Former Arizona coach Sean Miller, currently in his second stint as coach at Xavier, has avoided sanctions in the long-awaited Independent Accountability Resolution Process (IARP) case ruling at his former school. The Wildcats men’s basketball program was also spared any significant punishments, it was announced Wednesday.
Miller was previously assessed a Level I coach-control charge in Arizona’s infractions case, which was finalized Wednesday by the Independent Resolution Panel (IRP), the governing body within the IARP. CBS Sports previously reported the news on Miller and Arizona.
Arizona, which was previously handed a lack of institutional control Level I charge in an NCAA notice of allegations, self-imposed a postseason ban in 2020-21 as means of offsetting penalties in this case. That tactic paid off.
“The panel also applied significant weight to Arizona’s self-imposed penalties, especially the 2020-21 postseason competition ban for its men’s basketball program,” the IRP said in a statement.
Said Miller in a statement: “This has been a long journey and I am glad everything is finally finished. I am excited to move forward. I’d like to thank my wife Amy and my entire family, President Hanycz and Greg Christopher for their support through the completion of this process.”
Former Arizona assistant Emanuel “Book” Richardson was given a 10-year show-cause penalty for accepting $60,000 in bribes and lack of cooperation in the case. Richardson was caught in 2017 on surreptitious FBI video agreeing to steer prospects to aspiring agent Christian Dawkins’ sports-oriented business agency. Unbeknownst to Dawkins at the time, his venture was being funded by FBI money and undercover agents as part of a sting operation. The facts of this case reinforce what was previously exposed and ruled on in federal court in 2019.
“Violations found by the hearing panel were related to the solicitation and acceptance of $20,000 in cash bribes by former assistant men’s basketball coach No. 1 in exchange for promoting the use of a business management company’s services to a men’s basketball student-athlete, and a payment of $40,000 by former assistant men’s basketball coach No. 1 to obtain a fraudulent high school academic course credit and transcript for a men’s basketball prospective student-athlete,” per release.
The student-athlete alluded to, but not named in the report, is former Arizona guard Rawle Alkins.
After initially being arrested, along with nine other men charged in the case in September 2017, Richardson pleaded guilty to the charges in federal court in January 2019. He served three months in federal prison later that year.
“After his employment was terminated at Arizona, former assistant men’s basketball coach No. 1 failed to cooperate with NCAA enforcement staff throughout the infractions case investigation by knowingly providing false information and refusing to disclose information relevant to an investigation of possible violations, undermining and threatening the integrity of the according to the infractions case decision,” the report reads on Richardson.
Richardson’s 10-year show-cause matches previous maximum lengths; the only harsher ruling would have been a lifetime ban. Richardson has been out of college coaching since the case first broke in 2017.
Miller maintained from the beginning that he did not know what Richardson was doing. But, the NCAA previously wrote in its 2020 notice of allegations against Arizona: “The ultimate responsibility for the integrity of the men’s basketball program rested with Miller and his staff’s actions reflect on Miller as the head coach.”
In a notable about-face, in deciding not to suspend Miller for any games, the IRP, which operates as an independent arm from the NCAA, opted not to follow through on the NCAA’s assertion. In fact, he rejected it.
Former Arizona assistant Mark Phelps also received a two-year show-cause penalty after arranging fraudulent transcripts for two former Arizona prospects, one of whom later enrolled with the school. The NCAA also previously asserted that Phelps misled NCAA investigators, which aggravated his charges to Level I and prompted the show-cause order.
The fates of Arizona and Miller continue the IRP’s pattern of handing down light punishments in its cases, following the likes of NC State, Memphis and Louisville.
“The Independent Resolution Panel was intentional in not prescribing penalties that would have a negative impact on current student-athletes,” its statement said.
Because of Alkins being ruled retroactively ineligible, it’s believed Arizona and Miller will have 50 victories vacated from the 2016-17 and 2017-18 seasons. Arizona won Pac-12 regular-season and postseason tournament titles in those years; those will now be removed from official recognition in record books. All of Alkins’ college stats will also be vacated.
Arizona’s swimming and diving program were also part of the wide-ranging case. As a result, the University of Arizona’s athletic department is on three years’ NCAA probation, until Dec. 13, 2025.
Additional penalties against Arizona are as follows and comprised almost entirely of self-imposed sanctions:
- Competition penalty during the 2020-21 academic year during which the men’s basketball program did not participate in the postseason conference or NCAA tournament competition (self-imposed)
- $5,000 fine, plus 1% of the average men’s basketball budget based on the average of the men’s basketball program’s previous three total budgets (self-imposed)
- A reduction in the total number of men’s basketball scholarships for the incoming class of the 2023-24 academic year by one, from the permissible total of 13, or if a scholarship becomes available prior to the 2022-23 academic year (self-imposed)
- A two-week ban on men’s basketball campus visits during March 2022 (self-imposed)
- A reduction in the number of official visits in men’s basketball by 10% for the 2021-22 academic year (self-imposed)
- A 15-day reduction in the number of recruiting person days for the 2021-22 academic year (self-imposed), plus an additional two-day reduction in the number of recruiting person days for the 2022-23 academic year
- A seven-week recruiting communication (telephone and written correspondence) ban for the 2022-23 academic year
The IARP process does not enable schools or affected parties to appeal decisions. Everything in Wednesday’s ruling is final. The IARP process will dissolve in 2023 and all infractions cases will return to NCAA’s purview.