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.