There was no way to know at the time, but the four years Bill Morgan spent away from coaching may have prepared him perfectly to develop the Arizona Wildcats' compliance department.
He was a bill collector.
"Being on that side of the credit business taught me a lot about dealing with people," Morgan said.
For 21 years until his retirement today, Morgan needed those skills to manage both the increasing wave of NCAA rules and the coaches who had to work within them. Effectively, he functioned as an internal policeman and consultant while building a full-time staff of five.
"He's been part of the evolution, a real refocusing of college athletics to make sure you're following the rules on a daily basis," Arizona athletic director Greg Byrne said. "Bill's done a great job. If you're not strong in compliance as an institution, you've got very serious issues that can hit at the core of your integrity of an institution."
It's pretty significant stuff for what used to be a part-time job for one person. Now officially UA's associate AD for administrative services and compliance, Morgan moved off Dick Tomey's Arizona football staff in 1992 to work in compliance and also handled football operations at first until compliance became a "bigger animal" in the mid-1990s that demanded his full-time attention.
Then Morgan added an assistant, then another, then another, and, as the NCAA kept growing its rules manual and added a database full of precedent-setting cases, a fifth staffer.
"The standard joke is that we are 'Forms R Us,'" Morgan said. "We have forms for everything."
Not that it was their fault. Or the NCAA's.
Growing concern from coaches led to growing rules.
"What you need to keep in mind is we do this to ourselves," Morgan said. "All those rules were put in place for a reason. Somebody was doing something that gave them an advantage so they added another paragraph, and that kept going and going because coaches, being as creative as they are, will find a way around it.
"You find a loophole, it closes, you find another, and the next thing you know the manual is huge."
Today, digitization has significantly cut down the paperwork while NCAA president Mark Emmert has been pushing toward a less complex set of rules.
The change in direction was one of the reasons Morgan decided he would step aside at age 66, with current compliance director Gretchen Bouton replacing him. That, and the fact that Morgan has had to have his cell phone on … basically ever since there were cell phones.
It was not a job he could not get away from.
"Twenty years in compliance is a long time and the pressure is interesting," Morgan said. "Every day a coach has a question and you've got to be right. If I give them a wrong answer, it can be very damaging. You have to look very closely at things and make sure you're right before you say, 'This is what you need to do.'"
There have been difficult circumstances, too, Morgan says. Among them, the UA basketball program is just now finishing up sanctions stemming from the end of the Lute Olson era, while Morgan said he's also been disheartened to see how money drives things more in college athletics than people and relationships used to.
Because, for Morgan, people are the main reason he stuck around this long.
"I said for a long time that I felt I had the best job in the Pac-10 and Pac-12 because of the people," Morgan said. "We've had some incredibly talented people who had great ethics and have been great to deal with. It's been a very positive kind of thing."
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Contact Bruce Pascoe at 573-4145 or bpascoe@azstarnet. On Twitter @BrucePascoe