Longtime Wildcats assistant Book Richardson is facing criminal charges in a sweeping federal corruption investigation. Below is our collection of stories by Bruce Pascoe, Caitlin Schmidt, Greg Hansen, Tim Steller and Curt Prendergast, Arizona Daily Star
Emanuel "Book" Richardson involved in federal corruption scandal
By Bruce Pascoe, Arizona Daily Star
The Wildcast Episode 28: NCAA’s incompetence, Red/Blue, Khalil Tate and Arizona vs. UCLA
Here's the rundown from Arizona's visit to Pac-12 media day on Thursday, as Sean Miller, Allonzo Trier and Dusan Ristic stepped into the spotlight.
Arizona picked to win conference, but FBI investigation is real No. 1 at Pac-12 basketball media day
SAN FRANCISCO — After five minutes of rapid-fire questions about the FBI, bribes, a head coach’s responsibility and task forces, Arizona coach Sean Miller finally received a break.
“Do you think you have the best team in the country?” a reporter asked at Thursday’s Pac-12 media day.
Miller burst into a short laugh, then smiled.
“I appreciate the question,” Miller said. “I don’t think we are right now.”
His last response was expected. Miller often says during the preseason that Wildcats aren’t where they are rated, reasoning that improvement still needs to be made. This year, Arizona is also dealing with Rawle Alkins’ broken foot.
This was also expected Thursday: That Arizona was picked to win the conference, having picked up 22 of 23 first-place votes in its annual preseason media poll.
But the other stuff, everything that surfaced after the FBI investigation into college basketball became public Sept. 26, made Miller’s appearance and this Pac-12 media day far different than any other.
The league’s predicted top two teams, Arizona and USC, both had assistant coaches arrested in the wake of the FBI investigation. Pac-12 commissioner Larry Scott announced the conference was assembling its own “task force” to look into the issues college basketball is facing, a day after the NCAA announced it would assemble a commission to do so.
Former Stanford and Cal coach Mike Montgomery agreed to serve on both committees, which was notable in that not only is Montgomery one of the league’s most accomplished coaches — but also in that he was known to steer clear of some club basketball figures while on the recruiting trail.
In the federal complaint, UA assistant coach Book Richardson was alleged to have taken $20,000 in bribes from a sports agent, while a club coach implied that Arizona had offered one of his players $150,000 to play for the Wildcats.
“As long as I’ve been coaching, there’s been stuff,” Montgomery said. “You hear about it, but you never really know for sure. Honestly I never knew for sure if somebody was paid, but that’s me. I stayed away from that stuff.”
Some of the Pac-12 coaches said Thursday they often smell that sort of thing on the recruiting trail. Utah coach Larry Krystkowiak said he could think of five to seven times it happened.
“You get to a certain point in the process and it’s, ‘Is there anything else? Is there anything else?’” Krystkowiak said. “You kind of get the sense. We usually just steer away from it a little bit.”
Colorado coach Tad Boyle said he’s never been asked flat-out for money by the handler of a recruit, but said he’s dropped recruits many times once a player or his handlers appear to be soliciting improper benefits.
“You get that. You get that,” Boyle said. “You have to read between the lines as you make those determinations.”
Part of the reason the problem appears to be worsening, Krystkowiak said, is that the “pot of money” around college basketball is bigger, creating more pressure and more incentives.
“It may not be the proper analogy, but it’s kind of like the gateway drug, right?” Krystkowiak said. “You’re introduced to alcohol, and you have a little marijuana, and the next thing you know, you’re doing cocaine and before you know it, you’re on ‘Breaking Bad.’”
Scott is hoping his task force can identify where the problems are coming from, saying it would have four mandates: to educate university leaders about the overall environment, to develop recommendations for schools, to develop specific proposals to the NCAA and to produce proposals “to address recruiting issues … where the influence of third parties is growing.”
Scott named five members of what will eventually be a 10-person panel: Montgomery, UCLA athletic director Dan Guerrero, Utah athletic director Chris Hill, former football player Charles Davis and former NCAA administrator Tom Jernstedt.
“Protection of our student-athletes and integrity are the most important priorities,” Scott said. “The allegations are deeply troubling. We have to use this moment to take a close look and a more careful look at what’s going on in the sport of college basketball.”
Scott’s announcement preceded a stream of questions thrown at each of the 12 coaches who reached the interview table. Talk about Arizona’s talent, experience and size was almost nonexistent, as was any buzz over USC’s depth, or the strengths of potential upper-division finishers such as UCLA, Oregon and Stanford.
The questions prompted Miller into a stream of no-comment answers. Asked about whether he knew Richardson was taking bribes, if he was questioned by the FBI or if some players feel family pressure to ask for money, among other topics, Miller repeatedly responded by saying “I’m going to stand by the statement that I gave.”
That’s the statement Miller released Oct. 3 in which he said he supported investigations into allegations and has worked to create a culture of compliance.
USC coach Andy Enfield also limited his answers, having watched assistant coach Tony Bland be arrested along with Richardson and eight other figures involved with college basketball.
“I just can’t comment on the investigation. It’s ongoing,” Enfield said. “Tony is part of our USC program and USC family. We all love Tony. It’s very difficult on a personal level. It’s very difficult on a program level, because we all had great relationships with each other.”
It was difficult for everyone to discuss. But, Boyle said, necessary.
“Because the FBI uncovered this, we’re having to deal with it,” Boyle said. “And I think that can be good for our game in the long run. It’s maybe not fun to talk about. Right now we should be talking about our seasons and our teams, but we’re talking about this.
“Look, it probably needs to be talked about.”
Amid basketball scandal, Arizona coach Sean Miller tight-lipped at Pac-12 media day
SAN FRANCISCO — Unlike Arizona, the Pac-12 didn't try to impose any restrictions on media questions at its men's basketball media day.
But that didn't change Sean Miller's answers any. The UA coach stuck by his previous statement that he is supporting investigations into the allegations against his program as a result of the Sept. 26 federal complaint, and that he says he's run a program committed to integrity.
Here's the transcript of the first three questions he was asked after his opening statement Thursday:
Q. You've given a statement, but did you have any idea that Coach Richardson was taking bribes?
SEAN MILLER: "I'm going to stand by the statement that I gave."
Q. Were you questioned by the F.B.I.?
SEAN MILLER: "I'm going to stand by the statement that I gave."
Q. What responsibility does a head coach have no knowing what's going on in his program with situations like that?
SEAN MILLER: "I'm going to stand by the statement that I've given."
The rest of Miller's interview was mostly along those lines, except when said it meant "the world" to him that UA president Robert Robbins and AD Dave Heeke publicly supported him, and when he was asked about issues on the court.
Miller said Rawle Alkins' "spirits are actually great," with him still expected to return in 6-10 weeks, and Miller said Parker Jackson-Cartwright missed media day and a pair of practices with a thigh bruise but has since returned.
Things were so tense that by the time Pachoops' Adam Butler asked Miller if he has the best team in the country, Miller broke out a short laugh.
"I appreciate the question," he said. "I don't think so right now."
The rest of Miller's comments before print and digital media have been transcribed here.
Earlier Thursday, UA was picked to win the conference.
Pac-12 announces task force to examine college basketball issues
SAN FRANCISCO – Pac-12 commissioner Larry Scott announced the conference will form its own task force to address issues in college sports in the wake of an FBI investigation that resulted in the arrests of assistant basketball coaches at Arizona and USC.
Scott said the committee would include, among others, UCLA AD Dan Guerrero, Utah AD Chris Hill, former Stanford and Cal coach Mike Montgomery, ex-football player Charles Davis and former NCAA administrator Tom Jurnstedt.
“Protection of our student-athletes and integrity are the most important priorities,” Scott said in his opening remarks at Pac-12 men’s basketball media day. “The allegations are deeply troubling. We have to use this moment to take a close look and a more careful look at what’s going on in the sport of college basketball.”
Scott said the task force would have four mandates: To educate university leaderships about the overall environment and identify issues, to develop recommendations for schools, to develop specific proposals to the NCAA that will support its own committee, and to produce proposals “to address recruiting issues … where the influence of third parties is growing.”
Montgomery, who was known to steer clear of some travel-ball figures as a coach at Stanford and Cal, said he heard of issues involving violations but never had proof.
“As long as I was coaching, I was hearing there was stuff going on,” Montgomery said. “I honestly never knew for sure if somebody got paid.”
Utah coach Larry Krystkowiak said he often comes up against the problem in recruiting, saying it sometimes gets to the point where a parent, handler or player himself will ask something to the effect of “Is there anything else?”
Krystkowiak said his staff “didn’t lose any sleep” when the allegations surfaced on Sept. 26, having decided previously how it was going to approach recruiting.
At the same time, Krystkowiak said he was hesistant to approach the NCAA when hearing of possible violations, saying he was unsure how much investigative power the organization has, and because “I’m a believer in karma.”
Cal coach Wyking Jones, a former Nike grassroots basketball rep, said he didn’t think shoe companies themselves are a problem, though maybe individuals within them have been.
Washington State coach Ernie Kent said he was concerned that the arrests of UA's Book Richardson and three other coaches have blasted "four faces across the country ... (indicating) it's a black assistant coach problem.
"It's a college basketball issue that we have an opportunity to make right."
The Wildcast, Episode 27: On Book Richardson and Khalil Tate — and having to wait
Arizona Basketball: Book Richardson's court day starts with hug, ends with $100K bond
NEW YORK — They stood and hugged, and this was not a short embrace.
Book Richardson and Tony Bland, once two of the most prominent assistant coaches in Pac-12 men’s basketball, now in the throes of one of the biggest scandals in college basketball history, bonded together moments after being given their bond instructions.
The two coaches spent most of their morning in silence inside Courtroom 5A of the Daniel Patrick Moynihan Courthouse in lower Manhattan.
Richardson and Bland face a myriad of felony charges, including conspiracy to commit bribery, solicitation of bribes by an agent of a federally funded organization, conspiracy to commit honest services fraud, wire fraud conspiracy and travel act conspiracy.
For both Richardson and Bland: a $100,000 bond, cosigned by two financially responsible individuals, pretrial supervision that includes travel restricted to their homes and to and from New York, and the surrendering of passports. Both have preliminary hearings scheduled for Nov. 9.
Auburn associate head coach Chuck Person, Adidas executive Merl Code and financial manager Rashan Michel also appeared in court on Tuesday. Adidas executive Jim Gatto and Oklahoma State assistant coach Lamont Evans have their first appearances scheduled for Thursday.
The 44-year-old Richardson was joined by his wife, Erin, his lawyers David Axelrod and Craig Mordock, and friends. He appeared in good spirits in the clerk’s office, pacing as he awaited instruction on posting bond. As he exited the courtroom, Richardson — dressed in a blue suit and red tie, Arizona’s colors — fist-bumped a reporter and flashed a reserved smile.
Mordock was asked how Richardson was handling the appearance.
“Not well,” before adding that Richardson was “very nervous” about the hearing.
“Criminal trials aren’t about media conferences or headlines,” he said. “They’re about evidence.”
Tuesday’s appearance in front of U.S. Magistrate Judge Katharine H. Parker came two weeks after Richardson was arrested at his Tucson home. Richardson appeared in front of U.S. District Magistrate Judge D. Thomas Ferraro later that day, and his bond was set at $50,000. The trial was then transferred to New York.
Richardson faces up to 60 years in prison and up to a $1.5 million fine for his role in a conspiracy that Joon Kim, acting U.S. attorney for the Southern District of New York, called “the dark underbelly of college basketball.” The conspiracy was uncovered during an FBI sting that focused on improprieties throughout college basketball.
A federal complaint says Richardson, the longest-serving assistant on UA coach Sean Miller’s staff, asked for and received $20,000 from an aspiring sports agent. In exchange, the complaint said, Richardson promised to deliver current and future Wildcats to the agent when their college careers were over. According to the complaint, Richardson then paid $15,000 to a top high school point guard, believed to be New Jersey’s Jahvon Quinerly. Quinerly verbally committed to Arizona shortly after.
Richardson listened quietly Tuesday as the federal judge read the charges against him. Gone was the expression that made him one of the Wildcats’ most colorful coaches.
Richardson followed his attorneys out of the courthouse following Tuesday’s appearance, gripping his wife’s left hand tightly. He moved quickly as photographers swarmed to him, though much of the media — which included multiple reporters from ESPN and Yahoo, among others — had already left.
An hour earlier, Richardson and Bland had hugged and gone their separate ways. They will return in a month for the next step of the arduous process. Richardson and his lawyers say they intend to fight the charges.
“Book is not guilty today, he was not guilty two weeks ago and he’s not guilty tomorrow,” Mordock said. “He will remain not guilty until the government presents evidence that says he is.”
Arizona basketball: Book Richardson lawyers up, makes first appearance in federal court
In his defense against federal bribery and fraud charges, UA assistant coach Book Richardson has hired two attorneys experienced in defending white collar crime.
Richardson was one of five figures appearing before the judge, along with USC assistant Tony Bland, Auburn assistant Chuck Person, Adidas rep Merl Code and financial advisor Rashan Michel.
Mordock told Jon Gold, who is reporting the story for the Star: "Book is not guilty today, not guilty two weeks ago and not guilty tomorrow."
Richardson shook Zagoria's hand before entering the courtroom and appeared together with Bland before judge Katharine Parker. Richardson hugged Bland afterward.
Colorado's Tad Boyle says he has had to change his recruiting focus when cheating becomes a potential factor with a recruit.
“Every single year it happens multiple occasions, and it’s been that way for the seven-plus years I’ve been at Colorado,” Boyle told Yahoo! Sports. “Every single year, multiple kids. We have to make those decisions pretty quickly because if you get too far down the line, you’re wasting a lot of time with a kid that’s not going to end up at Colorado.”
Jon Wilner wonders how the Pac-12 Network will cover the allegations involving Arizona and USC on Thursday in San Francisco at what is normally a festive Pac-12 media day.
Arizona basketball coach Sean Miller could be implicated by NCAA under a bylaw that states head coaches are responsible for assistants' misdeeds.
