Jason Terry, a former University of Arizona basketball player (1995-1999), has disclosed that he received benefits from agents in violation of NCAA rules. The violations occurred after the end of Terry's junior season.
Terry said he received approximately $4,500 in cash, checks and wire transfers from New York sports agent Larry Fox, after his junior season. Fox has denied making the payments to Terry. According to Terry, he also attended a fitness camp in southern Florida (August 1998) arranged by Fox, and was never billed for the airfare or camp fees. Attending the camp free of charge constitutes preferential treatment in violation of NCAA rules regardless whether the agent was actually involved in arranging the camp. As a result of these violations, Terry was ineligible for his entire senior season.
Terry also stated that he received approximately $7,000 from San Francisco agent Ndidi Opia, also during his senior season. Opia denies making those payments to Terry. Terry and his mother also indicated that Opia had provided legal advice free of charge and had helped arrange catastrophic injury insurance, both of which constitute benefits from prospective agents and preferential treatment, and amount to additional violations.
UA Basketball Coach Lute Olson said, "When agents attempt to gain an advantage through inappropriate practices, it can be very tempting to the student, even if the student knows the rules. The student-athlete is under incredible pressure, and a little bit of help to the student or his parent can have a big impact. The tragedy is that the consequences come to the student-athlete, to the basketball program, or to the institution. Despite unprofessional actions, agents are often not at risk and are rarely held accountable."
No information suggests that athletic department personnel knew about the violations until allegations were brought to their attention in April 1999, after the end of Terry's senior season, when Terry's mother, Andrea Cheatam, sent a letter to the National Basketball Players Association (NBPA) suggesting possible improprieties. UA Assistant Basketball Coach Jim Rosborough also received a copy of Terry's mother's letter to the NBPA that had been faxed to the basketball office. Three days later the NBPA asked the University to assist in their investigation. Rosborough had not yet acted on the letter.
In addition to assisting the NBPA, the UA immediately instituted its own investigation in conjunction with the Pac-10 Conference and the NCAA. At the end of a yearlong process, the UA formally notified the Pac-10 that Jason Terry was ineligible when he participated in men's basketball during his senior year.
Initially, the UA declared all the games in the 1998-1999 season "no contest" as a result of Terry having participated while ineligible, and asked the Pac-10 to review their decision. In April, 2000, the Pac-10 informed the UA that the regular-season game record would stand because it found no evidence that the University knew about Terry's violations until after they occurred. (The UA learned about the violations in April 1999.)
The University has forfeited its only 1999 tournament game (a 61-60 loss to Oklahoma in the first round) and will return 45 percent of its share of the 1999 tournament TV revenues to the NCAA ($45,362.90). This is consistent with NCAA bylaws, which apply regardless of institutional knowledge of the violations. Terry has agreed to pay the entire amount.
Further, the University has made Terry ineligible for the UA Sports Hall of Fame. He also is ineligible to have his jersey number retired, as otherwise would be customary for players who are named National Player of the Year.
Assistant Coach Rosborough received a letter of reprimand from the University for not immediately notifying Athletic Director Jim Livengood about the letter from Terry's mother.
"We run a zero tolerance program here," Rosborough said. "I expect the student athletes to toe the line, so I could hardly consider my own reprimand to be inappropriate. I received the letter during the off-season, but most importantly I simply did not believe the allegations given my own experience with Jason. But I have a duty to report every allegation promptly, and in hindsight I should have told Coach Olson, Jim Livengood or Bill Morgan about it sooner."
Terry confirmed in the investigation interview that he was aware of the rules as a result of the department's educational efforts, and he knew he was violating those rules.
Athletic Director Jim Livengood said, "Jason Terry is a great person. I know he feels terrible about this and the effect the news will have on his teammates, and on the basketball program. Even though Jason knew the rules, he fell prey to agents_ promises and easy handouts. Now we all pay the price. It's a no-win situation." The University will continue to aggressively educate student-athletes and their parents about the serious consequences of accepting help from an agent, Livengood said. "But we also need to find ways of holding agents accountable when they offer assistance that violates NCAA rules and puts the student athlete and the University in jeopardy."