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The Daily Wildcat

The Daily Wildcat


Commentary: So what happens now?

Simon Asher

Arizona head coach Sean Miller looks on after the Wildcats’ 73-60 victory over the Arizona State Sun Devils on Saturday, March 4. 

By now most are aware of the circumstances regarding the removal of University of Arizona assistant men’s basketball coach Emanuel “Book” Richardson following an arrest by the FBI for an alleged bribery scandal. The news was sudden, swift and it caught just about everyone off guard.

So many questions left unanswered remain. Who are the supposed athletes that may have benefitted from potential cash payouts? How will this impact the school and athletics? Will Sean Miller be fired? Will the school impose a self-inflicted ban on the basketball program?

A lot of questions, not a lot of answers. 

RELATED: UA assistant men’s basketball coach Emanuel ‘Book’ Richardson arrested on bribery charges

In the coming months we will know whether current players, if any, participated or benefitted from the actions of Richardson. The possible outcome is that if any players are found to have received benefits then they’ll most likely be removed from the team. This is the FBI we’re talking about, not the NCAA. The powers that the federal government have are far superior to those at NCAA headquarters. That is the singular fact which makes this different than perhaps any other investigation.

As far as the impact on the school, it’s more complicated.

Here are a few scenarios that could happen, none of which are the only possible outcome. First, the athletics department could invoke a self-imposed ban limiting post season play or scholarships. A ban at this time would seem almost catastrophic, especially in light of football’s most recent struggles to create revenue. Basketball may not be the cash cow that football should be, but it is better than most, and preventing revenue for this season would set athletics back more than it already will be. In addition, a self imposed ban could mean the loss of future recruits who were expecting to come to Arizona and compete for championships. It would appear to be a lose-lose situation.

Another possible scenario is that athletics lets this ride out. As far as has been implicated, and to my understanding of the ruling, the NCAA can’t impose any action until a federal investigation is concluded. Even afterwards, they would have to re-investigate and re-interview several hundred subjects, which would only prolong the process. In the meantime, it could be realistic that Arizona continues to do what it does, outside of any illegality, and keep its nose clean. The thought of more schools coming out as violators would also seem to aid the Wildcats cause moving forward. It would be far-fetched for the NCAA to levy heavy sanctions on institutions if there were, say, 50 plus schools all in the same boat; there are already seven and counting. In the meantime, Arizona, barring any suspensions of players involved, would still be a top-ten favorite and have a decent chance at getting to the Final Four. Provided no players participating are under investigation and haven’t received any type of financial benefit, there should be no worry of vacated wins or trophies in the future.

Concerning Sean Miller, it would be quite the story if he was to be removed. Unfortunately, we don’t know much about current Athletics Director Dave Heeke to understand what may be going through his mind. He has been thrust into an unenviable situation — forced to make decisions about the school’s crown jewel. However, Miller being fired for a rogue assistant would be unlikely, assuming Richardson was, in fact, rogue. If Richardson was simply falling on the sword, then that is an entirely different issue and Miller’s job would undoubtedly be on the line.

For now, it would seem Arizona fans need to take a deep breath and gather their thoughts. It has been a rough 24-hours for Wildcat fans, and moving forward there may need to be more unpleasant conversations. Rumors are swirling, but no facts to confirm information that is floating around. The UA is under the microscope, and they know it. They have the right to due diligence and to get their ducks in a row in an effort to appear like they have a foothold as to what is going on. Whether they truly do or not is another story.

Follow Saul Bookman on Twitter

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