After a report surfaced Thursday morning that the Arizona Wildcats were set to receive an official Notice of Allegations from the NCAA, the biggest immediate question was what coach Sean Miller would have to say about it.
Not much, as it turns out.
“I’m not going to comment on anything that is around any investigation,” Miller said via Zoom during a press conference that was scheduled the day before to preview the 2020-21 season. “That’s really what I’m called to do as a member of our athletic department. I’m not able to comment.”
Pat Forde of Sports Illustrated has reported that Arizona was supposed to receive its NOA on Thursday, more than three years after the program became embroiled in an FBI investigation into fraud and corruption in college basketball. Then-Assistant coach Book Richardson was one of several college coaches arrested on Sept. 26, 2017, and has since plead guilty to a bribery charge.
Richardson, who admitted to accepting $20,000 in bribes from former agent Christian Dawkins in exchange for influencing UA’s players to sign with him, was sentenced to three months in prison.
Per Forde, Arizona’s case is supposed to be one of the most significant among the 12 schools that were involved in the probe. If that’s the case, the Wildcats could be hit major penalties including a postseason ban, loss of scholarships, recruiting visit restrictions, a head coach suspension, and/or show-cause penalties. Those are the possible punishments for Level I violations, which are considered the most severe.
Besides the Richardson charges, another issue that could be included in an NOA comes from 2019, when former assistant Mark Phelps was put on administrative leave with the intention of terminating him. He was was suspended because of a “fraudulent online course” involving former UA commit Shareef O’Neal, an accusation Phelps’ attorney denied vehemently.
Phelps had previously been suspended without pay for reportedly buying a plane ticket for former UA forward Keanu Pinder.
There’s also the still-not-substantiated 2018 report from ESPN that Miller was caught on a wiretap with Dawkins discussing a $100,000 payment to secure Deandre Ayton, who had already signed with the school. Miller has denied such a claim, saying during a March 2018 press conference that he “never knowingly” violated any NCAA rules with Arizona.
A documentary film about Dawkins that came out earlier this year included wiretapped conversations with Miller but did not include any such discussions.