One-on-one with Lute Olson

There is no doubt that the recruiting landscape has changed in recent years. Coaches now have to deal with street agents, shoe companies and the internet during the recruiting process. Additionally, they are not only recruiting against other schools but against the NBA as well. If those weren't big enough challenges, the new NCAA scholarship limit rules make filling holes nearly impossible. Cat Tracks spoke to UA head coach Lute Olson about these dilemmas.

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CAT TRACKS: Do you find yourself going head-to-head with the NBA for recruits?

LUTE OLSON: "The big thing I think that has changed is that you can never count on someone coming in for the full four years. Now the really good kids look at it like it's an embarrassment if they don't go pro by their second year in college. As far as the recruiting of freshman who are going to end up in the NBA, we are not interested in anyone who indicates that they want to go straight to the NBA or want to go to college for one year and then go to the NBA. It causes a lot of problems in planning ahead. You can't plan ahead like you used to."

CAT TRACKS: How has the new 5/8 rule changed how your recruit?

OLSON: "The whole rule does not make since and I think we're starting to see that. It can penalize anybody, more so the top-level schools, but it will effect others as well. If a team had previously taken six guys in a class and they all stayed and graduated, then that team would still lose a scholarship for one year. It's a horrendously bad rule. It will be changed, but it will take the coach, the AD and the president to go on record as being opposed to it. I think the vast majority are against it. It passed the Presidents' Council without a lot of presidents having a lot to say about it."

CAT TRACKS: How did such a bad rule get put into effect in the first place?

OLSON: "I think it's a bad rule to begin with that was put into effect without a year to get used to it. Now that they see that they made a mistake putting it in, they don't want to admit their mistake. If they had given it a year before putting it in effect they would have seen the weaknesses in it. I don't know what will happen. It amazes me that Division-1 Men's basketball provides 80% of the income for the NCAA and it seems to me that they are doing everything that they can to make it difficult on the programs that are bringing in the majority of that money."

CAT TRACKS: Not only does it hurt the programs, but it hurts the kids as well. Take the case of you all and Kansas. You only have 10 scholarship players; Kansas will play with only nine. That's seven unused scholarships.

OLSON: "It's hurting kids because they are not getting the scholarship opportunities that they otherwise would have. I saw (Michigan State coach) Tom Izzo today and he's going to have eight guys on scholarship this year. We're in a made for TV game and there could only be 18 scholarship players in the game when there should be 26. It just gives you an idea of how ridiculous it is. The only way in the past that anyone had scholarships taken away was based on major violations of NCAA violations. Here you have two programs that have never had violations, neither one of us have run a kid off and we're talking about only having 18 scholarships between the two programs."

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