Protection of our student-athletes and of the integrity of collegiate sports are our most important priorities. —Larry Scott
SAN FRANCISCO — Pac-12 commissioner Larry Scott addressed the recruiting bribery scandal towering over college basketball and the indictments handed down to a number of people, including two assistant coaches from the conference — Arizona’s Book Richardson and USC’s Tony Bland.
On Wednesday, the NCAA announced the formation of a commission on college basketball.
“Protection of our student-athletes and of the integrity of collegiate sports are our most important priorities. The F.B.I. charges that we've all read are deeply troubling, not just to myself and to the conference, but to all of our schools,” Scott said in a press conference to open Pac-12 Media Day. “We have to use this moment to take a closer look and more careful look at what's going on in the sport of college basketball and our collegiate athletic programs more generally and make sure that they're being operated in compliance, not just with NCAA rules, but with the law.”
Scott went on to praise and welcome the NCAA’s Commission on College Basketball, headed by Dr. Condoleezza Rice of Stanford.
“This commission is going to examine many aspects of what's going on in collegiate basketball and the role of outside groups that have influence, such as apparel companies, agents, non-scholastic basketball programs, and the role of the professional leagues – in this case, the NBA,” he said.
This national commission, Scott continued, is going to make recommendations to improve the system. The Pac-12, he said, plans to be actively engaged.
Even so, Scott announced the formation of a Pac-12 task force to “support and supplement” the NCAA group. Utah athletics director Dr. Chris Hill was one of five people named to the committee, which will eventually grow to 10-12 members.
“I’m pleased that I’ve able to be on the committee and I hope that I can make a difference and improve some of the situations in basketball,” Hill said.
Utah coach Larry Krystkowiak is pleased that Hill, who was on NCAA Men’s Division I Basketball Committee from 2004-09, was picked to be on the Pac-12 task force. Krystkowiak said there are a lot of similarities in their viewpoints on the scandal.
“Chris knows our program. It was interesting when we talked about it. It wasn't one of those ‘head coach to athletic director’ phone calls that might have been happening around the country. It was something like where we were saying, ‘OK, I wasn't sure if we were ever going to see it. But something's blowing up,’” Krystkowiak continued. “Chris has a lot of experience. He's the longest-tenured athletic director in the United States right now. He's been heavily involved with the NCAA basketball committee, so he's seen a lot of things over his years.
“And if I were putting together a task force and I was the commissioner, I think Chris Hill would be one of the first people I would call too. So obviously Larry Scott felt the same way,” Krystkowiak added.
Scott explained that the Pac-12 Task Force would have four clear mandates:
• Help educate university leadership and the conference on the environment and landscape in basketball, identify issues and learn from what’s been going on.
• Develop recommendations and practices for the Pac-12 moving forward. This includes tightening procedures, policies and the environment, so the schools can be at the forefront of how programs are operated.
• Provide specific proposals to the NCAA to support what its commission is doing. Scott said the Pac-12 has a unique vantage point and an ability to provide leadership when it comes to national policy and/or rule changes.
• Analyze issues and bring forward proposals to address recruiting issues in other sports where third-party influences are growing.
Besides Hill, the other four members of the task force include UCLA athletics director Dan Guerrero, former NFL player and current television analyst Charles Davis, former NCAA Tournament administrator Tom Jernstedt, and former Stanford and California basketball coach Mike Montgomery.
“These are the first five that we've appointed. I think you'll see from the other folks that get appointed it will be a combination of insiders and people that come with a fresh, outside perspective and have a unique and very relevant vantage point, practitioners and other very close and knowledgeable observers to what's happening in the collegiate athletics landscape,” Scott continued.
The Pac-12 task force, he said, will ultimately share its findings with conference athletic directors and the league’s COO group. Results will also be shared with the NCAA Basketball Commission and other leaders.
“We believe strongly in the educational mission of collegiate athletics,” Scott said. “We're highly concerned by the issues that have been exposed and its impact on all the great things that happen for student-athletes as part of college sports.”
Arizona coach Sean Miller and USC coach Andy Enfield didn’t have much to say the situations involving their programs.
“I found out when everybody else did,” Enfield said. “But other than that I just can’t comment on the investigation.”
Miller, whose team is the runaway favorite in the Pac-12 preseason media poll, resorted to a Marshawn Lynch-type of response to questions about the scandal. He issued a statement on Oct. 3 and said he was devastated to learn about the allegations against Richardson, adding that he supported the university’s efforts to investigate the matter.
“As the head basketball coach at the University of Arizona, I recognize my responsibility is not only to establish a culture of success on the basketball court and in the classroom, but as important, to promote and reinforce a culture of compliance,” Miller’s initial statement read. “To the best of my ability, I have worked to demonstrate this over the past eight years and will continue to do so as we move forward.”
On Thursday, Miller repeatedly answered questions the same way.
“I’m going to stand by the statement I made,” he said.