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NCAA to allow independent panel to resolve Arizona’s infraction case

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COLLEGE BASKETBALL: DEC 06 Utah Valley State at Arizona Photo by Jacob Snow/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

The NCAA has accepted the Arizona Wildcats’ request to have their infraction case resolved by an independent panel, it announced Thursday with this statement:

A request for referral of the infractions case involving Arizona to the Independent Accountability Resolution Process was granted by the Infractions Referral Committee. Consistent with rules and procedures governing the process, details about the matter will remain confidential until the Independent Resolution Panel releases its decision.

The IARP was created in 2018 to handle complex cases that “include alleged violations of core NCAA values, such as prioritizing academics and the well-being of student-athletes; the possibility of major penalties; or adversarial behavior,” according to its website.

The IARP is “comprised of independent investigators, advocates and adjudicators who are responsible for reviewing select infractions cases in Division I.” All decisions made are final.

The IARP has not ruled on any cases so far, so it’s hard to know how this will benefit Arizona, but it was created to help ensure fair resolutions by eliminating any possible conflicts of interest during the infractions process.

The IARP has also agreed to resolve the cases at LSU, Kansas, NC State and Memphis, who are also in hot water because of their basketball programs.

The Athletic reported in October that Arizona’s case—which involves the basketball and swimming and diving programs—is severe, with the NCAA accusing them of nine Level I violations.

Level I violations are considered the most severe and the possible sanctions include a postseason ban, loss of scholarships, recruiting visit restrictions, fines, a head coach suspension, and/or show-cause penalties.

According to the report, the violations include “a lack of institutional control and failure to monitor by the university, a lack of head coach control by men’s basketball coach Sean Miller; and a lack of head coach control by Augie Busch, the women’s swimming and diving coach.”

It’s unclear exactly how many of the violations are related to men’s basketball and how many are attributed to women’s swimming and diving and the athletic department as a whole.

However, the Athletic report says that the refusal of former assistants Book Richardson and Mark Phelps to speak with NCAA investigators was an “aggregating factor” in the severity of the violations. As was Arizona’s unwillingness to hand over the report it received from Steptoe & Johnson, the law firm it hired to conduct an independent investigation of the basketball program.

Richardson spent three months in prison after pleading guilty to accepting $20,000 in bribes in exchange for steering Arizona players to sign with agent Christian Dawkins and financial manager Munish Sood.

Phelps was placed on administrative leave and eventually saw his contract expire because of what ESPN reported was a “fraudulent online course” involving former UA commit Shareef O’Neal, an accusation Phelps’ attorney vehemently denied.

Phelps had previously been suspended without pay for reportedly buying a plane ticket for former UA forward Keanu Pinder.

Arizona confirmed in October that it received a Notice of Allegations from the NCAA, but “in order to protect the integrity of the ongoing enforcement process, the University is not releasing the NOA at this time.”

Miller has denied ever knowingly breaking NCAA rules.