Bol Bol eliminates Arizona in wake of basketball scandal; Jahvon Quinerly committed 'right now'
The top half of the Arizona Wildcats’ 2018 recruiting board is shattered, less than two weeks after assistant coach Book Richardson was arrested on federal bribery and fraud charges.
On Saturday, five-star center Bol Bol became the latest five-star prospect from the class of 2018 to drop the Wildcats.
Bol also eliminated USC, which had an assistant coach arrested along with Richardson and eight other college basketball figures on Sept. 26 as a result of a sweeping FBI investigation.
Speaking at the same USA Basketball minicamp in Colorado, Jahvon Quinerly told reporters that he remains committed to the Wildcats “for now” while declining to comment on allegations he took $15,000 from a sports agent via Richardson.
“I thought it was crazy,” the 7-foot-2-inch Bol told Scout’s Josh Gershon. “The schools being investigated, I personally want to stay away from them. I’m down to Kentucky and Oregon.”
Three other five-star targets have scurried away since Richardson’s arrest: Florida forward Nassir Little committed to North Carolina, Canadian forward Simi Shittu canceled a planned Nov. 4 recruiting visit to Arizona while Canadian forward R.J. Barrett, the top-rated player in the class of 2018, announced a top three of Oregon, Kentucky and Duke.
“I think a lot of these recruitments are ones that Arizona was doing a very good job in,” Gershon told the Star. “There was every reason to believe that Arizona was leading for Bol and Little. And they were very involved with Barrett, were definitely one of his top two or three options.
“It would have likely been the top class in the country.”
The Wildcats could be helped if some some of the top 2018 prospects decide to hold off until spring, when allegations against the UA might be resolved one way or the other.
But, as Little and others have shown so far, that’s not the trend.
“I thought the initial announcement would cause a lot of these kids to take a step back and see how it all plays out,” Gershon said.“But it actually helped speed up some of these kids’ recruitments. If you’re a believer that this investigation is going to hit other programs, the first ones to get implicated are the ones that are going to suffer.”
Quinerly, guard Brandon Williams and forward Shareef O’Neal all remain committed to the UA, but that could change at any time, too.
Quinerly told reporters in Colorado Springs that his family has hired an attorney. Quinerly denied to say if he took any money from the agents via Richardson, and said he has not spoken with FBI investigators.
“I’m still committed to Arizona right now, but I’m just taking it slow,” Quinerly told Scout’s Evan Daniels in his first public comments since Richardson’s arrest. “I got a lawyer. He’s just giving me step-by-step what to do and what to say, things like that. He’s just helping me a lot.
“He said I should be fine.”
In the federal complaint, a sports agent refers to Quinerly as “the guy with the 15 grand we gave him.” If the NCAA later proves he took an amount that high, Quinerly could become ineligible for his entire freshman season.
The allegations in the federal complaint led to what Quinerly called “the worst week of my life.”
“I mean, I came home from school to a reporter outside my house,” Quinerly told Scout. “It was just too hectic for me and my family. We got hit with it at the wrong time.
“I committed early so I could get everything off my chest, get the stress off my chest and just focus on this and high school season and just grow as a player. This right here, I’m going to get through it, but it’s been tough this past week. Being able to come out here (with USA Basketball) and play helped me a lot.”
Quinerly told ESPN’s Jeff Borzello that has not spoken to Richardson since the FBI news first broke, but has talked with UA coach Sean Miller.
“He was upset as well,” Quinerly said of Miller. “We had a brief conversation, and it was about just me becoming the best player I can be for this high school season and being ready for the next level.”
Williams remains committed provided no major issues surface, according to his father, but O’Neal’s future might be more tentative.
O’Neal’s Twitter bio still identifies him as a UA commit, and he Tweeted Saturday he was looking forward to taking an official visit to Arizona on Oct. 20 for the Red-Blue Game. But six analysts posting picks on 24/7 Sports’ “Crystal Ball” feature now say he’ll choose Kentucky, even though the site lists O’Neal as a “hard commit” to Arizona.
See you on the 20th Arizona ! Official visit should be fun✊🏾❤️— Shareef O'Neal (@SSJreef) October 7, 2017
Andrew Slater, a national analyst for 24/7 Sports, predicts an O’Neal flip. He said the son of longtime basketball star Shaquille O’Neal is likely to visit Kentucky next weekend along with Bol, a close friend and former teammate on the Cal Supreme travel team.
While all the recruiting fallout suggests Arizona will have to scramble again next spring to fill out a 2018 recruiting class, the Wildcats have some experience doing so under Miller.
In 2016, they managed to bring in Rawle Alkins, Kobi Simmons, Keanu Pinder and Dylan Smith during the spring signing period.
Miller has “historically done a great job in the spring, getting the best available names,” Gershon said.
“And right now, you make sure you keep Brandon Williams and Shareef O’Neal committed.”
Allonzo Trier on the possibility of another Arizona basketball season marred by the NCAA: 'You gotta be strong'
For over three months last season, Allonzo Trier lived in NCAA limbo.
Sometimes, it was hard to breathe.
“You become so magnified in the media and you’re not really a normal person because you’re a high-level college basketball athlete,” Trier said during the Pac-12 Tournament last season, seven weeks after he was cleared to return from a previously undisclosed positive PED test. “But at that point, I was living in a glass house. Everyone was looking at me.”
Trier missed half his sophomore season, since the NCAA had required he test clean before he was cleared to return in January. He opted to come back to Arizona for what he figured would be a full junior season.
Now, Trier — and his entire team — are stuck in a glass house.
There’s no telling at this point whether the FBI allegations involving Arizona could turn into NCAA sanctions this season or in the future, or if there will be nothing at all that will affect the Wildcats on the court.
And while the UA may still be the nation’s No. 1 team entering the season, there will be even more attention on what happens to them ahead on and off the court.
Trier has been there.
“You gotta be strong,” Trier said Thursday about what he learned last season. “You gotta learn to fight back. It’s not going to go your way. It’s not going to be easy. It’s going to be tough.
“But it’s how you respond to it that shows who you are as a person. I think we have a chance to respond to this by focusing on us as a team and coming together and really pushing each other to new heights.”
In a way, Trier’s absence early last season affected all the Wildcats.
They had to adjust without him on the court, deal with questions about him off it and watch him sit out games, his ever-striking competitive fire clamped to the bench.
Then they had to readjust when he came back.
It wasn’t easy for anybody on the Arizona roster. This season won’t be easy, either.
“It’s some adversity for us. It’s nothing we’re new to,” Trier said.
“We’re gonna focus on what we can control now and that’s how much better we can get every day in practice. ... I think this will all bring us closer together in the end.”
The Wildcats have already run into adversity on the court, too: The same day that assistant coach Book Richardson was arrested on federal bribery and fraud charges, starting forward Rawle Alkins was lost for 8-12 weeks with a broken foot.
The best-case scenario for the Wildcats has Alkins returning just in time for the Battle 4 Atlantis over Thanksgiving weekend.
The worst case puts Alkins back just before Pac-12 play begins on Dec. 30 against ASU.
“We have an understanding in our program that when we’re faced with adversity or someone goes down, it’s ‘next man up,’” Trier said. “So that next man at that position, which happens to be Brandon (Randolph) and Emmanuel (Akot), we understand that they’re going to have to come around a little bit faster.
“But with us pushing hard in practice, they’re going to be able to help us, and hopefully down the road when Rawle joins us — which he will — we will be that much better as a team.”
Maybe by then, the Wildcats will also know more about whether they can proceed ahead without fear of immediate NCAA sanctions.
While Arizona coach Sean Miller declined to say whether he believed NCAA issues could hit the Wildcats this season, he made it clear that Trier will be one of the team’s key leaders.
He also made it clear he thought Trier could be playing on an All-American level this season.
“In my mind, he’s positioned himself to be one of the best at what he does,” Miller said.
“He’s been through his fair share of adversity. He and I have talked a lot this offseason and our hope together is that he can have one of those seasons that are memorable, and one where he can string it together from start to finish, Day 1 all the way to the last game.”
The Wildcast Episode 24: The latest in Arizona's basketball scandal; previewing UA-Colorado
Arizona basketball finally came out of the woodwork since the FBI investigation surrounding assistant coach Book Richardson and addressed the …
Arizona basketball finally came out of the woodwork since the FBI investigation surrounding assistant coach Book Richardson and addressed the …
Arizona basketball contacted NCAA 'proactively' after notice of FBI investigation, AD Dave Heeke says
Sean Miller and two Arizona Wildcats began speaking Thursday about a season that could end in the Final Four, earlier in the postseason or maybe just somewhere in NCAA purgatory.
If allegations against Arizona in the FBI’s college basketball investigation are quickly proven and translated into NCAA violations, the Wildcats could lose at least one player to ineligibility this season. They might face any number of sanctions, in the future or retroactively.
Or maybe it isn’t so quick. Maybe the NCAA, now with a truckload of FBI material having been dumped in its offices courtesy of a widespread federal investigation involving multiple schools, doesn’t translate anything into potential sanctions until 2018-19 or beyond.
UA athletic director Dave Heeke said Thursday that the school “proactively” contacted the NCAA after UA assistant coach Book Richardson was arrested on federal bribery and fraud charges on Sept. 26.
“They’re, as well, surprised and looking for direction themselves,” Heeke said.
In the days since Richardson’s arrest, however, Arizona has defined its own direction: firmly behind Miller, with eyes open for the investigations ahead.
“Sean has always run a program of integrity and honesty throughout his career here and we’re very supportive of the program and the coaches,” Heeke said.
When asked if that suggested Arizona took a preliminary look and determined Miller didn’t do anything wrong, Heeke responded by repeating himself.
“Again, Sean always runs a program of high integrity and honesty, and we’re always supportive of that,” Heeke said.
Still, Heeke said he doesn’t know how it all might play out.
“There’s a whole lot of unanswered questions,” Heeke said, later adding: “We’re in the midst of a very unique situation, a federal investigation. … This is a process we’ve got to go through but how long or short it’ll be, I don’t think anyone knows.
“It’s a very serious issue, no question.”
Heeke said he didn’t know if NCAA issues could affect the Wildcats this season and, when asked if any findings could lead to self-sanctions, said he didn’t think it was appropriate to speculate or discuss hypothetical situations.
Miller offered little insight during an earlier press conference for which the UA said only “basketball-related” questions would be answered. The coach did not answer a question about whether he expected any possible sanctions or ineligible players this season.
“I’m excited about our season, our team,” Miller responded. “I read my statement here a second ago. For us, it’s about coaching our team. It’s about these guys competing, practicing hard every day and looking forward to the challenge ahead.”
The statement Miller read Thursday was similar to the written one he issued Tuesday, when he said he was “devastated” to learn about Richardson’s arrest and promised to keep promoting an atmosphere of compliance.
Miller, who also declined to answer a question about allegations that multiple UA coaches were associating with the agents alleged to have bribed Richardson, could face NCAA discipline under NCAA Bylaw 22.214.171.124 if UA-related allegations in the federal complaint are proven true.
That bylaw says the head coach must promote an atmosphere of compliance and is “presumed to be responsible for the actions of all institutional staff members who report, directly or indirectly, to the head coach.”
On Thursday, Miller said he fully supported investigations into the allegations, and “as that investigation proceeds, I’ll continue to work hard and enforce a culture of compliance in our organization, just like I have for the last eight years.”
Miller added that “I’ll also continue to work hard at the University of Arizona to bring us the most successful basketball season we can have this year.”
Miller spoke enthusiastically about his mix of talented freshmen and experienced veterans, noting also how 7-footer Deandre Ayton posted an eye-opening maximum vertical leap of 43.5 inches.
In addition, Miller said wings such as Brandon Randolph and Emmanuel Akot will have “a different role” in replacing the injured Rawle Alkins over the first month or two of the season. Alkins broke his foot last week, and is not expected back until at least Thanksgiving.
“This is a fun, exciting time of year as a college basketball fan,” Miller said. “Clearly, we’re building our identity as a team.”
Maybe that dark cloud of uncertainty hanging over McKale Center gets incorporated into that identity, too.
“It’s a tough situation, a little bit of adversity,” guard Allonzo Trier said. “But it’s gonna help us get stronger, maybe bring us closer together.”
- Miller said he wasn’t sure if the UA would still sign two or three recruits during the November signing period, or if he might have to wait until the spring to get most of his players.
- Arizona has received verbal commitments from guards Jahvon Quinerly and Brandon Williams and forward Shareef O’Neal, but Quinerly was named in the federal complaint when a sports agent referred to him as having taken $15,000 from an agent through Richardson.
In addition, several analysts on 24/7’s Crystal Ball are now predicting O’Neal will choose Kentucky.
- Austin Carroll, Arizona’s assistant director of basketball operations, is now on the floor during practices, with Richardson having been suspended with pay. Miller said he wasn’t sure yet if he would look to add another staffer this season.
The Wildcast Episode 23: What do we know after the Sean Miller press conference?
Arizona basketball scandal: AD Dave Heeke says Sean Miller works with 'high integrity'
While meeting with reporters briefly after Thursday’s Arizona basketball news conference, Arizona athletic director Dave Heeke threw firm support behind coach Sean Miller.
“Sean always runs a program of high integrity and honesty and we’re always supportive of that,” Heeke said.
When asked if that statement suggested he found Miller not guilty of wrongdoing during any preliminary investigation within the school, Heeke repeated those words.
Heeke later added: “This program always been one of high integrity, solid structure. We’ve done things the right way and it's important to support this program and these coaches. We have always been a program about doing things the right way and we will continue to be a program about doing it the right way.”
However, Heeke said the federal investigation that will likely lead to an NCAA investigation is a “serious issue, no question” and said that now “I don’t have a lot of information. There’s a lot of unanswered questions.”
Heeke said he didn’t know If players could be ruled ineligible or whether the team will face sanctions. When asked if it was possible the school might issue self-sanctions in the event violations are proven during the process ahead, Heeke said he didn’t think it was “appropriate to speculate.”
Heeke said the UA proactively reached out to the NCAA to discuss the situation.
"And they're as well surprised and looking for some direction themselves," Heeke said. "So yes we've been in touch with them."
