Ex-Arizona Wildcats head coach Sean Miller avoids sanctions in NCAA case as two assistant coaches face lengthy bans… after report concludes ‘covert actions’ uncovered by FBI could not have been discovered by him
- Arizona’s track and field program was placed on three-year probation through 2025
- Assistant coach Emanuel Richardson was given a 10-year sentence
- He was punished for accepting $20,000 in cash bribes and paying $40,000,000 in “fraudulent academic transcripts”
- Mark Phelps was given a two-year show case after violating college basketball recruiting rules before telling the student athlete to cover up the violation
- Then head coach Sean Miller, now from Xavier, escaped any sanctions
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Ex-Arizona basketball coach Sean Miller escaped sanctions Wednesday when an Independent Accountability Resolution Process report largely accepted the program’s self-imposed penalties stemming from a 2017 NCAA rule violation case.
Arizona’s athletics program was placed on probation for three years until 2025. The school announced a one-year postseason suspension in December 2020, effective for the 2020–21 season.
The IARP report released Wednesday said former assistant coach Emanuel Richardson was given a 10-year sentence after he ‘solicited and accepted $20,000 in cash bribes and paid $40,000 for a fraudulent academic transcript.’
Former Arizona coach Sean Miller will not face any sanctions from the NCAA after the IARP found that Arizona’s self-imposed penalties were enough to resolve a case involving violations of NCAA rules in 2017
Former University of Arizona assistant men’s basketball coach Emanuel Richardson has been banned from coaching at any level of basketball for the next decade
Another former assistant coach, Mark Phelps, was given a two-year show cause charge after he gave “an impermissible advantage to a student-athlete and then instructed the student-athlete to conceal the violation.”
Miller emerged largely unscathed from the report. He is now the head coach at Xavier.
“All of the actions, or almost all of the actions that these two assistant coaches took, were covert,” IARP arbitrator Dana Welch said. “With regard to former assistant men’s basketball coach No. 1, they were criminals. It took the FBI two years of wiretapping to figure out what he had done. So in our view this type of action could not have been detected by the head coach.’
The basketball program will also lose one additional scholarship for the 2023-24 season.
Arizona Wildcats assistant coach Mark Phelps was given a two-year ban from basketball after telling a student-athlete to cover up the violation he had committed
“This has been a long journey and I’m glad it’s finally over,” Miller said in a statement. “I’m excited to move on. I would like to thank my wife Amy and my entire family, (Xavier) President (Colleen) Hanycz and (Xavier athletic director) Greg Christopher for their support throughout the completion of this process.’
The independent accountability resolution process was created to handle particularly complex cases and trades outside of the NCAA’s purview.
The violation report said it found no violation by the former men’s basketball head coach because the hearing panel determined that the former men’s basketball head coach demonstrated that he fostered an atmosphere of compliance and monitored two of his assistant coaches regarding the academic eligibility of men’s basketball prospective student-athletes , which disproves the assumption of head coaching responsibility.’
The panel’s decision is final, meaning there will be no appeals.
Arizona was initially accused of nine counts of misconduct, including five Level I violations, in a Notice of Allegations sent out by the NCAA in October 2020. The violations included a lack of institutional control and a lack of monitoring by the university, and a lack of head coaching supervision of Miller.
Tommy Lloyd (left) left Gonzaga to replace Miller as head coach of the Arizona Wildcats last year
Richardson (pictured in 2014 as an Arizona assistant) was found to have accepted $20,000 in bribes after his recruiting practices were investigated federally
But the IARP report was much softer on Miller in its report.
Arizona announced in April 2021 that Miller was leaving the school after 12 seasons. The Wildcats hired former Gonzaga assistant Tommy Lloyd to take his place.
Miller routinely drew in some of the nation’s top recruiting classes after being lured from Xavier in 2009, but his recruiting methods came under scrutiny when Richardson was among 10 people arrested as part of a federal college basketball corruption investigation.
Richardson was fired by the university and later pleaded guilty to accepting $20,000 in bribes from aspiring business executive Christian Dawkins. He was sentenced to three months in prison in 2019.
Miller sat out a 2018 game after ESPN reported he was overheard on an FBI wiretap discussing a $100,000 payment to future NBA No. 1 pick Deandre Ayton. Miller vehemently denied the report, and university president Robert C. Robbins announced a few days later that Miller would remain the coach of the Wildcats.
The investigation also included Arizona’s swimming and diving program, which received relatively minor penalties.