Apr
16
2021

Blue Bloods; Arizona And Kansas; Three Firings, Two Allegations, One Punishment?

Schools are mirror images in 2020-2021. Football firings, Level 1 basketball allegations. One coach fired, One coach celebrated. Who got it right?

University of Arizona Athletic Director Dave Heeke and Kansas AD Jeff Long bar conversation would be one for the ages. A proverbial debate over who’s last two years has been the biggest train wreck. Long has one heck of a ‘you should hear what I did,’ conversation. Heeke could kick back a cold one with a challenge of ‘oh yeah, that’s nothing.’

Of course, neither meeting like that took place, that we know of. There is no winner amongst these two athletic principals, except for Kansas head basketball coach Bill Self.

Both institutions thrive in their own way on the field and the court. However, both AD’s fired two highly prized collegiate football coaches. Were not talking about mecca organizations like Notre Dame and Southern Cal, but two power five programs.

Former Kansas head coach Les Miles never really got started. He was fired after a 3-18 record in his first two seasons. However, in Kansas football terms, he was par for the course when it came to the wins and losses. Kansas has just 530 wins in 118 years. That’s a little over four wins per year. Michigan has nearly double that in nearly half that time, but who’s counting.

Arizona’s Kevin Sumlin is something much different but worthy of alumni getting out the torches and pitchforks. A 70-7 loss to your in-state rival and a meager 12-game losing streak.

The bottom line, football is a business and business was not good at these two schools. Both football programs ousted their head coaches and the alumni and signed recruits were possibly the only audiences. However, if the names Miller and Self were mentioned, that is a whole different world; a world of blue bloods.

The art of the ‘shoe deal’ and the one-and-done player has opened up the art of hiding the corruption

Two of the top 10 basketball programs in the country over the last 35 years. However, their problems are something that has been going on for years in college basketball – Pay-to-play and recruit. Basketball is not the only sport. A good portion of collegiate sports has that problem.

It’s just not men’s basketball, but it does happen in more sports than one might think. Cash, cars, shoes, girls, and even homes for the family. The world of basketball recruiting is big dollars to get that one-and-done player. A player who will run off to the NBA after one year. It is a chase that many schools will make to win a national championship.

It has happened in football and it is possible it still does. College football garners, on average, nearly $32 million of revenue annually per school. However, men’s basketball brings in roughly $9 million per year school.  A vast difference in cash, and amazingly, we don’t hear much about football with these issues.

Then why is basketball an enormous problem with cheating publicly within the last 10 years? Firstly, Basketball got caught. Secondly, there is the villain in college basketball that facilitates dishonor in the game. And that outlaw is shoes.

Nike’s and Adidas’ are not the only problem. The alumni and the agents attached to these apparel behemoths. It just happens for both schools, Adidas and their ‘side’ representatives from these companies were the devil’s inside. Arizona and Kansas are not the only programs with their hands in the cookie jar. At the end of the day, it is going to cost both programs big. More than just a suspension from the post-season and scholarship.

The NCAA charged both schools with Level 1 violations. Both Miller and Self’s violations were tagged “severe” and “egregious.” With investigations by the FBI, both head coaches have been charged with not demonstrating “that he promoted an atmosphere for compliance and monitored his staff.”

As of right now, both schools have not been handed punishments yet. However, both coaches more than likely will be punished by the NCAA. But here is the kicker. Sean Miller was recently fired after 15 years as the leader of ‘Point Guard U.’ Bill Self’s punishment was a little less than Miller’s. He was offered a lifetime extension at Kansas.

Both schools have very similar transgressions. But why did one coach get the pink slip and the other handed keys to Oz? Well, one assistant for Arizona did jail time for bribery. The bottom line, both coaches used Adidas to enhance their recruiting scene.

Self survives and Miller is axed. It’s just one more dirty hand in the jar than the other one

Miller’s achievement was not Lute Olsen worthy (Arizona’s late Hall of Fame coach). His numbers were some of the best numbers in the country though; 302-109 in 12 seasons, three-time Pac-12 coach of the year, multiple Pac-12 championships. He’s also known as one of the top recruiters in the country. However, in Tucson, Arizona where basketball is king, Miller never reached the final four. For a college town that sells out every game, every year, for the last 30-plus years, that does not sit well.