Miller did not veer off his statement that he was “devastated” after assistant coach Book Richardson was arrested last week on federal bribery and fraud charges. Miller was flanked by two players during Thursday's news conference.
The UA said only questions involving basketball would be answered, and Miller stuck to that script. I asked if he moved forward this season thinking there might be sanctions or eligibility issues ahead, but Miller responded only by saying he was looking forward to the season.
"We're trying to bring the most successful season we can," he said in his opening remarks.
Miller said Austin Carroll, assistant director of operations, has been able to be on the floor with Richardson having been been suspended with pay. But Miller said he wasn’t sure yet if he would eventually seek to hire another staffer.
Miller also said he wasn’t sure if UA would still sign two or three recruits during the November signing period or if he might have to wait until the spring to get most of his players.
"I'm not sure about that," he said.
UA has commitments from guards Jahvon Quinerly and Brandon Williams, plus forward Shareef O’Neal, but Quinerly was named in the federal complaint when a sports agent referred to him as having taken $15,000 from an agent through Richardson.
Arizona officials' statements 'right out of the playbook,' crisis experts say
Seven days after Arizona assistant coach Book Richardson was arrested on federal bribery and fraud charges, the statements flowed in, one by one.
At 3:35 p.m. on Tuesday, UA coach Sean Miller said in a statement from UA’s athletic department that he was “devastated” about the situation and that he realized he was responsible for an atmosphere of compliance.
At 4:36 p.m., UA president Robert Robbins sent a direct email to UA employees to outline the legal teams the school has hired, and to say he supported Miller “based on the facts we know at this time.”
At 5:10 p.m., UA athletic director Dave Heeke issued a statement through the athletic department saying the university’s move to hire multiple law firms would ensure “we are winning with integrity at all times.”
At 5:21 p.m., Robbins’ address was forwarded to media by the UA’s main campus communications office.
It was a long stream of words that ultimately said pretty much the same thing: That UA is OK with Miller at least for the time being, that it intends to comply with the rules and investigations … and that it wants fans to remain interested in the actual basketball season.
“With basketball practice underway, I ask that you join me in supporting Sean Miller, the staff, and our student-athletes as they work toward the start of the season,” Heeke said.
While issuing multiple, delayed statements might appear odd, two crisis communications experts see strategy behind it.
“It’s obvious that they have consulted with somebody in crisis communications because it’s right out of the playbook,” said Gene Grabowski, a partner in the Washington-based communication firm kglobal who has worked with Penn State (football) and Duke (lacrosse) in recent years. “It’s very smart to issue a written statement. You don’t have to have it right away; you can wait to see what other schools and coaches are doing.
“Then you typically do it one of two ways: You issue it to everyone, or you give an exclusive to (a national) reporter who is going to give you a fair shake.”
Grabowski said the fact the statements were issued separately probably has to do with legal strategy.
“If you’re president and you want to support your coach,” he said, “you want to be careful to issue separate statements so you have the option to say (later) ‘in light of this news’ — you have to allow yourself a graceful exit.”
David E. Johnson, who has advised schools on NCAA issues as CEO of Atlanta-based Strategic Vision PR Group, said the separate statements also allows each party to show “there’s no collusion.”
But Johnson said he would not have advised the qualified statements of support for Miller.
“Usually you don’t want to come out with that tepid endorsement,” Johnson said. “The best way to go is say, ‘We’re dismissing the assistant coach and once our investigation is complete, we’ll address it.’ … You say, ‘We’re investigating all the facts and at this time (Miller) remains our head coach.’”
On Wednesday, UA announced it would hold a news conference for Thursday — and told media that Miller and two players would only address “basketball-related” questions.
The news conference is a likely attempt to refocus public attention on the on-court product.
Johnson said UA’s statements indicated it was “worried about the season, the bottom line, as far as fans coming out and revenue coming in.”
But holding a press conference at this point might be risky.
“One thing you don’t want to do is offer yourself up at a news conference, where you have 15 (reporters) asking things and it gets caught on camera and you’re on the defensive,” Grabowski said.
UA has held press conferences while trying to pre-empt questions about off-court issues for the past two seasons. Miller and UA officials said little throughout the school’s 2015-16 investigation that resulted in the suspension of guard Elliott Pitts for sexual misconduct.
And the program did not acknowledge why Allonzo Trier was sitting out the first half of last season after testing positive for a PED until just before Trier was cleared in January. The school’s silence generated considerable speculation and had fans and media alike showing up early before games just to see if Trier was in uniform.
Miller repeatedly declined several early season questions about Trier. After that, a UA spokesman began to preface press conferences by saying that Trier’s situation would not be addressed.
Now, UA is saying the same thing about the FBI investigation and any potential NCAA issues that may result.
“That’s one way to manage it that’s probably a little less finessed than it should be,” Grabowski said. “I think Sean Miller and other coaches in this situation have to go to acting class. They have to be prepared by communication experts to handle the questions with grace — and that way you don’t need a PR person at the press conference.”
Either way, Miller is in a tough position as essentially the CEO of Arizona basketball. Not only does Grabowski say Miller can be criticized either if he knew something was going on — or even if he didn’t — but he said the coach can also be penalized either way under NCAA Bylaw 126.96.36.199.
That bylaw says a head coach is “presumed to be responsible for the actions of all institutional staff members who report, directly or indirectly, to the head coach.” It also states that a head coach “shall promote an atmosphere of compliance within his or her program and shall monitor the activities” of staffers who report indirectly or directly.
Miller appeared to respond to that bylaw when he stated that “I recognize my responsibility is not only to establish a culture of success on the basketball court and in the classroom, but as important, to promote and reinforce a culture of compliance.”
Miller said he has done so “to the best of my ability” over his eight seasons at Arizona and would continue to do so.
Miller wasn’t mentioned by name in the federal complaints issued last week except for a reference to an agent saying Miller badly wanted a player believed to be five-star Florida forward Nassir Little.
But aside from allegations that Richardson took $20,000 in bribes, there are other allegations in the complaint that could translate into “failure to monitor” NCAA violations against Miller and the program — such as an agent’s allegations that he had easy access to practices and close relationships with UA coaches, and an allegation from an agent that a current UA player has already been paid.
“The lawyer’s first obligation obviously is to keep his client as far away as possible from prison or other sanctions, so that means you have to deny until it’s proven, and it’s pretty hard to prove,” Grabowski said. “The secondary role of a lawyer is to make sure in a court of public opinion, you manage this until you survive. It’s a lot easier to convict in the court of public opinion than in the court of laws.”
While all that is playing out, Grabowski said, another problem is the potential recruiting damage.
“Blue-chip recruits and their families are going to think twice,” he said.
Some already have. Last week, the top-rated player in the class of 2018, R.J. Barrett, announced Arizona is no longer among his finalists. Five-star forward Simi Shittu has canceled a planned Nov. 3 visit to Arizona.
And on Wednesday, Little committed to North Carolina. He told ESPN that he eliminated Arizona and Miami — both schools mentioned in the federal complaints — shortly after the news surfaced last week.
A representative for Adidas was quoted in the federal complaint telling another Adidas rep that Little had been offered $150,000 to play for Arizona, though Little has denied receiving or asking for money and it was not alleged in the complaint that he actually took any.
“For me, I just didn’t want to be mixed in a situation where any of the accusations seemed like it was true. Because it wasn’t,” Little told ESPN.
So there’s already damage to Arizona’s basketball program. The question is whether Arizona can keep it from getting any worse.
“When it comes to crisis communications, you never win. You can only manage the situation,” Grabowski said. “A lot of these crisis situations are like knife fights. You never come out of these things unscathed. You know you’re going to get hurt. The whole point is to survive.
“But if you manage it with great care and be as honest as you can be, people will forgive you.”
A collection of letters to the editor since the FBI's arrest of longtime UA assistant Emanuel 'Book' Richardson.
Video: 'Devastated' Sean Miller's statement on FBI probe into Arizona Wildcats
The Wildcast Episode 22: Sean Miller spoke, but what did he really say?
University of Arizona president, AD say they support Sean Miller in basketball scandal probe
In his first public remarks since assistant coach Book Richardson was arrested last week, Arizona Wildcats coach Sean Miller said Tuesday he recognized his responsibility was "to promote and reinforce a culture of compliance."
Hours later, University of Arizona president Robert C. Robbins and athletic director Dave Heeke issued statements that appear to support the coach in light of a federal investigation and likely NCAA probe. (All three statements are attached to this story).
Robbins said Miller has been "fully cooperative and supportive of our efforts to determine the facts and the truth." He noted that the Wildcats' longtime head coach "has not been charged with — nor accused of— any misconduct."
Miller did not address whether he knew anything involving the fraud and bribery charges against Richardson, the longest-tenured assistant on his staff. A federal complaint says Richardson received $20,000 in bribes from a sports agent in exchange for steering current Wildcats to the agent's company. Richardson used some of the money he received to bribe recruits to come play for the UA, according to the complaint.
Miller's entire statement, as issued through the athletic department on Tuesday afternoon, reads:
“I was devastated to learn last week of the allegations made against Emanuel Richardson. I have expressed to both Dr. Robbins and our Athletic Director Dave Heeke that I fully support the University’s efforts to fully investigate these allegations. As the head basketball coach at the University of Arizona, I recognize my responsibility is not only to establish a culture of success on the basketball court and in the classroom, but as important, to promote and reinforce a culture of compliance. To the best of my ability, I have worked to demonstrate this over the past 8 years and will continue to do so as we move forward.”
Miller's statement did not address the sports agent, Christian Dawkins, who had bragged to associates that he can "go to (UA’s basketball) practices like I’m on the team. … The coaches, that’s easy, that’s the easiest thing because they all, I know them all anyway. We’re friends."
Robbins' statement, released shortly before 5 p.m. by the president's office, announced the university's hiring of the law firm of Steptoe & Johnson to conduct an independent review. Robbins said the UA has also retained lawyers to deal with the federal and possible NCAA investigations.
The UA has not said whether any current players could be affected as a result of the FBI probe and a likely NCAA investigation. Dawkins and Richardson discussed one current Wildcat, according to the federal complaint, saying that he had already been paid. A separate portion of the federal complaint indicates that Arizona may have offered $150,000 to land a highly touted recruit.
About Miller, Robbins said:
"Head coach Sean Miller has not been charged with — nor accused of — any misconduct and he has been fully cooperative and supportive of our efforts to determine the facts in pursuit of the truth. In a message that he shared with the community earlier today, Sean expressed his own devastation at the revelations last week and acknowledged his responsibility as the head coach to promote and reinforce a culture of compliance. Based on the facts that we know at this time, we support Coach Miller and intend to provide him with all of the tools necessary to meet our goals and expectations.
"The tremendous young men in our basketball program deserve our continued support as they work towards the start of the season, and I have complete faith that our passionate fans will continue to show them our love."
Heeke's statement, released around 5:10 p.m., says he was “angered and disheartened to learn of the news and its potential impact on the university, our athletics department, and this community." Heeke said the athletic department will "work tirelessly" to ensure it operates with the highest of ethical standards."
Of Miller and the program, he said: "With basketball practice underway, I ask that you join me in supporting Sean Miller, the staff, and our student-athletes as they work towards the start of the season."
Miller is set to travel to Pac-12 media day next week. The Wildcats will hold their annual Red-Blue Game Oct. 20, with their first home game, an exhibition against Eastern New Mexico, booked for Nov. 1.
Richardson, meanwhile, is scheduled to appear in a New York City court next Tuesday.
Five-star forward Simi Shittu cancels Arizona recruiting visit
Arizona has suffered another recruiting blow in the wake of the arrest of assistant coach Book Richardson last week.
Five-star forward Simi Shittu canceled a scheduled Nov. 3 visit to Arizona while he is still expected to visit Vanderbilt this weekend and North Carolina on Nov. 10.
This was his original plan:
Shittu's decision appears to make North Carolina the leader but it is also possible that many top 2018 recruits won't sign a binding letter-of-intent until next spring, when more could be revealed out of the FBI investigation.
Last week, the top-rated player in the class of 2018, R.J. Barrett, dropped Arizona from his list of finalists.
Sonny Vaccaro is hoping the investigation leads to an overhaul.
Roy Williams says Nike has never helped him get a player.
SI has a list of what schools are with what shoe company.
The bad news wouldn't stop in Arizona Wildcats' week to forget
Arizona’s football team had a bye, its basketball teams were just starting preseason practices while its volleyball and soccer teams were in the Bay Area, making it a pretty quiet week for the Wildcats.
On the field, that is.
Outside of competition, however, the UA had what might have been its worst week not involving games in its modern athletic history. While the UA has suffered heartbreaking deaths already this century — football players McCollins Umeh (2004) and Zach Hemmila (2015), plus basketball player Shawntinice Polk (2005) — the past week involved an unprecedented whirlwind of police and court activity, tragedy and a significant injury. Here’s how it unfolded:
1. Tuesday morning: Richardson booked
What happened: It all started when UA assistant Book Richardson was arrested on federal bribery and fraud charges on Sept. 26, one of 10 figures involved in college basketball arrested following a sweeping FBI investigation.
While Richardson made an initial appearance in U.S. District Court last Tuesday wearing a “New Orleans Basketball” T-shirt and workout shorts on Tuesday, the U.S. Attorney’s Office in the Southern District of New York held a press conference to discuss the FBI’s widespread investigation into two areas — a scheme allegedly involving money from Adidas to players through coaches, and another from agents to players through coaches.
“If you read the three complaints, over 100 pages, you will find yourselves inside the dark underbelly of college basketball,” U.S. Attorney Joon Kim said. “The madness of college basketball went well beyond the ‘big dance’ in March.”
What now: The charges against Richardson mean he faces a maximum of 60 years and/or $1.5 million in fines if convicted, while the Wildcats could face a number of NCAA issues.
Among them: At least one current UA player could be found ineligible if it is proven he received money from a sports agent, as one agent alleges in the complaint, while that agent also spoke of easy access to UA’s normally closed practice. The allegations of the agent’s access and Richardson’s actions could lead to failure-to-monitor violations against Arizona.
