Despite requesting its NCAA infractions case move to the new Independent Accountability Resolution Process last year, the University of Arizona is still facing the same five Level I charges and nine overall as outlined in a new Notice of Allegations.
UA received the updated NOA on Oct. 4 from the IARP’s Complex Case Unit, a committee of mostly independent investigators and attorneys. The Star obtained the notice Friday in response to a public records request made last month.
In the original NOA in October 2020, then-UA coach Sean Miller was handed a Level I charge for failing to monitor two assistant coaches accused of academic misconduct and improper recruiting inducements in three other Level I charges. Arizona received a fifth Level I charge for overall institutional lack of control.
The original NOA issued to UA was made public in March 2021 after an ESPN lawsuit forced the school to release it.
After receiving the initial NOA, UA requested its infractions case be moved to the IARP, a newly created alternative route to settle NCAA infractions cases.
The IARP accepted the case in December 2020, and the CCU was given authority to re-examine the findings, with additions or subtractions possible. But the CCU ultimately returned an NOA that was nearly word-for-word the same as the original from the NCAA enforcement staff.
Not only were all nine charges still included but also so were all of the aggravating and mitigation factors. The only difference was a modification to an aggravating factor regarding an interview the school held with former assistant coach Book Richardson without notifying or involving NCAA officials first.
The CCU said UA counsel Laura Todd Johnson and UA outside counsel conducted the interview with Richardson at the direction of UA president Robert C. Robbins. The NCAA’s original NOA said the interview was conducted by UA outside counsel and the UA compliance director at Robbins’ direction.
The only other difference between the original and updated NOAs came in the detail about the Level I charge against UA for lack of institutional control. The CCU added that UA “failed to identify and mitigate several risks in a timely manner” that could have prevented or mitigated the Level II allegations against its swimming program.
According to a timeline of movement in UA’s case, there was still CCU activity regarding the withholding of records last month. But once the CCU is done finished with a case, it is scheduled to move to the IARP’s Independent Resolution Panel (IRP) for a hearing, which will result in a final decision that cannot be appealed. There is no public timeline for the case to be resolved.
A key factor in UA’s case is whether the IRP will ultimately charge UA with a Level I aggravated case or a Level I standard case, since a Level I aggravated case could result in a postseason ban for 2-5 years. UA self-imposed a one-year ban last season, indicating the school believed that was the minimum penalty it would be facing.
Stu Brown, an Atlanta-based attorney who works with schools on NCAA infractions cases, told the Star in March that the NCAA’s original NOA “clearly positioned the case as Level I aggravated for the university.”
The NCAA and CCU both listed 10 aggravating factors including one for “compromising the integrity of the investigation and failure to cooperate” — which included the interview with Richardson outside of NCAA involvement — and only one mitigating factor, the school’s history of self-reporting minor (Level III) infractions.
However, between the initial NOA and the updated one, UA fired Miller and most of his staffers were not retained for this season. The school waited more than five weeks after the season ended to fire Miller and then hired Gonzaga assistant coach Tommy Lloyd to take over the Wildcats a week later.
Other than his Level I charge for a lack of head coach responsibility, Miller was not otherwise directly named in any of the violations. The NCAA enforcement staff did not list a show-cause penalty as a possibility but it and the CCU said a hearing panel “could prescribe head coach restrictions” against Miller.
Four of the five Level I charges were connected with Miller’s program, and the NCAA’s Notice of Allegations sharply reprimanded him for disregarding head coach responsibility rules.
The NCAA and CCU both said a hearing panel could enter a show-cause penalty against Richardson and Mark Phelps, the two former assistants facing Level I charges. A show-cause order would effectively ban them from college coaching during the prescribed period.
Richardson and Phelps together received one Level I charge for pre-enrollment academic misconduct, Richardson for allegedly obtaining fraudulent academic credit and Phelps for allegedly obtaining a fraudulent academic record.
Richardson received an additional Level I charge for unethical conduct after admitting in federal proceedings that he took $20,000 in bribes from an agency in return for a promise to steer Wildcats players towards the firm for professional representation.
Phelps received another Level I for trying to cover up the $500 loan and for having “provided false or misleading” information when denying he arranged for the false academic record.
The four secondary violations included a Level II charge against Phelps for loaning a player $500, a Level III against Phelps for asking a current player to impermissibly help recruit, a Level II against swimming for preferential treatment and impermissible tryouts and a Level II against swim coach Augie Busch for lack of head coaching responsibility.