Eddie Sutton, basketball coach at the University of Kentucky, is quoted by Sports Illustrated as saying the discovery of $1,000 in cash allegedly sent to recruit Chris Mills of Fairfax High School in Los Angeles “was a setup” by UCLA or Nevada Las Vegas.
In an article entitled “As Blue as the Grass,” which details Kentucky’s troubles with the National Collegiate Athletic Assn., Sutton comments on the discovery of 20 $50-bills in an Emery Worldwide air freight package also containing a videotape sent to Mills by assistant coach Dwane Casey.
“It was a setup, I know it,” the magazine quoted Sutton as saying. “You can be sure Vegas or UCLA did it.”
The NCAA on July 22 charged Kentucky with a recruiting violation in the Mills-Casey affair, and last Saturday hit the men’s basketball program with 17 additional allegations and labeled the case against Kentucky “major.”
Sutton released a statment late Wednesday saying he was misquoted in the magazine.
“What I told the reporter is that the Emery incident is very bizarre and that one of the theories that has been discussed is that the incident was a setup,” Sutton said. “My intent was never to implicate the coaching staff of UNLV or UCLA or to reflect negatively upon their programs or fans.”
Bruce Selcraig, who wrote the article, said: “We stand by the quote. It was a verbatim quote.”
Sutton said he telephoned Tarkanian and new UCLA Coach Jim Herrick, and both accepted his explanation.
Neither UCLA Athletic Director Peter Dalis nor Walt Hazzard, basketball coach at UCLA at the time of the incident, could be reached for comment.
Tarkanian, before the phone call from Sutton, said he was “absolutely amazed” that Sutton would make such a statement.
“I cannot figure out why he would say something like that,” Tarkanian said. “It amazes me and disappoints me because Eddie Sutton and I are good friends.”