Wildcats commit Jahvon Quinerly, a five-star point guard in the class of 2018, would appear unlikely to play for the Wildcats if it is proven he received $15,000 from Richardson, as a sports agent alleges he did. That amount would likely be enough to make him ineligible for all of 2018-19.
UA’s ongoing recruiting could also be affected. The Wildcats’ two other current 2018 recruits, Shareef O’Neal and Brandon Williams, remain committed but the top-rated player in 2018, R.J. Barrett of the Toronto area, announced he had trimmed Arizona from his choices.
2. Tuesday afternoon: Alkins injured
What happened: Literally just hours after Richardson’s arrest placed a dark cloud over the Wildcats’ otherwise promising upcoming season, Arizona also lost one of its best players for two or three months when Rawle Alkins broke his foot.
While word spread of the injury through social media on Tuesday evening, just as fans may have still been digesting the FBI investigation, the UA announced Wednesday evening that Alkins had hurt the foot during “voluntary activities” on Tuesday.
Alkins had surgery on Wednesday and posted a photo of him in a hospital bed on Twitter.
What now: Alkins will miss an estimated 8-12 weeks with the foot injury, which means he could return for UA’s Nov. 22-24 appearance in the Battle 4 Atlantis at the earliest, and just before Pac-12 play begins Dec. 30 against ASU at the latest.
“Every king has their own road to glory,” Alkins said in his photo tweet. “Minor setback for a major come back!”
3. Wednesday night: Young arrested
What happened: Scottie Young, a freshman safety for the UA football team, was arrested on suspicion of one domestic violence charge on Sept. 27.
A campus police incident report said a student saw another student get “pushed into a wall, spit on and threatened by (Young).” Young told police the two, who had dated on-and-off since high school, had exchanged expletives during an argument. The woman told police it wasn’t the first time Young had “put his hands on her.”
What now: Arizona coach Rich Rodriguez said Monday that he “consulted with all the appropriate authorities” before deciding to allow Young to participate in all team activities.
A UA statement last week said the school was working with the Dean of Students Office to gather more information.
4. Thursday night: Tragic car crash
What happened: Pima College fullback Jordan Waddell was killed in a car crash the night of Thursday, Sept. 28, while UA walk-on receiver Donovan Moore suffered serious injuries while riding in the car as a passenger.
Police said Waddell’s car ran a red light and crashed into a light pole shortly after 11 p.m. near the intersection of North Greasewood and West Anklam Road.
Moore, a former Pima and Tucson High School player, appeared in the Wildcats’ opener against Northern Arizona. He was a quarterback at Tucson High and played in a number of roles at Pima.
What now: Police are investigating to see if other factors played a role in the crash, while the Aztecs will wear Waddell’s initials on their uniforms the rest of the season.
“He was a really good kid, a hard worker, everybody liked him. His teammates loved him,” Aztecs coach Jim Monaco said. “Our team is having a really hard time handling it.”
Moore has been released from the hospital, and UA coach Rich Rodriguez said Monday that Moore will be out “a few weeks” with a concussion and sore ribs.
5. Friday morning: Bradford jailed
What happened: On Sept. 29, former UA running back Orlando Bradford pleaded guilty to two counts of aggravated assault in a domestic-violence case.
Bradford, who was immediately taken into custody, played in two games before his Sept. 2016 arrest after two women came forward to say that he’d assaulted them on more than one occasion.
He was subsequently charged with 10 felonies and five misdemeanors.
What now: Bradford now faces between two and seven years in prison and/or fines of up to $150,000 and restitution of up to $50,000 for each of the two victims.
He will be required to serve 85 percent of the prison sentence that is given during his Nov. 20 sentencing hearing.
Steller: University of Arizona basketball scandal smashes Tucson's delusions
We’ve been living in a sweet delusion.
If Tucsonans agree on anything, it is our ardor for the University of Arizona men’s basketball team. The love of the team crosses social divides and, especially come March, unites the community in cheering the team toward the Final Four.
The feeling is precious — really. It’s a persistent, passionate love. No wonder we are unwilling to take a hard, realistic look at this team we’ve fallen for so desperately.
Now it’s time.
The scandal that came with the arrest of assistant coach Emanuel “Book” Richardson Tuesday should wake Tucson up from our decades of denial. Elite college sports are a crooked, corrupt business. That doesn’t mean the people involved are bad, just that we cannot expect them to both compete for a title and stay clean.
That’s as true in Tucson as it is in Louisville or Los Angeles.
You know who made that point really well last week? One of the UA’s most famous and beloved basketball alumni: Steve Kerr.
Kerr led the first Lute Olson team to make it to a Final Four, in 1988, so he helped spark the love affair between Tucson and its team. Now the wildly successful coach of the NBA’s Golden State Warriors, Kerr was asked Wednesday about this new college basketball scandal. He answered this way:
“There’s a reason I coach in the NBA. I never wanted to be a college coach. I don’t immerse myself in that stuff. The NBA is very pure. We don’t want to make apologies or concessions about what we’re doing. We’re just playing basketball. It’s a business. And the NCAA obviously has lots of things to figure out on many levels, who they are and what they’re doing.”
The key word in that comment, of course, is “pure,” which sounds counter-intuitive when applied to pro sports. Here’s what I think he meant: The NBA is a business that doesn’t pretend it’s about anything but money and basketball. In that sense, it is pure — an unhindered athletic and financial pursuit.
The NCAA, of course, does have pretensions that it is about something more — at minimum, about education for the “student-athletes.” On this, I’ll interpret Kerr a little further: He seemed to also be tweaking the NCAA’s self-image as “pure” because it is nominally amateur. This is a holdover concept that should have withered decades back, but we have continued to treasure it in Tucson up to today.
You hear it in the protestations that our beloved coach, Sean Miller, seems like a great person who would never knowingly allow his players to be paid for coming to the UA, or for their playing services.
I heard a version of this from Ted Schmidt, a well-known local lawyer who I called Friday because I know he’s a UA alum and a big Wildcat fan with season tickets at McKale Center. He was eager to defend Miller.
“Sean Miller has earned respect and the right to the benefit of the doubt,” Schmidt said. “Everything I’ve known and seen about him leads me to the conclusion that I trust he is not implicated in this. Until proven otherwise, that’s the way I feel.”
Then I spelled out to Schmidt my general sense that the money-making college sports are inherently corrupt because of the distortion caused by the fact that players cannot be paid for the massive value they create and the incentives for outside interests to win the players’ services.
Schmidt pointed out the sleaziness of the AAU summer basketball programs that college coaches use to evaluate players. He’s right — they are sleazy, as illustrated by the 2015 documentary “At All Costs.” It features UA player Parker Jackson-Cartwright as an extremely impressive high school student caught up in an overhyped basketball-recruitment machine.
“That underlying structure is inherently a very bad thing,” Schmidt said. “It’s not surprising at all that this sort of thing happens. It’s surprising that it happens at the University of Arizona.”
Please, Tucsonans: Do not be surprised anymore.
Perhaps head coaches don’t have direct knowledge of what it sometimes takes to land elite players. But that’s mainly because they have delegated that responsibility to assistants who do the dirty work of recruiting and insulate the head coaches from guilty knowledge.
Adidas and Nike have money to splash around, the TV networks do, the agents, the AAU teams, the boosters. But the young players and their families are prohibited by archaic NCAA rules from demanding their fair share of the spoils. That’s just wrong.
It would be useful if we grappled with this reality now, while we have the chance, and turned our attention to how to fix it instead of worrying about whether our No. 1-ranked team will lose a season that had such glorious potential.
Be aware, though. The usual pattern is that a scandal breaks, the coaches are cleared out, reforms are implemented, new staff is brought in, and eventually corruption or scandal creeps back.
The system needs an overhaul now. Perhaps college football and basketball teams could be spun off by the universities as affiliated businesses without major academic requirements. Maybe players could be offered scholarships redeemable whenever they are ready to study.
Most importantly, players must be allowed some way to demand and receive a fair share of the value they’re creating without it being a violation that tarnishes the player, the coach and the university. Then Tucsonans can gather again and cheer without delusion.
Arizona Wildcats will try to protect bottom line amid FBI basketball scandal
Four things are at stake in the investigation into Arizona’s basketball program: Integrity, prestige, legacy and money.
If you rank them, 1 through 4, money might outrank all.
If Arizona president Robert Robbins determines that the UA cannot avoid sanctions, the quickest and cleanest route to salvage the basketball operation will be to announce an immediate and self-imposed probation and hope the NCAA buys it.
That would probably limit Arizona’s time in the NCAA slammer and allow the school to start over, fully eligible to compete for the national championship in a year or two.
Such action would be at the expense of the 2017-18 season, probably the school’s best chance to get to the Final Four since 2001. But it would be the most sensible move to protect Arizona’s financial assets.
Ultimately, those assets will become the most important part of this situation, and far more significant to Arizona than to the other four schools involved in the FBI’s sting.
According to the U.S. Department of Education, Arizona’s basketball program created $21.7 million in revenue in the fiscal year 2015-16. No other school in the Pac-12 is remotely close to that figure.
UCLA had $11.3 million in revenue, followed by Oregon at $8.9 million, Colorado at $8.3 million and Cal at $8.2 million.
USC, which is also embroiled in FBI’s fraud and bribery charges, generated a Pac-12-low $4.9 million in basketball revenue in 2015-16. The scandal has barely raised an eyebrow in Southern California. The Los Angeles Times’ headline following the Justice Department’s announcement was “Who is Tony Bland?”
Bland is the USC coach arrested Tuesday with Arizona’s Book Richardson and others at Oklahoma State and Auburn.
USC’s athletic department revenues for 2015-16 were $106 million. Basketball income is roughly four percent of USC’s financial pie. By comparison, Arizona’s basketball income from an $81 million athletic department revenue of 2015-16 is 26 percent.
Without its full (and growing) basketball revenue, Arizona would sink to the bottom of the Pac-12’s fiscal standings, below Utah ($70 million) and Washington State ($71 million).
The two football-strong schools involved, Auburn and USC, last week allowed basketball coaches Bruce Pearl and Andy Enfield to speak publicly about the scandal. Predictably, both interviews were full of “no comment” replies.
Arizona is being more careful, which it must be to protect its basketball assets. Auburn, which made $92 million in football in 2015-16 against $11.6 million in basketball, has less to lose.
Arizona’s high command is likely to speak as one voice only when given approval by its attorneys, and after it has carefully rehearsed its strategy.
And what will that strategy be? Protect the bottom line.
Arizona basketball: Top 2018 player R.J. Barrett no longer considering Wildcats
The Arizona Wildcats have suffered their first recruiting setback since the FBI investigation came to light on Tuesday, and it's a big one:
Five-star Canadian forward R.J. Barrett, the top-rated player in the class of 2018, confirmed via Twitter that he is no longer considering the Wildcats. He posted a final three schools of Oregon, Duke and Kentucky — schools not implicated in the federal — meaning he dropped the UA and Michigan.
Barrett visited Arizona last weekend, just before UA assistant coach Book Richardson was arrested on suspicion of federal bribery and fraud charges on Tuesday.
The commitment of UA recruit Jahvon Quinerly also appears shaky at best if he is found to have taken money from an agent through Richardson, as the federal complaint alleges.
However, the UA's two other recruits, Brandon Williams and Shareef O'Neal, have remain committed to the Wildcats — Williams' dad says he's "100 percent" committed and O'Neal's Twitter page refers to him as an Arizona commit.
Here's a look at the nine biggest NCAA scandals in UA history, dating to 1952.
'Different than the $100 handshake:' FBI investigation into Book Richardson could lead to NCAA probe
A week ago, the scheduled opening of Arizona’s full preseason practices Sunday might have been anticipated with a celebratory buzz.
What is arguably Sean Miller’s most loaded team yet might become the No. 1 pick in the two major preseason polls, then go on win the Pac-12 title and maybe even reach its first Final Four in 17 years.
All that could still happen. But now, in the wake of a sweeping FBI investigation that led to the Sept. 26 arrest of Arizona assistant coach Book Richardson and nine other figures involved in college basketball, NCAA clouds could gather over the Wildcats’ future.
If the allegations in the federal complaints are proven true and translate into NCAA violations, at least one current Wildcat might be ruled ineligible and the program could face sanctions for a failure to foster a proper compliance atmosphere, among other things.
And if anyone plays this season and is later found to be ineligible, or if the NCAA levies penalties on the program itself after next season, Arizona could even be forced to vacate individual or team accomplishments.
In other words, the Wildcats could reach their first Final Four under Miller in March … and later have the NCAA say it never happened.
Of course, all that is a big leap from the federal complaints that were released Tuesday, which included bribery and fraud charges on Richardson.
In the complaints, sports agent Christian Dawkins said a current Arizona player has already been paid and is quoted saying he is “friends” with UA coaches and can attend practice “like I’m on the team.”
Several attorneys who have worked for schools on NCAA cases say that could turn into failure-to-monitor violations if an agent’s presence around the program is found to have led to relationships with players it paid.
Richardson was also alleged to have taken $20,000 in bribes that he could use to help secure a recruit, while promising he would in turn steer current UA players to the agents for professional representation.
The key is whether all this is proven true and translated into violations in the NCAA’s much different court.
“When you have a complaint that is sworn to by a federal agent, and that references documents, wiretaps and video recording, that may be pretty reliable,” said Stuart Brown, an Atlanta-based attorney who has handled NCAA cases for schools and conferences. “We shouldn’t get ahead of ourselves in presuming what happens.
“But if the federal investigation turns out to prove … (agents were) providing money to prospective student-athletes or their family members or close friends, that will clearly be a violation of the NCAA recruiting rules or extra benefit rules. And if the amounts of money are in line with what has been alleged in the complaints … then those extra benefits would be of a substantial nature.
“Clearly, this is different than the $100 handshake.”
While Dawkins is quoted in the complaint referring to UA commit Jahvon Quinerly as “the guy with the 15 grand we gave him,” there is no dollar amount referenced in Dawkins’ statement that a current UA player has already received payments.
But if it is determined that the player took payments in the five-figure range, he could be ineligible for an entire season — and any past games he played in after taking payments might be vacated.