But there is one thing that is bigger than reaching the sweet sixteen or the elite eight. A $20,000 bribery scheme with an Adidas representative sent Arizona’s #1 assistant to the big house. That was on Miller’s watch. Did Miller facilitate this deal or much less know about it? We won’t know but if Miller didn’t know, it’s his fault for not paying enough attention to something that egregious.

Does this firing have merit? Of course, it does. These coaches knew it was wrong and it happened, and Miller possibly sat on his hands the whole time.

Bill Self is one of the top five coaches currently in college basketball and it happens to be at one of the top three programs of all time. A record of 522-118 in 18 years as the Jayhawks basketball chief and a national championship. 15 consecutive Big-12 regular-season championships, three Final Four appearances, six-time conference coach of the year. He is also a member of the college basketball Hall of Fame.  

Self coaches in one of the top five college basketball arenas along with Arizona and Duke. However, Self does have a drawback. He has been fielding the country’s most talented team just about every season. When it comes to NCAA tournament time, it’s either the final four or getting ousted early by much less talented teams. Basically, the crux of it all is Self has the best job, with the best program in college basketball.

In 2019, Kansas was levied with similar and multiple Level 1 allegations like Arizona. A Lack of institutional control as head coach and head coach responsibility. Both schools are awaiting their fate. It is no surprise that both schools are not too terribly loved by the NCAA. One national publication went as far as stating the NCAA calling Self a cheater and they want him out of college basketball for good.

When everything is said and done, both coaches have some issues. One coach has already received his punishment with his termination, while the other has been rewarded.

Arizona’s punishment for Miller was a decision by the AD Heeke and school president Robert C. Robbins. Both Roberts and Heeke did not publicly state the reason for the firing was the violations:

It has become clear that our men’s basketball program – and our program – need to write a new chapter in our history and that change begins with new leadership

Robert C. Robbins

The overtone of the Miller firing is like the Sumlin dismissal. Some say the firing by Robbins is that he knows something is coming down the road. Either from a punishment standpoint and Robbins wants to get out in front of it before it happens. Others feel it is a move to tell the NCAA to minimize the punishment coming their way. Basically, ‘there, he’s been fired. We’ve got this. Please be easy.’

Many Arizona Alum and big wigs believe Robbins is too involved in the hiring and firing process. He is the president of the school after all. But, Arizona’s new football coach Jed Fisch was hired by Robbins where there is a personal and family tie between the two. It looks to be the same situation all over again in basketball.

Arizona went after several big-name coaches. However, every one of them turned them down. But they did get arguably the best assistant coach in the country as their new head coach. Former Gonzaga assistant coach, Tommy Lloyd.

Two schools with massive basketball support, but when jail time comes in to play, that support has to go away

For Kansas, the Miles firing and Self’s extension are two complete and totally different things. However, when you take the allegations for both schools, their response is about as different as bunnies and rattlesnakes. Kansas chancellor Douglas Girod responded on giving Self the lifetime extension:

We believe in Coach Self and we believe in the future of our program under his leadership. For almost 20 years, coach Self has embodied the spirit and tradition of the University of Kansas leading our men’s basketball program.

Douglas Girod

There is no question, Self’s tenure has been a bit more successful and time-worthy than Miller at Arizona. But does Self and the Kansas administration know something from the NCAA that no one else does? Is there any punishment coming Self’s way? 

Self and Girod have received quite a bit of backlash over the extension. With level one allegations and the possible punishment coming down the road, it is an interesting look. Other coaches are getting fired left and right.

I’ve had people send me some stuff from a national perspective. There were people that really got after me and gone after the University on making this decision. This was the decision the chancellor wanted to make, regardless of whether you like the timing or not. There must be some decisions on basketball going forward. You can’t stop living because we’ve got this other thing above our head.

Bill Self

Self is right on that, however, no matter where you are at, two different messages are being sent here. Punishment is coming no matter what, but no one knows at what level yet. Arizona’s new coach Tommy Lloyd is in for a long haul based on the punishment. And for Self, no matter what happens, he is their head coach and will be until he decides he does not want to be.