Arizona basketball imposes 1-year postseason ban amid alleged pay-for-play scandal

Jason Owens
·2 min read

The University of Arizona announced on Tuesday that it is self-imposing a one-year postseason ban on its basketball team.

The ban arrives amid formal high-level allegations of misconduct connected to the alleged pay-for-play scandal that saw former assistant coach Emanuel “Book” Richardson sentenced to three months in prison. Richardson pleaded guilty in 2019 to a federal funds bribery charge for accepting $20,000 to steer Arizona players to aspiring sports agent Christian Dawkins.

Sean Miller accused of paying players

Richardson’s plea was part of the sweeping federal fraud scandal that engulfed college basketball. He claimed on a phone call recorded via FBI wiretap that head coach Sean Miller agreed to pay Deandre Ayton $10,000 a month to play at Arizona. Ayton went on to be the No. 1 pick in the 2018 NBA draft.

Miller denied violating any NCAA rules. He remains Arizona’s head coach.

Arizona head coach Sean Miller during the first half of an NCAA college basketball game against Oregon State Thursday, Feb. 20, 2020, in Tucson, Ariz. (AP Photo/Rick Scuteri)
Sean Miller stands accused of paying players. (AP Photo/Rick Scuteri)

NCAA hands down Level 1 allegations

The NCAA levied Arizona with nine allegations of misconduct in October, five of them Level 1 allegations, including lack of institutional control and failure to monitor. The NCAA also accused Miller of lack of head coach control, according to The Athletic’s Seth Davis.

Tuesday’s self ban was in response to those allegations. In announcing the ban, Arizona alluded to violations by “certain former members” of the coaching staff without acknowledging the serious allegation facing Miller.

“The University of Arizona is self-imposing a one-year postseason ban on the UA Men's Basketball program as a proactive measure in its ongoing NCAA enforcement process,” the statement reads. “The decision is an acknowledgement that the NCAA's investigation revealed that certain former members of the MBB staff displayed serious lapses in judgment and a departure from the University's expectation of honest and ethical behavior.

“It is also in accord with the penalty guidelines of the NCAA for the type of violations involved. This decision also reinforces the institution's commitment to accountability and integrity as well as serving the best long-term interests of the University and the Men's Basketball program.”

The self-ban doesn’t preclude the NCAA from imposing further penalties against the program.

Arizona’s postseason prospects were low

Arizona is off to a 7-1 start this season, including a 1-1 record in Pac-12 play. The team was not expected to compete for a Pac-12 championship and was considered a borderline NCAA tournament prospect based on early bracket projections.

Pac-12 media projected Arizona to finish in fifth place in the conference in a preseason poll. An early ESPN bracket projection had Arizona failing to qualify for the NCAA tournament while CBS projected Arizona as one of the last four teams in.

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