In 2000, the NCAA found former UA guard Jason Terry accepted over $11,000 total from agents during his junior and senior seasons for the Wildcats, and Arizona later was forced to vacate its 1999 NCAA tournament appearance.
Arizona was also forced to vacate all its 19 victories in 2007-08, and its NCAA Tournament appearance that season, because of violations the NCAA found during the final years of former coach Lute Olson — including Olson’s improper support of a recruiting showcase at McKale Center, and coaching-related activities by UA assistant coaches that were against NCAA rules.
While the Wildcats lost in the first round of the 1999 and 2008 NCAA Tournaments anyway, those vacated broke apart what was a much-hyped streak of 25 straight NCAA Tournament appearances into one of 14 straight (1985-98) and another of eight straight (2000-2007).
Retroactive penalties could also hit here, too, if any allegations from the FBI investigation are later proven to have involved players or coaches who participate in the upcoming season.
Timing is an issue.
The federal allegations are likely to take months, if not years, to play out — and the NCAA may decide to trail behind with its own investigation while waiting to see what federal allegations are proven.
When asked by the Star, the NCAA declined to say if it would investigate on its own or levy sanctions based on the federal findings. Several attorneys who work on behalf of schools facing NCAA violations say the NCAA could do its own investigations separately, or incorporate what comes out of the federal cases as evidence in their own cases.
The FBI could also require anyone charged who is seeking a plea agreement to cooperate with the NCAA. Even though the FBI has no obligation to help the NCAA, Brown said it might do so because it is trying to promote integrity and fair play.
“It is good for society if people honor their contracts and play by the rules they’ve signed up to play by,” Brown said. “Also, the money involved in this case is very small at this point and to have attracted the attention of the (U.S. Attorney’s) Southern District of New York, it’s because they knew this would be a high-profile case.
“It’s fun and rewarding for them, and shows they are protecting the rule of law — and in a context that most people are interested in more readily than some insider trading security case. It makes them look good.”
Brown said the FBI could even turn over information to the NCAA that it doesn’t need for the purpose of its cases — but information that might still result in NCAA violations — for the same reason.
Arizona and some of the other schools involved may also want to initiate their own internal investigations immediately.
If a school believes it has a potentially ineligible player, such as the UA player Dawkins said was paid already, it may want to determine as quickly as possible if that player should be held out. If he isn’t held out, and later found to be ineligible, that player’s team could be forced to vacate games or given other sanctions.
“That’s why schools generally take the cautious approach and … if it’s in doubt, withhold the student-athlete from competition,” Brown said.
Quinerly hasn’t responded to the Star or posted anything publicly about his intentions. But if it’s proven he took $15,000, Quinerly may opt to play overseas next season while waiting for the 2019 NBA draft, since he may not be eligible at all as a freshman in 2018-19.
Chris Wright, the father of fellow UA commit Brandon Williams, said he’s closely watching what is happening but that his son remains committed. And the top-rated 2018 player, Canadian forward R.J. Barrett, posted on Twitter on Saturday that he is down to just Oregon, Duke and Kentucky — all schools that were not named in the federal complaint — after previously considering Arizona.
But even if the NCAA finds a recruit or current player was paid, there are other factors that attorneys say it considers besides the dollar amount. One is whether the player knew about it — or whether it was a deal between an agent and a family member or handler.
Another is where the money came from.
Brown said money given from a booster can be weighed less heavily than funds from an agent.
Whether or not an agent has easy access to the program, as Dawkins indicates in the complaint, requires sorting through even more gray area. Dawkins said he can go to an Arizona practice “like I’m on the team,” even as UA practices are normally closed to the media and public.
Brown said there are often good reasons a coaching staff would want to invite an agent to practice, such as if they wanted to find out how a certain player is being viewed by the NBA for the purpose of passing on that information to the player.
But Christian Dennie, a Texas-based attorney who handled NCAA cases for schools, said if an agent becomes involved in wrongdoing and it is determined he had “too much access to the program, that could be a factor in play for any punishment.”
That sort of scenario could penalize head coach Sean Miller, even though he is not named in the complaint at all except for a reference to how badly he wanted a recruit.
“If, because of that agent’s access, an agent feels they’re in a position to offer money, where the school and the head coach run into trouble are on these second-level violations — failure to monitor or a lack of institutional control,” Brown said. “They could say, ‘Hey, you knew he was attending practice, so why didn’t you do a better job of monitoring or policing his involvement?’ Because you enabled his contact, which created this environment, you could face a lack of institutional control.
“So that could be a problem for the school and the coach even though actually attending a practice is not.”
Miller and the UA could also face institutional control issues if Richardson is convicted of taking bribes in order to help the program’s recruiting, and in turn steering current players to the agents who provided the money, as the complaint alleges.
“It’s a problem (for Miller) because you have one of your main assistants purportedly on tape making what are clear NCAA violations,” says Tucson defense attorney Michael Piccaretta. “They’re gonna want to look into it and determine what you know.
“But I would think if they knew Sean Miller had intent and knowledge of it, that would have been in their 100-page complaint. U.S. attorneys are always looking for trophies.”
In six weeks, the Wildcats will start hunting for trophies of their own on the court. Then they may learn if they can keep them.
Recruits Brandon Williams, Shareef O'Neal appear committed to Arizona Wildcats amid FBI probe
Four top high school players have decommitted from schools implicated in the FBI’s sweeping investigation into college basketball, and UA commit Jahvon Quinerly’s future with the Wildcats appears shaky at best.
But Arizona’s two other 2018 commits, forward Shareef O’Neal and guard Brandon Williams, appear on board for now.
Williams remains “100 percent” committed to Arizona, his father, Chris Wright, told the Star on Friday — provided there are no major issues resulting from the federal charges filed against assistant coach Book Richardson.
“Nothing’s changed,” Wright said.
O’Neal didn’t respond to a message from the Star and hasn’t posted anything publicly this week, except for a tweet that said “LOYALTY, LOYALTY, LOYALTY” on Tuesday after the FBI probe resulted in Richardson’s arrest.
A federal complaint that was released Tuesday said Richardson accepted $20,000 in bribes from a sports agent for the purpose of securing a recruit, who was identifiable as Quinerly.
The complaint did not say whether Quinerly received the money, or how much of it he took, though a sports agent is quoted referring to him as “the guy with the 15 grand we gave him.” If it is proven Quinerly took such an amount, his eligibility in 2018-19 would be in danger.
Stuart Brown, an Atlanta-based attorney who has worked with schools facing NCAA issues, said the governing body considers many factors when determining a penalty for accepting extra benefits. Among them: whether a player (instead of a family member or handler) knew about the benefits and where they came from.
But, in general, Brown said if it was proven a recruit took an amount ranging from $10,000 to $20,000, “there would be a substantial (period of ineligibility), which would probably be a whole season.”
That could mean Quinerly never wears an Arizona uniform — or plays for any other school, either.
“Without having any inside information, I can’t imagine that if there was any wrongdoing, that Arizona’s involvement continues,” Scout.com analyst Josh Gershon said. “We’re going to have to see what is proven there. But the two other guys (appear committed). Brandon says he’s coming as long as there are no serious implications, and you’ve seen a lot of other kids decommit.”
Already this week, guards Anfernee Simons and Courtney Ramey decommitted from Louisville, while five-star forward E.J. Montgomery dumped Auburn and wing Antwann Jones gave up his pledge to Oklahoma State.
Wright, Williams’ father, said he’s been keeping up on all the news about the FBI’s investigation and its effects throughout college basketball. He said he’s not concerned with whatever might have happened between Richardson and Quinerly.
“It has nothing to do with me,” Wright said. “It has no affect on our family or my son.”
Still, Wright hopes the situation plays out quickly — “sooner rather than later,” he said.
Players from the class of 2018 can’t sign binding letter-of-intents until November, though Wright said Williams could always sign a letter and seek a release if sanctions were later handed down to Arizona.
Williams has the option of waiting until the spring signing period begins, a choice that could become popular among the class of 2018 players. Even those committed to a school not implicated in the FBI investigation might hold off, Gershon said, just in case their schools become entangled in it later.
“I think we’re gonna see a lot of the elite prospects take a step back and see how this shakes out before signing anything,” Gershon said. “They’re more likely now to sign in April instead. It could slow down a lot of programs’ recruiting.”
The Wildcast Episode 20: Worst. Week. Ever.
Arizona basketball coach Sean Miller no longer appears in credit-union ads
A local credit union that features University of Arizona basketball coach Sean Miller in its advertising won’t be doing so in the wake of criminal charges against assistant coach Book Richardson.
Hughes Federal Credit Union, which has used Miller in its promotions since 2011, has scrubbed the coach’s photos from its website and is not airing its popular television ads, even though Miller has not been implicated in wrongdoing.
“We’ve paused our promotions featuring Arizona basketball on our website during the investigation,” credit union spokeswoman Kellie Terhune Neely said Friday.
Miller has not commented since the FBI implicated Richardson in the bribery scheme. The head coach has canceled an event planned for Wednesday at a local rotary club.
The UA announced this week that it will launch an independent investigation into Richardson's actions, and is preparing to fire him.
Arizona basketball: Miller cancels Rotary Club luncheon appearance next week
Arizona coach Sean Miller has canceled a scheduled Oct. 4 appearance at a Tucson Rotary Club luncheon, the club's executive director, Dorinna York, confirmed Friday.
Miller has yet to comment on the federal case against UA assistant coach Book Richardson, who was arrested Tuesday on suspicion of federal bribery and fraud charges.
UA postponed its scheduled Sept. 27 preseason media day and has yet to reschedule it.
Miller is scheduled to appear at the Oct. 12 Pac-12 men's basketball media day in San Francisco.
Archie Miller said he talked with his brother briefly to add his support.
In Louisville, the Washington Post finds Armaggedon of sorts.
SI's Charles Pierce says the FBI investigation "reeks of prosecutorial overreach."
In a what-now look at college basketball, CBS Sports' Matt Norlander writes that "Sean Miller's program has gone from preseason title favorite to an alleged cheating machine."
Yahoo's Dan Wetzel says the problem is that the NCAA's model has forced free market pressures underground
ESPN's Jay Bilas argues that meaningful change only happens if the NCAA's stance on amateurism changes.
Greg Byrne has accepted the resignation of an Alabama staff member implicated in the FBI probe but said the school has found no other NCAA violations by other staffers or coaches.
USC faces some tough questions over Tony Bland's involvement.
ESPN's Jay Williams said a sports agency he worked for once paid Kevin Love's travel-ball coach $250,000.
Dick Vitale is critical of what UA is accused of.
The Wildcast Episode 19: Will Sean Miller be coaching Arizona this season?
Sean Miller silent as questions mount about past, future of Arizona Wildcats basketball program
Sean Miller went a third day without addressing the arrest of his longest tenured assistant on federal bribery and fraud charges.
Questions kept building anyway.
What did the Arizona head coach know, if anything, about the $20,000 in bribes assistant coach Book Richardson was accused of taking? Was Miller aware that, according to the federal complaint, another UA coach met with the sports agent also charged in the investigation? That former associate head coach Joe Pasternack may have talked with a sports agent twice on the telephone?
And also, from the complaint, these questions:
- Had a current UA player already taken payments from a sports agent, as that agent alleged?
- Was it true that a sports agent involved with the bribery scheme was “friends” with the UA coaching staff, and that he could attend practices “like I’m on the team,” as the complaint quoted him as saying?
- And did the UA really offer a five-star recruit $150,000, as an Adidas rep alleged in a separate federal complaint involving the shoe company’s ties to college basketball?
UA president Robert Robbins has opened an independent investigation into Richardson, but the university has not addressed the other issues raised involving the program.
Miller hasn’t said anything, either, and the UA’s scheduled preseason media day Wednesday was postponed. Miller spent Thursday with his team in McKale Center.
Under a contract that is scheduled to pay him $2.6 million plus performance and academic bonuses in 2017-18, Miller can be terminated 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.”
But Miller was not linked to any potential NCAA rules violations in the federal complaints. In fact, the coach wasn’t mentioned at all except for when a sports agent said Miller wanted recruit Jahvon Quinerly “bad as (expletive),” suggesting the agents could gain considerable leverage over the Arizona program if they helped deliver Quinerly.
Miller hasn’t been implicated in any public NCAA rules violations cases since arriving at Arizona in 2009, and picked up a strong endorsement Thursday from ESPN college basketball analyst Jay Bilas.
“I know Sean Miller to be a man of great honesty and integrity,” Bilas tweeted, in response to a fan’s tweet that it was “laughable” that Miller knew nothing. “I don’t believe for a second he knew of any improper behavior.”
Even if he’s found responsible for any possible violations, Miller might be treated as something of a first-time offender in the NCAA’s eyes.
“That helps, but there’s some stuff that looks pretty shady involving the program,” said Jerry Meyer, a recruiting analyst for 24/7 Sports. “I think all these schools are now under a microscope and we have no idea how much intel and evidence the FBI has.”
Indeed, U.S. attorney Joon Kim said Tuesday that the investigation remains open now that the initial covert operation is completed. The FBI encouraged calls to its tipline, and suggested that coaches who committed similar acts would be better off calling the FBI instead of later being called by the FBI.
All this hit just days before UA was scheduled to open full-length preseason practices with a team that has already become the consensus No. 1-rated team among major preseason annuals.
The only thing that is certain now is that Richardson won’t be on the coaching staff, and that wing Rawle Alkins is out for 8-12 weeks because of a broken foot.
If a player took payments from a sports agent already, as a sports agent alleged, that player could be deemed ineligible, and any past games he played in after taking them might be vacated.
The complaint also said Richardson aimed to put pressure on another current UA player to sign with the agent, though there was no mention of any payments made.
All this led CBS Sports’ Matt Norlander to write Thursday of Arizona:
“How many players on that roster are subject to investigation? How many players could be held out or ruled ineligible? In a flash, Sean Miller’s program has gone from preseason title favorite to an alleged cheating machine.”
The NCAA won’t say if it plans to launch its own investigation or issue sanctions based on the FBI’s allegations.
