May 1, 2001
TUCSON, Ariz. - University of Arizona officials today learned that the National Collegiate Athletic Association has denied its request for a review of rules which prohibit the Wildcats from signing any more scholarship basketball players for 2001-02.
Although the UA did not specify any numbers in its appeal, basketball coaches hoped for some relief since the program loses five senior players, plus three, and possibly four, undergraduate players have opted for entry into the National Basketball Association June draft.
NCAA guidelines stipulate an institution may sign up to five scholarship players in any one year and a total of eight in a two-year period. Last November Arizona signed five prep players to scholarships during the early signing period.
The normal departure of seniors Loren Woods, Eugene Edgerson, Justin Wessel, John Ash and Lamont Frazier would have been covered by the incoming class. But after UA's successful 2001 season and appearance in the NCAA Final Four, juniors Richard Jefferson and Michael Wright and sophomore Gilbert Arenas decided to forego their final years of eligibility and left school to turn professional. Additionally, sophomore Jason Gardner, who has remained in school, entered his name for consideration but has not signed with an agent and can pull out before the June 20 NBA deadline.
That would leave UA with either nine or 10 scholarship players for the 2001-02 season, and the coaching staff asked department administrators to cooperate on an appeal to the NCAA for some leeway in complying with the single-year signing limits.
"The denial is not a surprise," UA senior associate athletics director Kathleen LaRose said. "However, it's our understanding that there are several conferences that are preparing legislation to address this issue because the limits can have a profound effect on a program."
At least one institution -- Texas Tech -- has made a similar request and been denied by the NCAA.
Associate head coach Jim Rosborough said, "The NCAA's denial is very disappointing. I thought our case was somewhat different than others. The bottom line is that the rules as they are written can put us at a competitive disadvantage through no fault of our own. We had a number of players who decided to turn professional, and there is nothing we can do about it."