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An Arizona fan’s guide to handling an NCAA investigation

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Arizona State v Arizona Photo by Christian Petersen/Getty Images

The old adage is something along the lines of if you’re not cheating, you’re not trying.

In college sports these days it seems everyone is trying. Just, not everyone gets caught.

Arizona fans know how rough it can all get. It was a little less than four years ago when their prized men’s basketball program was engulfed in a scandal that seemed ready to rock the college basketball world.

Shoot, even the FBI was involved.

Over the time since former assistant Book Richardson was arrested Wildcats fans have gained valuable experience in handling such situations and, for no particular reason at all, it seems like now is a good time now to share some of those lessons.

First off, get over the initial shock of the news. While we all may deep down assume there are some shady things happening within the programs, having it brought up in headlines can be quite the jolt.

From there you’ll want to make sure to take time to get up to speed on what is actually known versus what is being alleged. What actually might have happened? At that time it’s best to come to a conclusion of what you think should be done if it’s all true.

That will be your baseline.

Assuming guilt is not a good road to go down. At this time you should hope that, as was the case for Arizona, there was little in the way of actual evidence that would prove the worst of the allegations. While this will not necessarily save you from rivals or haters, it will allow for you to maintain a level of sanity as the investigation unfolds.

It worked out OK for the Wildcats as contrary to early talk, there was nothing other than hearsay and erroneous reports directly connecting head coach Sean Miller to the scandal and nothing actually was proven about them giving money to any players. That did not save the program, which saw a dip in stature and recruiting and even self-imposed a postseason ban before firing the coach a few years later, but it’s something.

Was Miller innocent, or just smart enough to not leave any kind of a trail that would implicate him? Think plausible deniability. With no specific school or scandal in mind, you must hope the people implicated were not stupid enough to leave not just breadcrumbs, but a gigantic pile of evidence pointing to their guilt.

If the NCAA is going to mount your head on their wall, you want to make them earn it.

That’s not to say you should proclaim innocence, though. Generally speaking by the time we hear about the investigation at least some wrongdoing has been uncovered, with more possibly on the way. Ideally you have the benefit of some combination of there being nothing left to discover and no one who wants to share any damaging information.

You don’t want coaches, players and whoever to lie — just, you’d rather them not be excited to share intimate details that could bring the whole thing down. That would make things exponentially more difficult. Hopefully for your program in this hypothetical scenario this is not an issue.

As the investigation continues, more reports and stories are bound to come out. In Arizona’s case, it was more issues with assistant coaches. In your hypothetical situation, it could be details about, say, having recruits on campus when you weren’t supposed to due to a pandemic or maybe it involves paying for recruits to visit campus or be around the program when you weren’t permitted to do so.

Hopefully it’s not both, or both and more, because that would be bad. That would be very, very bad.

Whatever stories come out, though, chances are you won’t like many of them. Just, don’t go online and say mean stuff to the reporters. Just because you don’t like what they are reporting does not mean it isn’t true, and if you thought someone was good at covering the program or sport before this story, chances are they still are one while covering it.

This is a good place to note you should hope the national media is fond of whoever has been implicated. The last thing you need is for outlets and reporters with resources and possible agendas to go to town on the story. Even if what they originally say is proven to be false or, at best, dubious, the narrative can be tough to shake.

As the saying goes, a lie can travel halfway around the world while the truth is lacing up its boots. While you may know the truth, it could get frustrating having to listen to people who consistently cite the false reports, even though you have repeatedly pointed them in the direction of the known truth.

Trust me, it gets old. You don’t want that.

What you do want, however, is for the investigation to be given time to breathe and be completed. No one is guilty until they are proven so, and the extent of their guilt can only be known after all information is revealed.

In asking for this, hopefully you yourself never quickly jumped to a guilty verdict when other schools were in the NCAA’s crosshairs, because it would be a bit hypocritical to demand patience when it’s your team after providing none when it was another. The last thing you want to be is a hypocrite, right?

Ideally for you, random and not-at-all-specific-fan, this is not a problem.

Now, you may be feeling upset over the fact that your school is being targeted. Everyone cheats, right? So why are they singling out (insert random school as this is about no single institution)? Well, if everyone cheats, that includes your school. It’s clear the NCAA likes to make examples out of programs that are big enough to be recognized and noteworthy, but not too big to where their downfall will greatly impact the sport.

They won’t go after the big-time programs unless they absolutely have to, but they will take a shot at the smaller ones, especially if there is overwhelming evidence of guilt. Whining “why us?” won’t help at all.

Trust me.

Complaining about how the investigation started won’t do any good, either. There’s no sense in wasting energy lamenting that your guy was caught in an FBI sting or your program was ratted out by some snitches or whatever. Remember if nothing wrong had been done, there would be nothing to investigate.

However, you could hope for the NCAA to wrap things up quickly. It’s no fun squirming for nearly four years, waiting and worrying about what might happen. Though, it’s also probably not ideal for things to move along quickly because there is an overwhelming amount of damning evidence, either. So this one is kind of tough to manage.

Finally, as the completely-hypothetical-and-not-at-all-related-to-anything investigation plays out, hope that the NCAA, the IARP or whoever ends up being the final judge shows mercy.

Because no matter what you think about the severity of any potential infraction, it’s ultimately up to them to decide what punishment, if any, will be levied out. The Devils will be in the details, most of which we are not privy to.

So buckle up, as there’s no telling how bumpy this ride is going to get.