When asked by the Star, the NCAA only referred to a statement from NCAA president Mark Emmert, who said the charges were “deeply disturbing” and pledged to “support the ongoing federal investigation.”
Pac-12 commissioner Larry Scott also said he was “deeply troubled” by the charges against not only Richardson but USC assistant coach Tony Bland.
“I have been in contact with the leadership of both universities and it is clear they also take this matter very seriously,” Scott said in the statement Tuesday. “We are still learning the facts of this matter, but these allegations, if true, are profoundly upsetting to me. They strike at the heart of the integrity of our programs, and of the game that so many people love and play the right way.”
Calls between ex-Wildcats assistant Joe Pasternack's cell phone and agent cited in FBI probe
University of Arizona president Robert Robbins has commissioned an independent investigation into assistant basketball coach Book Richardson, but there are other UA figures alluded to in the federal complaints filed this week.
Included is a mention that then-UA associate head coach Joe Pasternack likely spoke in March with one of the sports agents who later bribed Richardson, according to the complaint.
Also listed in the complaint: Sports agent Christian Dawkins saying he was "friends" with several Wildcats coaches and that a current UA player has already received payments, and a quote from an Adidas rep saying UA offered a recruit $150,000 to commit.
Here's how all that breaks down, according to the complaints:
The involvement of another UA assistant coach:
Sports agent Munish Sood met with two Arizona Wildcats coaches on March 8 in Las Vegas, just before the Pac-12 Tournament, the document states.
The coach other than Richardson in the meeting was not named, but a review of Sood's telephone records for March 9 showed that he "exchanged two telephone calls with a cellphone number that I (an FBI agent) know is subscribed to by another individual who was then an assistant coach for the men's basketball team at (University 4)," according to the document.
University 4 was identified in the complaint as Richardson's employer. Pasternack is the only coach from last year's staff who is no longer at the UA. UC Santa Barbara made Pasternack its head coach in early April.
There are no references to Pasternack being involved in bribery. Federal agents say Richardson took the bribes in June and July, after Pasternack had left the UA.
Sood told an FBI witness on March 14 that "the (Arizona) coaches are interested in definitely working with us."
"As of now, the coaches haven't asked for anything," he told the witness, "but I'm sure when the time comes, they will, right?"
Richardson is the only UA coach named in the complaint when the bribe payments are discussed later.
The complaint's detail on the current UA player who could be found ineligible if the NCAA deems he accepted payments:
On June 20, Dawkins made reference to one basketball player at Arizona who already had received payments, "so we got no expenses there.”
Also that day, Richardson committed to steer a current UA player to Dawkins' company, saying "there's no ifs ands about that."
"I've already talked with (the player's) mom, I've talked with his cousin," he told Dawkins, according to the complaint.
Richardson received $5,000 in cash at the end of the meeting.
Another current UA player may also be involved, or at least was targeted to be directed by Richardson:
On Aug. 30, Sood, Dawkins, Richardson and a second undercover agent discussed another current UA player — identified in the documents as "Player 7" — about getting him to sign with Dawkins' agency.
Richardson said he would "work that."
The complaint also suggests Dawkins knew several UA coaches:
Dawkins told Sood on May 24 that he could go to practices at (Arizona) "like I'm on the team... The coaches...I know them all anyway. We're friends."
Arizona may have offered $150,000 to a prized recruit:
An Adidas rep was quoted in a separate part of the federal complaint as saying UA offered Nassir Little $150,000 to commit. The Adidas rep did not say who specifically offered the money or if Little ever took anything.
Little's travel-ball club has denied the report.
Feds: Adidas rep said Arizona Wildcats offered top recruit $150,000
While local focus largely has been on the federal charges involving Book Richardson, the other prong of the FBI's investigation into college basketball quoted an Adidas rep alleging that Arizona offered five-star Florida forward Nassir Little $150,000.
How do we get there? Let's play connect-the-dots.
The federal complaint filed Tuesday that involved Adidas (relevant portions are attached to this post) says Adidas rep Merl Code told Adidas executive James Gatto that "University 4" was offering "Player 12" $150,000, suggesting that Adidas needed to match the offer in order to keep "Player 12" away from a rival school that is sponsored by a rival firm.
A day later, the complaint said Code told Gatto that if "University 4" was willing to pay $150,000, then "that's where the kid is going to go."
That Arizona is "University 4" appears pretty certain: The complaint involving Richardson referred to "his capacity as a coach for University 4" and later made multiple references to Richardson recruiting for and knowing players at "University 4."
It also may be worth noting that UA is sponsored by Nike, a rival of Adidas.
Whether Little is "Player 12" or not isn't quite as clear. The Palm Beach Post says Little is believed to be "Player 12" and some detective work from State of the U (Miami's SB Nation site) points to Little because, among other things, he played in the prestigious Adidas Nation event on the same dates that the complaint says he spoke to an Adidas rep at an Adidas event.
Little was the star player for the "1Family" travel team, which is sponsored by Adidas and whose coach, Brad Augustine, was among those arrested Tuesday. Little's stock also began rising strongly over the summer to the point where he became a solid five-star player (the complaint also quoted Code saying Little might be able to command $200,000 by January 2018).
All this first began surfacing in reports out of Florida on Tuesday. Inside the U, a 247 Sports site about University of Miami sports, noted Tuesday that "Arizona appears to have gotten into a high-stakes bidding war for five-star uncommitted prospect Nassir Little."
On Wednesday afternoon, Arizona Desert Swarm (partner SB Nation site of State of the U) broke down the details of UA's alleged involvement.
State of the U's detailed analysis includes the odd (or maybe not) reference to Little posting that he was reopening his recruitment -- even though he had not publicly committed to a school. Little quickly deleted that post.
When Arizona Desert Swarm wrote Tuesday of Little's "recruitment reopening," it also reposted tweets from ESPN's Jonathan Givony saying that two coaches told him this week they backed off Little because it became clear he was heading to Arizona.
That could suggest one more dot to connect: Specifically, that Little may have been silently committed to UA before changing his mind.
Of course, it's worth noting that the Code's quote itself doesn't mean problems for Arizona. It's all about whether it is later proven that the Wildcats actually offered or delivered money to Little.
Any subsequent NCAA investigation may find that hard to prove, since the complaint includes only talk of an offer from another person -- unlike in the Richardson-involved complaint, which says the UA assistant coach was recorded while in pursuit of bribes that could help him land recruits.
But the allegation does bring up the question of whether or not Arizona will be facing more issues than just the $20,000 Richardson was alleged to have taken.
Federal complaint involving Adidas
Greg Hansen: What happens next? For Arizona Wildcats, it's an open-ended question
After Arizona fired basketball coach Ben Lindsey in the spring of 1983, he told the school’s administration of five incidents in which players were paid or illegally reimbursed for plane travel.
Assistant coach Ricky Byrdsong acknowledged at least one of those payments. He said Lindsey gave him $200 for junior forward Morgan Taylor in a “white envelope.”
The UA sanctioned Byrdsong by reducing his salary from $25,002 to $12,501.
That was a high crime in college basketball, 1983, and it would almost seem comical if not for the fear that Arizona’s basketball program could be nuked for a sum less than Byrdsong’s 1983 salary.
The attorneys and damage control specialists at the UA are now at work on a strategy explaining how Arizona assistant basketball coach Book Richardson was reportedly caught in a pay-for-play scandal in which almost no one in college basketball ever gets caught.
What’s next? There are many possibilities:
- UA head coach Sean Miller denies any involvement and university president Bobby Robbins stands with him.
- More incriminating accusations are leveled by the FBI.
- One or more current UA players are ruled ineligible as a result of Richardson allegedly paying them; Class of 2018 recruits scatter to other schools.
- Richardson sings, telling FBI agents that Miller — or someone else at Arizona — knew of illegal payments, at which time Miller would likely be fired.
- The NCAA begins an investigation that could cripple Arizona’s basketball program into the 2020s.
Of immediate concern to those who have paid thousands of dollars in advance for McKale Center season tickets is whether the Wildcats will be eligible for the 2018 NCAA Tournament.
Who knows? The book on Pac-12 basketball teams punished by exclusion from March Madness has but three chapters.
I. In 1981, UCLA was found to have helped purchase automobiles for Bruins stars Rod Foster, Darren Daye and Michael Holton. Coach Larry Brown was long gone before the NCAA investigation was complete. The Bruins were not allowed to participate in the 1982 NCAA Tournament even though they finished the season ranked No. 19 in the AP poll and had been ranked as high as No. 2.
II. In 1996, Cal coach Todd Bozeman was caught after giving guard Jelani Gardner $30,000. Bozeman was fired, but the NCAA was not swift in its punishment. New coach Ben Braun led the Bears to the 1997 NCAA Tournament. A year later, 1998, Cal was banished from postseason play.
III. In 2008, USC guard O.J. Mayo was ruled to have accepted illegal payments while a Trojan. After a long investigation, USC was made ineligible for the 2010 NCAA Tournament.
Given the pace of the historically understaffed NCAA enforcement division, it’s more likely that Arizona wouldn’t begin a post-season ban until the spring of 2019.
For some long-suffering UA fans, this is familiar turf.
On May 20, 1983, the NCAA placed Arizona’s football program on a two-year probation for malfeasance committed in the 1970s. The Wildcats were not permitted to play in bowl games for two years, nor participate in any televised games.
Believe it or not, Arizona opened the 1983 season favored to win the Pac-10 and ranked No. 3 nationally — but painfully aware it could not play in the Rose Bowl.
Arizona’s football transgressions of the 1970s make Richardson’s alleged fraud and bribery crimes come off as kid’s stuff. The difference is that coach Tony Mason’s football program did not violate Section 666 of the United States legal code, which involves “theft or bribery concerning programs receiving federal funding.”
All Arizona coaches are agents of an institution that accepts federal funds, hence the FBI’s rare involvement in college sports.
Richardson probably didn’t know what hit him when the FBI knocked on his door.
You can almost picture him in astonishment, saying “I did what? Section 6-what? The FBI? Really?”
Mason’s team was punished for operating a $35,000 slush fund, falsifying dozens of travel expenses, helping players get paid for phony jobs, paying for players’ car repairs and for long-distance telephone expenses. Six UA assistant coaches were accused of a scheme in which they would collect payment for fake airline trips.
One UA player, running back Larry Heater, was fined $9,000 in court after pleading guilty to charges of defrauding the Tucson Parks and Recreation department, receiving pay for a job at which he did not work.
Mason, 53, was forced to resign just as Arizona began its 1980 spring football camp. He never coached again.
At issue now is whether Miller has coached his last game at Arizona.
'Relieved of all duties' or simply fired, Book Richardson's career appears over
Book Richardson’s Arizona coaching career is all but over, no matter how the school is wording it.
University of Arizona President Robert Robbins issued a statement Wednesday night saying the school is moving to fire Richardson, some 31 hours after the school issued a milder statement saying only that he was “suspended and relieved of all duties.”
In the sports world, “relieved of duties” is typically a euphemism for being fired.
So … has he been effectively fired already, or just suspended?
The unusual wording correlates with Arizona’s employee guidelines, and the requirements it must follow with what are state employees.
Those guidelines, in essence, say Richardson can’t be fired until he receives due process, unlike a non-government employee.
“Private employers in Arizona can fire anybody for anything, though there’s a few things federal law prohibits,” said Tucson attorney Jeff Rogers, who has represented city employees’ employment cases. “But government employment at all levels is different: You must be afforded a due process notice and an opportunity to be heard. … They have to serve you notice for the reasons of your termination and give you time to respond.”
Richardson, who was paid $235,000 in 2016-17, is technically a “service professional” at Arizona, and the school’s dismissal policy for service professionals confirms that they will be offered a chance to respond before being fired.
“Just cause is required to dismiss a service professional employee,” states section 4c.4.02 of UA’s Handbook for Appointed Personnel. “Dismissal will not occur until such employee has been given an opportunity for a pre-dismissal meeting and a just cause hearing.”
UA’s handbook also says a service employee “may be suspended with pay for reasons that are in the best interests of the University, the Board, or the employee, as determined by the President.”
Correspondingly, UA has put other employees on paid suspension when charged with a criminal offense.
In April 2015, former professor John A. Marchello was suspended with pay from his $106,000 job after he was charged with embezzling more than $220,000 from a student-run meat store he oversaw. Marchello retired from the UA the following month and was sentenced to probation earlier this year.
Jesse Lyle Bootman, a former longtime dean of the UA pharmacy school, has been on paid leave for almost two years at an annual salary of more than $250,000 since he was charged with sexual assault. Bootman has pleaded not guilty to assaulting a woman at his foothills home and his case is still pending.
Richardson’s suspension may not last nearly that long. In fact, Rogers said he would be shocked if Richardson doesn’t resign by the end of this week because of how the FBI’s case was built.
“It would be different if it weren’t so tightly done with video recordings and wiretaps,” Rogers said. “It’s a pretty strong case.”
Regardless of Richardson’s job, however, the potentially bigger issue he’s facing is possible jail time. Richardson faces a maximum of 60 years in prison and/or $1.5 million in fines if convicted of all charges.
The defense attorney at Richardson’s initial appearance in federal court Tuesday, Brick Storts, said it would be “foolish” to speculate on what might happen to Richardson by only reading a complaint.
Storts said Richardson would likely hire a New York-based attorney to represent him going forward. Richardson is scheduled for a court appearance Oct. 10 in New York.
A UA employee since joining head coach Sean Miller with the Wildcats in 2009, Richardson was arrested Tuesday morning on suspicion of federal bribery and fraud charges, then released on a $50,000 signature bond.
Richardson is accused of taking $20,000 in bribes from a sports agency and funneling at least some of the money to a UA recruit that appears to be five-star New Jersey point guard Jahvon Quinerly. The federal complaint contains statements that Richardson paid a “top point guard” who committed “around three days” before Aug. 11 — and Quinerly announced on Aug. 8 that he would play for Arizona.
University of Arizona will move to fire assistant basketball coach Book Richardson after arrest, president says
University of Arizona president Robert C. Robbins has ordered an independent investigation into assistant basketball coach Emanuel "Book" Richardson, and the university has begun the process of firing him.
