For reasons we’ve discussed before, the rules that Arizona Wildcats basketball uses to determine whose jerseys get retired are dumb. Those rules, though, just got a little less dumb. Starting now, Arizona basketball players who win Most Outstanding Player in the NCAA Tournament are now eligible to have their jersey recognized (Arizona basketball jerseys don’t get retired - they get "recognized").
This new rule benefits exactly one player - Miles Simon. Simon won Most Outstanding Player in the 1997 NCAA Tournament, averaging 22 points a game and leading the Wildcats to the national championship. The next season, he was even better: he was a consensus first team All-American and arguably the best shooting guard in the country. Thanks to this rule change, Simon will finally get the recognition and credit he deserves.
It’s surprising, really, that it took this long to change the criteria. Simon is without question one of the five most important players in Arizona basketball history - only Sean Elliott, Steve Kerr, and maybe Mike Bibby are in the same league - and really the guy most responsible for the school’s one national championship. His jersey needed to be recognized, one way or another.
Hopefully this latest change signals that the athletic department will take a pragmatic approach in determining whose jersey is recognized and who makes the Ring of Honor. As it stands, Damon Stoudamire still isn’t eligible to have his jersey recognized despite being the best point guard in the country and sharing Pac-10 Player of the Year honors in 1995. And T.J. McConnell technically isn’t eligible for the Ring of Honor because he didn’t win any conference level award during his time at Arizona.
Those are mistakes, at least in my mind, and I’d rather the committee use its own judgment to determine who to honor rather than apply hard-and-fast rules. But if the committee is willing to change those rules to make sure the right people get honored, that works, too.