PHOENIX -- The University of Arizona has reported a possible NCAA recruiting violation by men's basketball coach Lute Olson, who called it "an unfortunate and regrettable error."
Athletic director Jim Livengood said Monday that Olson had sent a letter to basketball boosters asking for a donation to Jim Storey's Arizona Cactus Classic basketball tournament, held last May at Arizona's McKale Center. NCAA rules prohibit institutional representatives or boosters from arranging financial assistance for potential recruits.
"A 'personal and confidential' letter was sent to Rebounders Club board of directors over the electronic signature of Lute Olson, requesting that they provide financial assistance to Jim Storey's Cactus Classic AAU Tournament," Livengood said in a July 2 letter to Ron Barker, Pac-10 associate commissioner in charge of governance and enforcement. "The letter expressed how important this tournament is to the Arizona basketball program's recruiting. The letter also stated (correctly) that 'The athletics department can't assist in any way.' Which would include requesting that donors make financial contributions."
The alleged violation did not involve a specific athlete, Livengood told the Pac-10.
Livengood reported that Olson had denied knowledge of the letter.
"Others inside and outside of the department stated that they thought that he had requested that the letter be sent," Livengood told the conference.
Livengood said the NCAA is investigating and that university officials would have no further comment until the process is concluded.
In a statement issued by the university, Olson called the letter "an unfortunate and regrettable error."
Olson, who turns 74 next week, returned to the helm of the Wildcats last spring after missing the 2007-08 season on a personal leave of absence.
In a letter to the Rebounders Club, Olson denied any knowledge of the request for donations, calling it a "clear-cut violation of NCAA rules."
"We have always been very diligent in following rules to the letter," Olson wrote in the letter, which was distributed to the media by the athletic department. "We always make sure to cross our 't's' and dot our 'i's' and do not look for a way around the rules.
"I am very embarrassed that this letter was sent," he wrote. "I have already met with our compliance officer to apologize about this letter. Please accept my deepest apology. Thank you for your understanding."