An external law firm will conduct the investigation, Robbins said Wednesday night.
The newly hired UA president had been silent since Tuesday morning, when Richardson was arrested and charged in a federal bribery probe. Federal agents say Sean Miller's longtime assistant took $20,000 from sports agents, and paid one recruit to commit to the University of Arizona. Federal documents seem to implicate at least one current Wildcat in the pay-for-play scheme.
Richardson was suspended with pay and "relieved of all duties" Tuesday afternoon, but was not fired.
"The University of Arizona expects everyone who is part of our campus community to adhere to the highest ethical standards of behavior," Robbins said in a prepared statement.
The president then praised the UA athletic department, saying it had a "documented history of strengthening institutional control by being proactive and comprehensive through rules education and program monitoring."
The Arizona Board of Regents, which is meeting this week in Flagstaff, took a harsher tone against Richardson, who faces 60 years in prison and up to $1.5 million in fines.
"The conduct alleged against Emanuel Richardson is absolutely unacceptable," regents chair Bill Ridenour said.
"Basketball is a beloved sport at the University of Arizona and throughout Arizona. Such illegal — and unethical — behavior is harmful to those we are most committed to serve and educate — the students. It also violates the spirit and purpose of collegiate sport and its essential construct — the student athlete."
The board "will receive additional legal advice regarding the federal investigation and the University's NCAA obligations at its board meeting this week," he said.
Bruce Pascoe: What Book Richardson's case could mean for Arizona Wildcats
There's little doubt the federal complaint against Book Richardson could have potentially seismic implications for the Arizona Wildcats.
Here's one look at them:
• Jahvon Quinerly is unlikely to play for Arizona, and may not play college ball at all. Quinerly appears to be the player given money from agents through Richardson and if the NCAA finds he took it, Quinerly could be suspended for part or all of his freshman season (though it may be more likely at this point he doesn't play college ball at all, and just plays professionally overseas before joining the 2019 NBA Draft).
How do we know it's Quinerly? The document reported that Richardson took a total of $20,000 in bribes and gave most of it to a "top point guard" who committed “around three days” before Aug. 11. Quinerly, a five-star point guard, announced on ESPNU on Aug. 8 that he would play for to Arizona.
• The rest of UA's recruiting class could dissolve. Brandon Williams and Shareef O'Neal may not want to take chances signing with a program that could be under NCAA investigation.
• UA coach Sean Miller's status could be affected. While Miller isn’t implicated in any wrongdoing on the federal complaint, the U.S. attorney at Tuesday’s press conference stated that it is a continuing investigation. Obviously, any subsequent NCAA investigation will seek to find out if Miller was involved or had knowledge of it, too.
• Current UA players could be declared ineligible if they were found to have taken money from an agent. There is a reference in the document to a current player already having taken payments.
While Richardson spoke of directing two current players to the agent, there is no suggestion those players have received any money from him or an agent.
• Other UA coaches could be questioned. There are references to the agents' meetings with Richardson and another, unnamed UA coach, suggesting more than one coach may have known what happened.
• Finally, of course, a subsequent NCAA investigation could result in sanctions against Arizona, likely in the area of recruiting but possibly involving games — especially if current players are found to have taken payments.
While the timing could make it unlikely for an investigation to lead to immediate sanctions, the 2018-19 and subsequent seasons could be affected.
The five charges facing Richardson:
1. Conspiracy to commit bribery
2. Solicitation of bribes and gratuities by an agent of a federally funded organization.
3. Conspiracy to commit honest services fraud
4. Honest services wire fraud
5. Wire fraud conspiracy
Here is a more detailed breakdown of key notes from the complaint that involves Richardson and Arizona:
71. Richardson was paid $20,000, some of which he “appears to have kept for himself and some of which he appears to have provided to at least one prospective high school basketball players.” In exchange for the payments, Richardson agreed to use his influence over the athletes he coached to retain two advisors, Christian Dawkins and Munish Sood.
73. Sood said he would meet with two UA coaches at a restaurant in Las Vegas on March 8, the evening before the Wildcats played their first Pac-12 Tournament game. Sood later said “the coaches are interested in definitely working with us” but that the coaches wanted to wait until after the NCAA Tournament.
83. Sood said Dawkins introduced him to Oklahoma State’s Lamont Evans as well as coaches as Arizona and other universities.
87c. Dawkins said a coach such as Richardson “may need these two kids, and he may need like a grand a month, two grand a month to get something done for this kid.”
88. In June 2017, Dawkins “reapproached Richards about receiving bribes in exchange for convincing student-athletes on (Arizona’s) basketball team to retain the services of the new company formed by Dawkins, Sood and (an undercover FBI agent).”
89a. On or about June 20, 2017, Dawkins made reference to one basketball player at (Arizona) who already had received payments, so we got no expenses there.”
Richardson told Dawkins that a recruit would be on campus that weekend so asked “would I be out of bounds to try to get five from him?”
Richardson said he had suggested UA athletes to pick from a group of agents in the past but would not “simply tell players to retain Dawkins and his company.”
Richardson also committed to “steer a particular student-athlete who was on (Arizona’s roster) to Dawkins and his company, stating ‘I’m telling you (Dawkins) is getting (this player). … there’s no ifs ands or buts about that. I’ve already talked with (the player’s) mom, I’ve talked with his cousin.”
At the end of the meeting, the undercover agent gave Richardson $5,000 in cash in exchange for his agreement to direct some UA players to Dawkins’ firm.
91. On or about July 5, Dawkins asked the undercover agent to pay another $15,000 to Richardson which Richardson would, according to Dawkins, “provide to (a top recruit) in order to influence (recruit) to attend (Arizona).”
Dawkins told the undercover agent that Richardson had “the top point guard in the country,” who was ready to commit to Arizona but that Richardson needed to provide the player $15,000 “ASAP basically.” Dawkins said Richardson was willing to meet the undercover agent in Atlanta, South Carolina or “fly to New York and pick it up and take it to the kid’s mom.”
93. On July 7, Dawkins spoke to the undercover agent by telephone and told him that Richardson would accept $15,000 extra as an advance for his $5,000 monthly fee and said that if the agent “could get this thing done…(Sean Miller) is talking out of his mouth, he wants (the recruit) bad as (expletive). So the leverage I have with the program would be ridiculous at that point.”
When the agent asked where Richardson would give the money Dawkins said its sometimes best to go the recruit’s handler because “the kids 90 percent of the time ain’t making they own decisions. They don’t (expletive) care.”
94. On or about July 20, Richardson met with Sood and, in a recording by the FBI agent, said the recruit had “committed to us” but that his mom asked for money because “she didn’t know what I was already doing for her son.” Richardson also said in reference to directing players to Sood, Dawkins and the undercover agent that “this is done.”
97. On or about Aug. 11, Dawkins noted that “I know the guy with the 15 grand we gave him, he committed to (Arizona) like three days ago. … so that deal got done.”
99. On or about Aug. 30, Richardson met with Sood, Dawkins and another undercover FBI agent to discuss players he might be able to influence. Richardson spoke a current UA player who was “kind of a sheltered kid” and assured Dawkins that he had spoken to the player’s handler and that the player was “going to be insulated in who he talks to… you’re looking at that guy.”’ They also discussed another current UA player of whom Richardson said he would “work that.”
100. The handler met later that day with Dawkins, Sood and the undercover agent and noted that he wondered “what is Book tryin’ to get out of it,” but said he was strongly inclined to sign with Dawkins’ firm.
Wildcats assistant Book Richardson facing up to 60 years if convicted in basketball bribery scandal
Longtime Arizona assistant basketball coach Emanuel "Book" Richardson was released from federal custody on a $50,000 bond Tuesday following his arrest as part of a federal corruption scheme.
Richardson appeared in U.S. District Court in Tucson on charges of conspiracy to commit bribery, solicitation of bribes by an agent of a federally funded organization, conspiracy to commit honest services fraud, wire fraud conspiracy and travel act conspiracy.
If convicted, Richardson is facing a maximum sentence of 60 years in prison and a $1.5 million fine, court officials said.
Richardson was arrested Tuesday. He later appeared in front of Magistrate Judge D. Thomas Ferraro wearing a red T-shirt emblazoned with "New Orleans Basketball," and a pair of black athletic shorts. His next court appearance is scheduled for Oct. 10 in New York.
The prosecutor asked Ferraro for a $100,000 bond, but Richardson's defense attorney, Brick Storts, said that was "totally unreasonable," after which Ferraro agreed to the lower bond.
Storts declined to tell the Star who was paying him. The University of Arizona "has nothing to do with it," he said outside of court.
Richardson was arrested after allegedly taking $20,000 in bribes last summer and paying a recruit to commit to Arizona, part of a scheme in which three other college assistant coaches — USC’s Tony Bland, Auburn’s Chuck Person and Oklahoma State’s Lamont Evans — were also arrested.
The four coaches were among 10 people charged with federal crimes, including managers, financial advisors and representatives of a major sportswear company.
The U.S. Department of Justice held a 9 a.m. news conference to discuss what Joon Kim, acting U.S. attorney for the Southern District of New York, called a two-part scheme: One involving bribes from managers to coaches for their assistance in securing future clients, and the other in which the sportswear firm and advisors would make “coach-requested” payments to players and their families.
“If you read the three complaints, over 100 pages, you will find yourselves inside the dark underbelly of college basketball,” Kim said. “The madness of college basketball went well beyond the big dance in March.”
At 12:44, Arizona issued a news release saying Richardson was "immediately suspended and relieved of all duties."
"We were appalled to learn of the allegations as they do not reflect the standards we hold ourselves to and require from our colleagues," the UA's statement said. "The University of Arizona has a strong culture of compliance and the expectation is we follow the rules."
The UA athletic department said in a statement that it became aware of the situation Tuesday morning and "confirmed that Richardson has been suspended effective immediately. We will cooperate fully with authorities as they move through their investigation."
The UA athletic department said, "We work under the basic directive that all department personnel operate within applicable laws and NCAA rules. The behavior that Richardson is accused of is completely unacceptable and does not reflect the principles of this athletics department."
Pac-12 commissioner Larry Scott said Tuesday that he is "deeply troubled by the charges filed in federal court today against a number of individuals involved in college basketball, including two assistant coaches employed by member institutions of our conference."
"Protection of our student-athletes, and of the integrity of competition, is the conference’s top priority," he said. "I have been in contact with the leadership of both universities and it is clear they also take this matter very seriously. We are still learning the facts of this matter, but these allegations, if true, are profoundly upsetting to me. They strike at the heart of the integrity of our programs, and of the game that so many people love and play the right way.”
The FBI has been investigating the criminal influence of money on coaches and student-athletes since 2015. The probe covered bribes paid to players' advisers, college assistants and others who exude influence over student-athletes.
Three separate complaints related to the incident have been filed in court, one of which names Jim Gatto, Adidas' director of global marketing for basketball, as a defendant, according to the complaint against Richardson, filed Monday in U.S. District Court in New York.
The initial investigation revealed a related scheme involving "significant cash payments" by athletic advisors and executives of Adidas to the families of high school basketball players at the request of coaches at two of the universities in exchange for agreements by the athletes to attend the universities and later to sign with the advisors and Adidas, the complaint says.
Between February and September, co-defendants Christian Dawkins and Munish Sood paid Richardson $20,000 in bribes, "some of which Richardson appears to have kept for himself and some of which he appears to have provided to at least one prospective high school basketball player" in order to recruit the player to come to UA, the complaint says.
In exchange for the money, Richardson agreed "to use his influence over the student-athletes he coached to pressure them" to hire Dawkins as manager and Sood as financial adviser, according to the complaint.
Dawkins, a sports agent who was fired by ASM Sports earlier this year, received money to start a new company from Sood, founder and CEO of the Princeton Advisory Group, an investment services company, according to the complaint.
In a phone conversation recorded by the FBI, Dawkins told Sood and an undercover agent that "the path to securing commitments from college athletes was through assistant coaches...because 'the head coach...ain't willing to (take bribes) cause they're making too much money. And it's too risky,'" the complaint says.
An FBI wiretap recorded a June conversation between Dawkins and Richardson, in which the two discuss a high school basketball player that Richardson was going to pay to come play for the UA, the complaint says.
On June 20, Richardson met with Sood and an undercover FBI agent in New York and accepted a $5,000 cash bribe.
A few weeks later, Dawkins told an undercover agent that Richardson needed another $15,000 to secure the player, who Dawkins identified as a "top point guard in the country," according to the complaint.
On July 20, in a meeting at Sood's New Jersey office, Richardson collected the $15,000 and told Sood and an undercover agent that the player in question had committed, but his mother was asking for money because "she didn't know what I was already doing for her son," the complaint says.
In a meeting in August, Richardson told Dawkins and Sood which current UA basketball players he intended to influence to sign with Dawkins' new management company, the complaint says.
All four coaches charged “are assistant coaches of major Division I schools with top-tier program and they have all been in and around the game for a long time,” Kim said. “All of them had the trust of players they recruited. Young men who looked up to them and believed their coaches had their best interests at heart.
“In exchange for bribes, these coaches pushed advisors on their players and their families.”
Richardson, who was paid $235,000 from Arizona in 2016-17, is in his ninth season with the Wildcats and 11th overall under coach Sean Miller. A native of New York who ran the New York Gauchos travel ball program before joining Miller at Xavier, Richardson helped recruit many East Coast players to Arizona, including current standout Rawle Alkins and former Wildcats standouts Mark Lyons and Kevin Parrom.
Richardson was also involved in the recruitment of highly regarded New Jersey point guard Jahvon Quinerly, a high school senior who committed to Arizona last month to play for the Wildcats in 2018-19.
It's unclear what effect Richardson's arrest will have on Arizona with regards to the NCAA. The Wildcats have indefinitely postponed media day, which was scheduled for Wednesday.
This story is developing. Check back for more.
The Wildcast Episode 17: What happens now for Arizona basketball?
Arrest of University of Arizona assistant Book Richardson exposes 'dark underbelly' of college basketball
A longtime assistant coach in the University of Arizona men’s basketball program faces criminal charges in a sweeping federal corruption investigation into bribes involving college coaches, sports agents and student recruits.
