The Arizona Wildcats are a mess right now.
Assistant coach Book Richardson was arrested for bribery, fraud, and other things for improper conduct on the recruiting trail, was immediately suspended by the UA, and now we’re waiting to see what effects that will have on Arizona’s program as a whole.
Oh yeah, there’s also a couple current Arizona players implicated in the FBI’s investigation, a few other concerning details, and one star player is rumored to have an injury.
A lot of questions are being asked by readers, so I did my best to answer them as well as I could.
Here we go.
Q. How much will this affect the team going into the season?
It’s too early to say because we don’t know Sean Miller’s role in this whole thing yet. If this is an instance where it’s determined Richardson acted on his own volition then Miller could emerge relatively unscathed from this.
If it’s shown Miller knew about this and/or had a major hand in it, the UA may have no choice but to suspend or fire him. Obviously if that happens, players would likely transfer from the program, thus putting a major dent in the upcoming season.
Also, the Department of Justice’s complaint basically said a current Arizona player accepted payments, and whoever that player is will surely be suspended or ruled ineligible. The complaint listed Louisville freshman Brian Bowen, who the UA recruited, as someone who accepted money, and the school smartly suspended him right away (and fired head coach Rick Pitino).
Arizona would likely do the same thing, since self-imposed sanctions are generally lighter than those the NCAA hands out (not to mention that every thing will be vacated if you use an ineligible player anyway).
At least one other current Arizona player — possibly two — was mentioned in the complaint, though their role in this scandal is unclear.
But you’re looking at one to three players possibly being suspended and/or ruled ineligible. On top of that, there will be plenty of distractions throughout the year.
Q. Who’s the current player that got paid?
I’m not touching this question. Ha.
Q. Have you heard anything about Rawle Alkins breaking his foot?
Yes. I’ve heard what everyone else has heard about it. While I can’t confirm the injury, several people that I trust have said Alkins has a broken foot.
And this guy on Twitter (@MGRADS) — who is well connected with high school and college basketball — said the injury happened in workouts.
Bad news on top of the bad news for Arizona. Rawle Alkins has a broken foot suffered in workouts the other day.— GRADS (@MGRADS) September 27, 2017
Q. Chances Sean Miller is still the Arizona head coach at the beginning of the season?
Again, it all comes down to what the FBI deems Miller’s role to be in this. If it’s significant enough, the UA might have no choice to let him go.
This process may drag on for a while, though, and the start of the season is right around the corner, so I’d assume Miller is coaching on opening night.
The one thing Miller does have going for him is he’s run a pretty clean program thus far — at least from a recruiting standpoint — so the program’s punishment may not be as severe as, say, Louisville’s since that program is a repeat offender.
But it’s pretty terrifying that it’s September and we can’t safely say who Arizona’s coach will be for the season-opener or even the Red-Blue game.
Q. Who would replace Miller?
I mean, in the short-term the obvious candidate is Lorenzo Romar. He has tons of Pac-12 head coaching experience, has a strong relationship with several Wildcats already, and can probably distance himself from the stuff that’s happening since he just got to Tucson.
Romar probably wouldn’t be a great long-term solution at the position, but he would be a pretty ideal interim.
One person in my mentions suggested Arizona alum and current Georgia Tech coach Josh Pastner as a potential long-term replacement, and that would be fun. I think he would kill it as a recruiter in Tucson.
That said, it’s far too early to discuss coaching candidates.
Q. How's Nike feeling about this, concerning their $20+ million UA deal?
I don’t know, but Nike has its own problems right now. The FBI just subpoenaed "employees of Nike's EYBL grassroots division, along with documents” as part of the investigation, so its travel basketball program may soon be ripped to shreds, and who knows what the consequences of that will be.
Q. Do you think Shareef O’Neal or Brandon Williams will end up decommitting? What does that say for any possible recruits we had on our radar for 2018?
I don’t think O’Neal or Williams will decommit until they know the fate of Arizona and/or Sean Miller. Louisville lost its entire recruiting class after Pitino was fired, and something similar could happen at Arizona if Miller is forced out.
If Miller and Arizona aren’t punished too severely, I could see the 2018 class staying relatively in tact......except Jahvon Quinerly. Based on the description in the complaint, he likely received payments from Arizona, and thus it seems highly unlikely he steps foot on the UA campus (his future as a college basketball player might be done, too).
Also, it sounds like Nassir Little was basically committed to Arizona but re-opened his recruitment after the news broke yesterday. Little is widely believed to be part of the investigation, so don’t count on him playing in Tucson, either.
Q. Do you think more coaches will go down in this ongoing FBI investigation?
At this point, I think it’d be naive to think there won’t be. The way national writers are making it sound is that this is just the beginning of “college basketball Armageddon.”
Adidas and all its schools are in danger, and Nike’s could very well be, too. Fans of so-called “clean” programs should probably wait before throwing shade at other schools.
Q. Is all this basketball drama directly related to how bad the current uni's are?
All of it. You’re bringing these problems on yourself when you change a beautiful uniform design to that hideous gradient pattern. We should have seen this coming (sarcasm heavily intended).
I was planning to run a much different mailbag this week with questions about non-FBI investigation things, but obviously I had to make a change of plans. I am still planning to do another mailbag about stuff unrelated to this, though, and you can submit your questions in the comment section here, or to me on Twitter at @RKelapire.
Basically anything Arizona Athletics-related is appropriate.