On heels of FBI corruption scandal, questions surround Arizona program
PHOENIX — On the heels of the FBI’s three-year investigation of a college basketball corruption scandal, questions about the state of Arizona’s program and the impact it will have on coach Sean Miller remain.
Wildcats assistant Emanuel “Book” Richardson was among those arrested following an FBI probe that undercovered bribes paid to players’ advisers and coaches to influence athletes.
Miller has yet to speak publicly about the incident. Arizona men’s basketball media day was canceled and Miller has pulled out of a speaking appearance at a Rotary Club luncheon scheduled for Wednesday.
The university also has said little but president Robert C. Robbins released a statement on the procedural steps being taken in light of the investigation
“I have directed the University of Arizona to initiate an independent investigation into the alleged actions of Emanuel Richardson and to retain an external law firm to conduct the investigation,” he said.
Miller a has clean NCAA track record since arriving in 2009. Several national voices have come to his defense, including ESPN analyst and practicing attorney Jay Bilas, who wrote on Twitter, “I know Sean Miller to be a man of great honesty and integrity. I don’t believe for a second he knew of any improper behavior.”
According to Miller’s contract, he is scheduled to be paid $2.6 million plus potential bonuses this season. It can be terminated, according to the Arizona Daily Star, “for, among other reasons, ‘repetitive violations’ of NCAA or Pac-12 rules, ‘demonstrated dishonesty’ and ‘conviction of a criminal act that constitutes a felony, a misdemeanor involving moral turpitude or that otherwise reflects adversely on coach’s fitness to serve as head coach.’ ”
Richardson, meanwhile, has been released from federal custody on a $50,000 bond. The prosecutors originally asked for him to be released on a $100,000 bond, but Richardson’s defense attorney Brick Storts was able to negotiate the amount.
If Richardson is found guilty of the crimes, he would face up to 60 years in prison and $1.5 million in fines, according to the judge.
Richardson was suspended by Arizona before his arraignment on Tuesday. He is set to appear in court on Oct. 10 in New York. He is facing charges of conspiracy to commit bribery, solicitation of bribes and gratuities by an agent of a federally funded organization, conspiracy to commit honest services fraud, honest services wire fraud and wire fraud conspiracy.
Federal documents reference agents’ meetings with Richardson and another coach from Arizona. It does not name the coach.
In 2013, the NCAA implemented a policy that states head coaches can face suspension for Level III violations committed by assistant coaches. The list of Level III violations that were identified by National Association of Basketball Coaches include:
-Having contact with recruits in-person, off-campus during the dead period, specifically surrounding National Letter of Intent signing day.
-Going over allowed number of contacts with a prospect.
-Intentional or significant game-day simulations and/or recruiting aids.
-Giving gear or other inducements to prospects.
-Violations that take place due to participation with non-scholastic third parties in the recruitment of prospects.
-Collective and intentional recruiting violations.
-Impermissible benefits to student-athletes or inducements to prospects by third parties that the coaching staff is involved in or aware of.
Current Arizona recruits include Shareef O’Neal, the son of NBA legend Shaquille O’Neal, and Brandon Williams. ESPN 100 recruit E.J. Montgomery de-committed from Auburn following assistant coach Chuck Person’s arrest.
The severity of recruiting violations could be bumped to NCAA Level II or Level I status.
Level II violations represent a significant breach of conduct. Level I violations, which are the highest level and seriously threaten the integrity of the NCAA model and includes violations that provide extensive impermissible benefits.
“It obviously is going to have an effect because they (might have) a couple kids become ineligible because of this,” said former Arizona State and Michigan coach Bill Frieder. “I think they might have other kids want to transfer because of this. It obviously is going to have some effect.”
Although no more charges have been announced, U.S. attorney Joon Kim reiterated at the press conference Tuesday that this is an ongoing investigation.
Should current players be found to be involved in the scandal, they will be declared ineligible. The documents reference a player that is currently on the roster taking payments.
The Arizona Board of Regents, which met in Flagstaff this week, released a statement on the issue:
“We will maintain our responsibility as stewards of the public trust, especially our students, alumni, and fans, in the days and weeks to come. The board will receive additional legal advice regarding the federal investigation and the University’s NCAA obligations at its board meeting this week.”