Emanuel “Book” Richardson, 44, was suspended with pay by the UA before he appeared in federal court in Tucson Tuesday for an initial appearance on suspicion of bribery and fraud charges. He was released on a $50,000 bond.
Richardson appeared in front of Magistrate Judge D. Thomas Ferraro wearing a pair of black athletic shorts and a red T-shirt emblazoned with “New Orleans Basketball.” His next court appearance is scheduled for Oct. 10 in New York.
The prosecutor asked Ferraro to set a $100,000 bond, but Richardson’s defense attorney, Brick Storts, said that was “totally unreasonable,” after which Ferraro agreed to the lower bond. Richardson is to pay for his own defense in the criminal case, said Megan Rose, an Arizona Department of Administration spokeswoman.
Richardson faces up to 60 years in prison and a $1.5 million fine if convicted of all charges, the judge said.
The FBI has been investigating the criminal influence of money on coaches and student-athletes since 2015. The probe covered bribes paid to players’ advisers, college assistants and others who exude influence over student-athletes, federal authorities contend.
It’s unclear what Richardson’s situation will mean immediately for head coach Sean Miller and the Wildcats, who — thanks in part to another highly regarded recruiting class — will likely be picked either No. 1 or No. 2 nationally to start the 2017-18 season.
Arizona officials said they will “cooperate fully with authorities as they move through their investigation.”
‘Dark underbelly’ of college basketball
Richardson is accused of taking $20,000 in bribes last summer and paying an unnamed recruit to commit to Arizona. It was part of a scheme in which three other college assistant coaches — USC’s Tony Bland, Auburn’s Chuck Person and Oklahoma State’s Lamont Evans — have also been implicated, according to the complaint.
The four coaches were among 10 people charged Tuesday with federal crimes, including managers, financial advisors and representatives of a major sportswear company.
At a New York news conference, Joon Kim, acting U.S. attorney for the Southern District of New York, called the case a two-part scheme: One involved bribes from managers to coaches for their assistance in securing future clients; the other involved Adidas and “advisors” who would make coach-requested payments to players and their families.
Between February and September, co-defendants Christian Dawkins and Munish Sood paid Richardson $20,000 in bribes, “some of which Richardson appears to have kept for himself and some of which he appears to have provided to at least one prospective high school basketball player” in order to recruit the player to UA, the complaint says.
In exchange for the money, Richardson agreed to direct UA players to hire Dawkins as manager and Sood as financial adviser following their college careers, according to the complaint.
In a phone conversation recorded by the FBI, Dawkins told Sood and an undercover agent that “the path to securing commitments from college athletes was through assistant coaches … the head coach … ain’t willing to (take bribes) ‘cause they’re making too much money. And it’s too risky,’” the complaint says.
“If you read the three complaints, over 100 pages, you will find yourselves inside the dark underbelly of college basketball,” said Kim, the New York prosecutor. “The madness of college basketball went well beyond the big dance in March.”
Recruit’s mom sought payment, complaint says
An FBI wiretap recorded a June conversation between Dawkins and Richardson in which the two discuss a high school basketball player that Richardson was going to pay to come play for the UA, the complaint says.
On June 20, Richardson met with Sood and an undercover FBI agent in New York and accepted a $5,000 cash bribe, according to the complaint.
A few weeks later, Dawkins told an undercover agent that Richardson needed another $15,000 to secure the player, who Dawkins identified as a “top point guard in the country,” the complaint says.
On July 20, in a meeting at Sood’s New Jersey office, Richardson collected the $15,000 and told Sood and an undercover agent that the player in question had committed, but his mother was asking for money because “she didn’t know what I was already doing for her son,” the complaint says.
In a meeting in August, Richardson told Dawkins and Sood which current UA basketball players he intended to steer to Dawkins’ new management company, the complaint says.
Players trusted coaches
Kim, the U.S. attorney, said the four indicted assistant coaches from the four universities had one thing in common. “All of them had the trust of players they recruited, young men who looked up to them and believed their coaches had their best interests at heart,” he said.
“In exchange for bribes, these coaches pushed advisors on their players and their families.”
Richardson, who was paid $235,000 from Arizona in 2016-17, is in his ninth season with the Wildcats and 11th overall under Miller.
Richardson, a native of New York who ran the New York Gauchos travel ball program before joining Miller at Xavier, helped recruit many East Coast players to Arizona, including current standout Rawle Alkins and former Wildcats Mark Lyons and Kevin Parrom.
Richardson was also involved in the recruitment of highly regarded New Jersey point guard Jahvon Quinerly, a high school senior who last month committed to play for the Wildcats in 2018-19.
It’s unclear what effect Richardson’s arrest will have on Arizona with regards to the NCAA.
“We work under the basic directive that all department personnel operate within applicable laws and NCAA rules,” the UA said in a written statement. “The behavior that Richardson is accused of is completely unacceptable and does not reflect the principles of this athletics department.”
Pac-12 commissioner Larry Scott said Tuesday he is “deeply troubled by the charges filed in federal court today against a number of individuals involved in college basketball, including two assistant coaches employed by member institutions of our conference.”
“Protection of our student-athletes, and of the integrity of competition, is the conference’s top priority,” he said.
“I have been in contact with the leadership of both universities and it is clear they also take this matter very seriously. We are still learning the facts of this matter, but these allegations, if true, are profoundly upsetting to me. They strike at the heart of the integrity of our programs, and of the game that so many people love and play the right way.”
An open 'Book': UA assistant coach prided himself on connections, people skills before arrest
Until Tuesday, the enduring image of Emanuel “Book” Richardson’s Arizona basketball career probably involved a hug. A backslap. An extended handshake. Fist bump.
Love, in whatever form.
Everybody liked Richardson, it appeared, whether it was Arizona players, high school coaches, fellow staffers or even rival coaches.
The 44-year-old assistant coach “prided” himself “on being a people’s guy,” according to the federal complaint that stopped Richardson’s career cold on Tuesday morning.
The longtime assistant to Sean Miller, who joined Miller at Xavier in 2007 after running a prominent New York travel team, is accused in a bribery investigation federal officials unveiled Tuesday.
While the UA said Richardson wasn’t fired but was “immediately suspended and relieved of all duties,” his arrest on federal criminal charges likely means a sudden end to the ties Richardson fostered among current and future UA players alike.
A native of New York who shortened his grandmother’s nickname of “pocketbook” — given because he rummaged around her belongings as an 8-month-old — Richardson was the major force behind an East Coast recruiting pipeline that particularly helped Miller flush out his early Arizona rosters in 2009-12.
Among others, Richardson played a major role in helping Miller land Kevin Parrom, Lamont “MoMo” Jones, Mark Lyons, Rondae Hollis-Jefferson, Kobi Simmons and Rawle Alkins.
When announcing he would play for Arizona during an interview on ESPN in March 2016, Alkins put it this way:
It’s about “really the relationship I have with coach Sean Miller and coach Book.”
The ability to develop that sort of bond with recruits was apparent soon after Richardson moved over with Miller to Arizona in April 2009 — and Bronx native Kevin Parrom decided he wanted to tag along, too, despite his Xavier commitment.
Later that spring, New York guard MoMo Jones flipped from USC to Arizona, too. While NCAA allegations also prompted Derrick Williams to flip from USC to Arizona that spring, the fact that Jones would seek to play on a staff that included Richardson was no surprise.
Jones had been particularly close to Richardson since his stepdad was shot and killed when Jones was just 8. Jones never knew his biological father, either.
“He’s more my son than a godson,” Richardson said of Jones.
Richardson could also use his enthusiasm to sell New Yorkers on Arizona, something he unknowingly did even as a travel team coach back in 2007, when he took the New York Gauchos to McKale Center, where they won the Cactus Classic recruiting showcase.
“This is a great place to be,” Richardson said after that tournament.
“Great tradition, great history. I tell my guards, ‘If you’re good enough, well, look up in the rafters — they got (banners for) Salim Stoudamire, Damon Stoudamire, Mike Bibby, Jason Terry, Miles Simon, Khalid Reeves, who’s from New York, and Steve Kerr. So when you talk about guards, well, this is Guard U.’”
After joining the UA staff less than two years later, Richardson reflected on that statement.
“I never would have guessed in a million years, I’d be at Arizona,” Richardson said.
“I told my guys (at the 2007 event) something that was heartfelt — just appreciate the court, and have an understanding of what Arizona has done over the past two decades. That’s difficult to do. Those kids have come through here with a machine that is rolling. This is a big ol’ (Cadillac) Escalade.”
With Miller, Richardson helped build the Arizona basketball machine back up after two years under interim coaching staffs in 2007-08 and 2008-09, and has been a recruiting mainstay ever since, although he missed part of the 2013-14 season because of what the UA called a “health-related” leave of absence.
Especially in Miller’s first few years, the Wildcats relied on a largely bicoastal recruiting strategy, with Richardson paving the way out East.
“I definitely think it’s about relationships,” New York-based recruiting analyst Adam Zagoria told the Star just before Parrom committed in 2009. “Arizona wasn’t really on the radar out here until the coaching change.
“Book Richardson has a ton of connections in the New York area from his coaching days, and those should benefit Arizona eventually.”
Added then-Fox Sports analyst Jeff Goodman, now of ESPN: “I think Book is the key there, because he’s so in with those kids. … Book is a huge factor, and Book’s been able to get Sean in front of the right people.”
Dwayne “Tiny” Morton, then the coach at Brooklyn’s Lincoln High School, said after Richardson was hired that he had a reputation for hard work, building relationships and trustworthiness.
“He never said he’d do anything that he didn’t do,” Morton said.
On Aug. 30, Richardson told two agents and an undercover FBI official that he would direct some current UA players to sign with them for professional representation, according to the federal complaint unveiled Tuesday.
Less than a month later, it’s clear Richardson won’t get a chance to fulfill that promise.
Greg Hansen: Corruption, bribery, fraud and conspiracy could be Arizona Wildcats' new Final Four
The 58-page federal complaint filed in New York by assistant United States Attorneys Noah Solowiejczyk, Edward Diskant, Robert Boone and Russell Capone begins this way:
UNITED STATES OF AMERICA
It is the same Book Richardson who sits down the bench from Sean Miller and helps to recruit Arizona’s marvelous basketball players from New York and Philadelphia and Winnipeg, Manitoba.
The United States of America says that while recruiting these marvelous basketball players, Book Richardson committed conspiracy, bribery, fraud and other things that can get a man locked away in jail for season after season.
These aren’t the words of the slow-moving and often bootless NCAA, but rather the wallop of the mighty Federal Bureau of Investigation.
When the FBI went public Tuesday with its accusations against Richardson and coaches at USC, Auburn, Oklahoma State and Louisville, it had all the subtlety of a stealth bomber dropping an incendiary on Arizona’s basketball program.
It’s as if McKale Center itself burned to the ground.
If it’s not yet the worst day in UA basketball history — in Tucson sports history — it will possibly turn out that way. The subsequent revelations and investigations have yet to begin. It is apt to become our own unhappy Watergate: What did Sean Miller know and when did he know it?
If he doesn’t have the proper explanations, Arizona’s basketball program will go from the Big Dance to the Big House.
An immeasurable sense of dread engulfs Tucson. Will the NCAA declare Arizona ineligible for the 2017-18 postseason, one in which many consider the Wildcats the nation’s No. 1 team? And not just this season, but what about next year and the year after?
Can this Book Richardson guy bring down the total Arizona basketball enterprise, an enormous source of community pride that Lute Olson built from scratch 34 years ago?
Corruption. Bribes. Fraud. Conspiracy. Those four words might become the only Final Four known to the Wildcats this season.
One immediate question is why Book Richardson would participate in a federal crime in which Party A paid Party B to benefit Party C to illegally fund Party D? What would be the motive of an assistant basketball coach of an elite basketball squad whose 2016-17 salary was $235,000?
Was Richardson miffed that Miller promoted former assistant coach Joe Pasternack to associate head coach and paid him $302,000, or that another assistant, Mark Phelps, hired six years after Richardson, was paid $257,000?
Is it something as simple as I’ll-show-you or I’ll-get-mine?
Or is this a systemic issue in college basketball — an underground economy, as ESPN analyst Jay Bilas suggested Tuesday — that has been operating unchecked for 30 or 40 years?
One paragraph of the 58-page complaint signed by John Vourderis, special agent of the FBI, says that the flesh-peddlers involved in this scheme “agreed to deprive Richardson’s employer of his honest services by soliciting and receiving bribes.”
Everybody was using everybody to get the latest five-star recruit into an Arizona uniform. Now you wonder how many of those five-star recruits in Arizona uniforms will stick it out and play through whatever penalty the NCAA imposes.
Or will they flee to another program untouched by the FBI investigation? In situations when the NCAA places a school on probation, the so-called student-athletes are usually allowed free agency.
There’s another possibility: Perhaps the NCAA will view Arizona as a victim. If Miller is clean, and if he can convince the FBI and NCAA that he knew nothing of Richardson’s alleged law-breaking, it’s possible Arizona won’t serve any time in the NCAA gulag.
But the collateral damage from an investigation isn’t going to be pleasant. Recruiting in college basketball has forever danced on the dark side, whether it involves shoe companies, agents or palms-out parents and AAU travel teams, all of which make a ton of money off the five-star prospects.
None of that is going to go away.
Tucson’s three most reputable and widely known commodities are sunshine, burritos and basketball. But today, the UA’s basketball program, the university as a whole and Tucson are scarred and stained.
Sooner or later, today or next week, Miller needs to sit behind a microphone and say it ain’t so.
The sun won’t shine until he does.
Alleged recruit Richardson paid was Jahvon Quinerly
This is about Arizona. Jahvon Quinerly committed August 8. pic.twitter.com/mW4nourItj— Chris Stone (@cstonehoops) September 26, 2017
Reading this complaint, looks like Book Richardson paid Jahvon Quinerly's mom 15k to commit to Arizona. Wow!— Chris Blessing (@C_Blessing) September 26, 2017
A step-by-step look at the FBI's case against one of Sean Miller's longtime aides. By Caitlin Schmidt, Arizona Daily Star.