The IARP finally, mercifully announced its ruling with regards to Arizona Basketball.
The punishment? Aside from time already served, the men’s basketball program will lose one scholarship for 2023-24 and the coaches will not be allowed to communicate with recruits over the phone or by message for seven weeks during this current season. The school itself will be fined five grand and all wins and titles from the 2016-17 and 2017-18 seasons will be vacated.
The end of Arizona as we knew it did not come to be, much to the surprise (dismay?) of many fans and some members of the media.
They won’t hang a banner for it in the McKale Center, but you better believe this is as important a victory as the program could achieve.
Whereas once it seemed like the Wildcats were destined to fall from their perch as one of the premier programs in the West, if not the country, they now get to continue on the trajectory they were put on last season.
You know, the one that led to a Pac-12 regular-season title, a Pac-12 Conference Championship, an NCAA Tournament No. 1 seed and a trip to the Sweet 16. It’s the same one that saw the team lose three starters and return a squad that is currently ranked ninth in the country. The cloud of pending punishment has been lifted, and now the future is officially bright.
It’s not a bad place to be.
“We are pleased to have reached the end of this process with the NCAA and have strong confidence in our leadership,” Arizona president Robert C. Robbins said via a statement. “The basketball program, under Tommy Lloyd, is in great hands and I look forward to another highly successful season.”
Another highly successful season.
It’s as beautiful to read as it was to type.
Yes, much of the last five years was rough. Sean Miller’s name was dragged through the mud, oftentimes without any factual basis for doing so, and the program program itself was blemished with him. Talking heads and others who opined on the topic by and large ignored the evidence (or in this case, lack thereof) and pushed forward with a fiery narrative that history has not been kind to.
Will any of them be held accountable? Probably not. Most people have probably forgotten about what the likes of Jay Bilas, Seth Greenberg and others had to say in the fall of 2017 and spring of 2018, save for salty Arizona fans.
That this ruling came down right before ESPN once again visits Tucson, for Saturday night's game against No. 6 Tennessee, is poetic. But I digress.
Of course, Cats fans have every right to show their receipts. For much of the last five years they’ve had to defend against what the IARP has essentially deemed to be a fairy tale, and no amount of “well, actually” could change an accuser's mind. Trying to provide facts to people who have already made up their mind was far too often a fruitless venture.
So yeah, to the extent that one can enjoy *not* being severely punished for a misdeed, revel away.
But now, more than any other time in this saga, everyone can really look toward the future, the one led by Lloyd.
“I am happy for our basketball program that this process has come to an end,” the coach said in a statement. “President Robbins and Dave Heeke made it clear to me when I accepted this position how important a culture of compliance is at the University of Arizona.
“I am thankful that our program can continue competing for championships and representing Arizona.”
A little more than five years ago the idea that Arizona would, in 2022, be competing for championships seemed a bit optimistic. There was so much uncertainty surrounding the coach and his program, and the idea that it could all come crumbling down was very much in play.
Contrary to the belief or hopes of many fans and members of the media, it didn’t happen.
Instead the program is not only still standing, but thriving. And now it gets to move forward without the weight of an investigation and pending sanctions on its shoulders.