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Arizona receives notice of allegations from NCAA’s basketball investigation

Head coach Sean Miller of the Arizona Wildcats reacts during the first half of the NCAAB game against the Washington Huskies at McKale Center on February 07, 2019 in Tucson, Arizona. (Photo by Christian Petersen/Getty Images)

The University of Arizona said Friday it received a notice of allegations (NOA) from the NCAA’s enforcement staff but gave no details about what an investigation found.

Sports Illustrated’s Pat Forde reported Thursday that the men’s basketball program would receive the NOA following an investigation over alleged recruiting practices that took place in 2017.

“However, in order to protect the integrity of the ongoing enforcement process, the University is not releasing the NOA at this time,” the university’s statement read.

The school has 90 days to respond to the NOA, and the NCAA will have another 60 days to respond and set up a hearing with its infractions committee. It could take several more months after that for the governing body to issue punishments for any wrongdoings that are found.

Over a Zoom call Thursday, Arizona head coach Sean Miller declined to comment on the investigation when asked by reporters about the notice.

“I’m not gonna comment on anything that is around any investigation,” he said.

The Arizona Board of Regents said on Friday it will hold an executive session next week to discuss the notice.

“The board recognizes that the issuance by the NCAA of a Notice of Allegations is another step in its comprehensive enforcement process. Maintaining the integrity of the process, while frustratingly slow, has been and remains essential and we look forward to an expeditious resolution,” the ABOR statement read.

“The board has confidence in (Arizona) President (Robert) Robbins and his commitment to the highest integrity in academic and athletic matters.”

The NCAA investigation couldn’t take place until the conclusion of an FBI investigation and trial.

Wiretap audio collected by the FBI and played in the federal college basketball corruption trial on May 1 included former Arizona assistant Emanuel “Book” Richardson claiming Miller paid players, according to Yahoo! Sports.

Video evidence presented in the trial included an FBI recording of Dawkins claiming that he and Miller discussed potential payments to Deandre Ayton, who was then a recruit. Witness Marty Blazer also testified that former runner Christian Dawkins told him Miller admitted to paying players.

Scattered among seven wiretap audio recordings played, there were multiple instances where Richardson suggested to Dawkins that Miller had paid or promised to pay high school recruits. One mention recorded in June 2017 involves Richardson claiming Miller agreed to pay or had paid $10,000 to eventual No. 1 overall NBA Draft pick Ayton.

The news followed a Feb. 23, 2018, report from ESPN’s Mark Schlabach that alleged Miller was heard on an FBI wiretap discussing a payment of $100,000 to ensure a commitment from Ayton.

Immediately after the ESPN report broke a year ago, Miller stepped away from the Wildcats and did not coach them in a 98-93 loss to Oregon, despite 28 points from Ayton, who was cleared to play.

Miller later denied that he had broken NCAA recruiting rules and looked forward to continue leading the team. Those comments came in a press conference six days after the ESPN report.

“There was no such conversation,” Miller said of an alleged phone discussion with Dawkins. “These statements have damaged me, my family, the university, Deandre Ayton and his entire family.”

Miller read a prepared statement without taking questions at his press conference.

“I cannot remain silent in light of media reports,” he said, adding the report by ESPN’s Mark Schlabach was “inaccurate and completely false.”

Shortly thereafter on that same day, the Arizona Board of Regents, Robbins and athletic director Dave Heeke all pledged their support of Miller following a meeting. The group also worked in a clause in Miller’s contract that would penalize him $1 million for any serious recruiting violations that were found.

For the basketball program, Level 1 violations could result in postseason bans or other punishments.