Xavier’s men’s basketball coach Sean Miller won’t face penalties, while two of his former assistants face lengthy show lawsuit penalties in Arizona infractions case that was adjudicated by Independent Liability Settlement Panel .
In a decision announced Wednesday, the panel said Arizona University received minor penalties in part because of its decision to self-impose a postseason ban for the 2021 NCAA Tournament. The school, however, must vacate all wins attended by two athletes identified as “student-athlete n. 1” and “pupil-athlete n. 3”. According to the panel’s ruling, games influenced by the “#1 student-athlete” ran from 2016 to 2018.
Arizona had been charged with five Level I violations for incidents that allegedly took place during Miller’s tenure there. Miller was facing a Level I charge for “failing to demonstrate that he fostered an atmosphere of compliance and monitored his staff within the basketball program.”
Former assistants Book Richardson and Mark Phelps were hit with 10-year and two-year show-cause penalties, respectively, for NCAA violations that occurred in Arizona. The panel also found that Arizona “failed to monitor” both its men’s basketball and swimming and diving programs, which also committed NCAA violations.
“The hearing committee found no violation for the former men’s basketball head coach because the hearing committee 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 the prospective men’s basketball student-athlete, rebutting the coach’s presumption of liability,” the jury’s ruling said.
Miller said the IARP ruling allows him to move forward.
“This has been a long journey and I’m glad it’s all finally over,” he said Wednesday in a statement. “I am excited to move forward. I would like to thank my wife Amy and all my family, president [Colleen Hanycz] And [athletic director] Greg Christopher for their support in completing this process.”
The panel said Arizona’s decision to self-impose a postseason ban for the 2020-21 season shaped the penalties against the program for failure to monitor. The school will pay a $5,000 fine and forfeit a scholarship to its incoming recruiting class, along with any vacated winnings.
“The Independent Resolution Panel was intentional in not prescribing penalties that would negatively impact current student-athletes,” the panel said.
The 10-year show lawsuit for Richardson, who pleaded guilty in federal court to accepting bribes to refer prospective clients to what the FBI called “corrupt financial managers,” and served a prison sentence as a result, essentially bans him from the sport for the next decade. The report also alleged that Richardson paid $40,000 for a fraudulent transcript to help an athlete remain eligible. He was the only coach in the investigation charged with Level I violations.
The IARP panel said Richardson did not cooperate with the investigation.
“After his employment was terminated in Arizona, the former #1 men’s basketball assistant coach failed to cooperate with NCAA law enforcement personnel during the investigation into the infraction case by knowingly providing false information and refusing to to disclose information relevant to an investigation of possible violations, undermining and threatening the integrity of the NCAA collegiate model, according to the decision of the violation case,” said the panel’s ruling.
Phelps, who is now the head coach at Prolific Prep in Napa, California, has been hit with two years of show lawsuits after he was found to have committed Level II and Level III violations for asking a player to lie about an ineligible $500 loan, an NCAA violation, and for using an Arizona player to help him recruit two prospects at a grassroots event.
Arizona has chosen the independent liability resolution process over the traditional NCAA infraction process. The decision of the IARP cannot be appealed.
This investigation has been going on for the past four years after a federal wiretap caught runner Christian Dawkins telling financial advisor Munish Sood that Miller was allegedly behind a string of five-figure payments to Deandre Ayton, the No. 1 pick in the draft NBA 2018 whose controversial recruiting helped fuel the headlines that led to Miller’s descent to Arizona. Miller has consistently denied ever paying players.
“I have never knowingly violated NCAA rules while serving as head coach of this amazing program,” Miller said in a statement after a 2018 ESPN report said he was caught in an interception discussing payouts to Ayton.
Dana Welch, an IARP panelist and arbitrator and mediator with Welch ADR in California, said Miller took great pains to emphasize the importance of compliance for his staff and players. You also said Phelps and Richardson were deceptive in their actions.
“The record is really full in terms of actions the former coach took to ensure his staff and players understood the importance of compliance,” Welch said on a Zoom call following the IARP ruling Wednesday. “Almost every action taken by these two assistant coaches was secret. … As for [Richardson], they were criminals. In our opinion, this type of action could not have been detected by the manager.”
Welch added: “We felt the information did not support the manager’s accountability [violations for Miller].”
In a statement to ESPN, Richardson said he deserved another chance and added that an upcoming documentary, “Open Book,” will show the changes he’s made in his life since he was arrested in 2017 along with three other aides. Division I basketball in the federal investigation.
“With today’s release of findings related to the NCAA investigation of the University of Arizona, I have finally closed a long and difficult chapter in my life,” his statement read. “Nearly five and a half years ago, I made a mistake and a poor judgment choice. Something that haunted me and took away a piece of my life that is extremely important to me: basketball. …
“A lot has happened in the last five and a half years. I was incarcerated in Otisville Federal Prison. I served two years of federal probation. The game I love was taken away and I was decimated to next to nothing. Even with that, I have used this time to become a better teacher, mentor, person, friend, uncle, brother, son and father…. September 26, 2017 is truly a day of infamy for me. I can no longer allow dictating and determining who I am. I am a manager. A manager who made a mistake, served my time and paid my debt to the club.”