Big puff of school


It required a court order, but Arizona eventually released the NCAA Notice of Allegations.

The 22-page document was released to the public on Friday evening. It includes five level one offenses (the most serious), four of which were related to the basketball program.

We read the NOA, we have read media articles about it and spoken to trusted industry sources.

Five reactions:

1. It’s bad.

The NCAA thought it was serious, multi-level corruption in the basketball program over an 18 month period.

Not only did former assistant Book Richardson violate federal law by accepting bribes, he and another ex-assistant, Mark Phelps, have been charged with academic fraud.

And coach Sean Miller has been accused of failing to promote an atmosphere of compliance.

Academic fraud, bribes, ethical misconduct, lack of oversight – that’s the quadruple whammy, gentlemen.

Prior to the ANO’s publication, the Hotline believed Arizona’s self-imposed NCAA tournament ban this season would be the extent of the playoff penalties.

Now we’re not so sure anymore: the Wildcats could very well be hit with a second NCAA ban given the number and severity of transgressions.

We will not speculate that all charges will be sustained through the Independent Liability Resolution Process (IARP). But Thor’s hammer is clearly visible in the sky above the McKale Center.

Oh, and keep the motivation in Indianapolis in mind:

The NCAA is under immense political pressure from its members to clean up college basketball, and it is arguing aggressively against Arizona, as it has with Kansas.

This is not a sexual assault scandal (Baylor).

This is not a college-wide (North Carolina) academic fraud case.

It’s wheelhouse stuff – player supply – for the association.

That the process took three and a half years (and it is not over) is deeply regrettable for schools, but it is secondary to the evidence presented.

2. The Notice of Allegations does not offer additional information beyond what is known to the public about Miller’s involvement in rule violations.

However, the NCAA is clear about its guilt for failing to promote an atmosphere of compliance:

Specifically, two of Miller’s three assistant coaches committed intentional violations involving fraudulent transcripts, receiving cash bribes, facilitating a meeting with a would-be agent, ineligible inducements and recruitment violations, all over an 18 month period. Ultimate responsibility for the integrity of the men’s basketball program rested with Miller and the actions of his staff reflect Miller as head coach.

As the Wildcats decide to keep Miller for next season and beyond, they should assume a long suspension is coming – maybe 15 or 20 games – for what the NCAA has called a “serious conduct violation.”

After this long labor, does he want another season to be tarnished by the scandal?

3. Some of the evidence is rubbish:

• Recitation of previous “major violations” by the Wildcats, dating back decades.

• Failure to inform the NCAA of an internal interview with Richardson.

• The use of “talking points” by athletic director Dave Heeke who the NCAA says “compromised the integrity” of the investigation.

Please.

Do you know what really compromised the integrity of the process? It took three years to deliver the Notice of Intent.

4. Still no clarity on what the Hotline considers the most important issue of all.

This is not part of the NOA, and it will not impact the severity of future IARP sanctions. But that’s most important when it comes to judging the depth of Miller’s involvement in the underworld.

What did he mean in the following exchange with future agent Christian Dawkins, regarding rookie Nassir Little:

Dawkins: “(The AAU coaches) really want to have a (beep) for themselves because they took care of this kid.”

Miller: “Miami doesn’t have an advantage over us in this area, does it?

Dawkins: “Well, I’ll say this, what Miami has is Adidas.”

Miller: “.

Until the public had reason to believe Miller was referring to something other than a cash “benefit” – could it have been sunscreen or Cuban food? – the university has no moral or ethical foundation on which to rely.

5. As mentioned above, the Wildcats received the notice of indictment in the fall, but refused to disclose it, presumably on the advice of the General Counsel’s office.

It wasn’t until the Arizona Superior Court ruled in favor of ESPN early last week that the university released the document – Friday night.

In that regard, Arizona missed it.

While damning, the NOA does not contain additional evidence on the one issue that really matters: Miller’s direct involvement in rule violations.

It is a positive development. Why not blow it up across the college basketball media ecosystem?

But instead of launching a PR blitz to defend their coach upon receipt of the notice of intent in October, the university did the opposite:

That left him wallowing in ongoing speculation – speculation that received additional fuel when the school announced the playoff ban in early January.

Instead of doing everything in its power to brighten McKale’s skies, the university allowed the center of depression to remain, filling itself with darkness and doom.

It did Miller a disservice; it did the players a disservice; and that did a disservice to the fans.

And this isn’t the first time that the university has breathed in the opportunities to take a proactive approach to messaging in the past five years when it comes to the sports department.

Its strategy comes straight out of 1975.

You don’t shy away from the cone of silence when the public narrative is partly or completely wrong.

You take a proactive approach, take control of the story, and anticipate the next turn of events.

Whether the scandal involves Orlando Bradford or Rich Rodriguez or Miller, current realities are different from the original narrative.

And yet, from our perspective, the sports department has been left hanging on several occasions.


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*** The Pac-12 hotline is not endorsed or sponsored by the Pac-12 Conference, and the opinions expressed here do not necessarily reflect the views of the Conference.



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