As newspapers continue to shoot themselves in the foot with a combination of a stubborn refusal to change, petty grudges and a sense of entitlement that has left them disconnected with their readers, internet sites have started to establish themselves as a go-to place for news and entertainment (and created the truest form of community journalism, but that’s another topic). The idea that pretty much anyone willing to work hard enough can find a niche or make a name for themselves has not only benefited sites such as these, but it’s also created a Wild West-like marketplace on the internet, where intentions aren’t always clear-cut.
And that’s what brings us to Jim Storey.
Storey is the publisher of GoAZCats.com, an Arizona fan site part of the Rivals network, and, according to the Arizona Daily Star, one of the guiltiest parties in the self-imposed sanctions levied against the Wildcats last week. Like most casual observers, seeing Sean Miller being docked a scholarship and some recruiting time was (sadly) a fairly common footnote on the sports page and seeing names like Miles Simon, Lute Olson and even Josh Pastner didn’t register too much. Coaches are typically the fall guys. For better or worse, we’re all pretty numb to reading that sort of thing. But the publisher of a fan site? Now that intrigues the fake internet journalist in me.
According to the paper, Storey created an unofficial partnership with Olson that allowed both to benefit through activities that were slightly less-than-smiled-upon. Storey created an AAU event called the Cactus Classic, held on Arizona’s campus each summer and was funded in part by nearly $200,000 in Wildcat booster money. The Classic would bring the top talent in the country directly to Tucson and allow Olson and his staff to have contact with the big-name players by using Storey as a middle man. In exchange for his loyalty to the Wildcat program, Olson and Simon (who the piece said became “best friends” with Storey) would provide the always coveted “inside information” for Storey to use on GoAZCats.com, which of course required a paid membership. It was a pretty solid partnership from Storey’s perspective. Unfortunately for him, it was also one that was frowned upon in the eyes of the NCAA and the University of Arizona and would end with the latter telling him to immediately disassociate himself with the U of A program.
So, what does this all mean? It’s still hard to tell at this point. As of now, Storey has been told to “disassociate”, though he appears to still own GoAZCats.com and I’m not sure how his punishment can or will be enforced. What does the school determine as “involvement” and do they even have the right to tell him to stay away? You’ll have to ask a lawyer/blogger that question. But, as is the case in all of these NCAA violation cases, it’s often those who didn’t break the rules who have to endure the punishment. At Arizona, that remains the case.
The Wildcats will try to move on from a couple of embarrassing seasons that saw about 250 head coaches and a couple of years of undeserved NCAA berths. The future appears to be bright , though, for new coach Sean Miller, who is still rocking the sober Billy Gillispie look and is coaching like it, despite the Wildcats’ disappointing record this season. The Wildcats have started to get the always important “buzz” back around their program and Miller is starting to land some solid recruits. The long-term prognosis for the Arizona program is a good one. Unfortunately for him, though, the short term remains a struggle.
Miller is already down a scholarship and, with an NCAA ruling expected soon, could be facing more punishment – punishment that apparently focuses heavily on a guy who never dribbled a ball or coached a game. How and if Jim Storey factors into the NCAA ruling and the possible punishment remains to be seen. It’s even possible that this is much ado about nothing (the Arizona Daily Star would likely disagree). What is certain, though, is that we continue to enter uncharted territory in the internet age and, although Storey might not be the first to form a relationship like this, he’s become the face of the practice that will likely open a new can of NCAA worms and draw scrutiny in the coming months.
NCAA basketball. I love this game!
Read the Arizona Daily Star piece here (including a lot of “the Star hates U of A basketball!” comments…see it’s not just us)