to Byrne, and the Wildcats operate on a budget of roughly $55 million per year, according to the Star.
And that's a good thing considering some of that money may have to be allocated to stipends to supplement the scholarships that athletes already receive.
While Arizona, and presumably all of the Pac-12 schools, should be able to pick up the slack on additional scholarship costs (see that $21.5 million per school bonus as a result of the Fox and ESPN media deal) the question still remains: If the athletes do serve the extra cash, which athletes do you give it to? And how much?
The question brings up a murky situation for which Byrne didn't seem to have a clear-cut answer.
Per Finley: You're not a lawyer, but in your mind is it fair to reimburse or pay a stipend to the best player on your men's basketball team and not the worst scholarship player on a sport that earns no income for the school?
Byrne: Based on our capitalistic society, yes. But the NCAA is not based on that.
The argument, then, becomes who gets the extra money and the fairness of the distribution. What about implications of the Title IX rule?
For Arizona, a large chunk would be given to football and basketball. But the Wildcats also have championship winners in lower-profile sports like softball, track and field and swimming.
For the Wildcats, successful women's sports would also have to receive funds to justify the payout to the basketball and football teams.
For now though, Byrne mum's the word on the likelihood of paying players:
"There's a lot of debate right now about full cost-of-attendance stipends for student-athletes. I think that's a very, very complex issue."
"There are a lot of things, I think, that need to be discussed that aren't going to take three months. That will probably take a few years."