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Arizona Daily Star (Tucson)
The University of Arizona has a lot of explaining to do.
The athletic department is facing claims of serious wrongdoing and negligence on multiple fronts:
- Two federal lawsuits say the UA failed to protect women students from a football player who physically abused several women students (he is now in prison on a domestic-violence conviction).
- Allegations included in one of the suits claim that football players gang-raped women students and staffers.
- A Pima County Superior Court civil suit says the UA failed to protect or properly follow up on a report from a woman athlete who said she was harassed and assaulted by her coach.
- A claim filed with the Arizona Attorney General's Office that now-fired football coach Rich Rodriguez ran a hostile work environment and sexually harassed his assistant, and that the UA shares responsibility.
(Rodriguez filed a response Monday stating the allegations, with the exception of his marital infidelity, are entirely false and accusing his former assistant, her husband and their attorney of attempting to extort Rodriguez and his wife.)
- In September, UA basketball assistant coach Emanuel "Book" Richardson was arrested by the FBI on federal bribery charges.
- Reports by ESPN that UA basketball head coach Sean Miller was heard discussing payment for the recruitment of a particular player, as part of a pay-to-play FBI investigation into NCAA programs.
Wildcat fans, not to mention the general tax-paying public, need clarity and leadership from UA President Robert C. Robbins and athletic director Dave Heeke. Both men have been in their jobs for a relatively short time: Heeke got the job a year ago, and Robbins began in June.
They may well be cursing the bad timing of it all, answering for events that are alleged to have happened early on or before their watch, but they must grapple with the fallout, today.
Heeke issued a general statement to boosters and employees Friday in which he appeared to address the Title IX issues. He vowed that the UA would do "the right thing —always."
The ESPN story about Miller hit hours later. The UA was silent until Saturday afternoon, when it released a short statement saying that Miller wouldn't coach that night's game against Oregon.
Miller's statement, released in the same email, said he was "confident that I will be vindicated."
Canned statements — carefully crafted responses released by email — to answer the many serious questions raised by the whirlwind surrounding the UA football and men's basketball team aren't enough.
The Arizona Board of Regents, which oversees the state's public university system, also released a statement Saturday, after it held an emergency meeting in response to the news reports.
It read, in part: "The board is reviewing its oversight of athletics and has been making reforms to its policies to ensure greater public accountability."
UA athletics is integral to Tucson —you don't have to be a fan to be connected to the Wildcats.
We need to know what's going on, and what the UA leadership is doing to make things right.
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