The fallout from last week’s revelation that University of Arizona assistant basketball coach Book Richardson has been indicted on bribery charges in a federal investigation of high school recruiting has now begun.
Some of it good. Some of it not so good.
In an effort to calm troubled waters, the school has begun issuing public statements this week. First, it was head coach Sean Miller that got the ball rolling by speaking out for the first time since the earthquake, which also involves three other college assistants and others, hit the college basketball landscape. That was followed immediately by a long statement from UofA President Robert Robbins. And finally, in a letter to Wildcat Nation yesterday, Athletic Director Dave Heeke addressed the issue and included copies of the public statements.
The Reader’s Digest version: Miller was “devastated” when he learned about the charges against Richardson and will support the school’s investigation into the matter. Robbins confirmed that the school has initiated formal dismissal proceedings against Richardson, has hired an outside law firm to begin an independent review of the Department of Justice allegations (begun Monday), and also hired outside counsel to assist the college with the DOJ criminal investigation.
But down toward the close of the 13-paragraph statement from Robbins was the information that the Wildcat fan base has been waiting to hear. “Based on the facts that we know at this time,” read the document, “we support Coach Miller and intend to provide him with all of the tools necessary to meet our goals and expectations.”
Based on that one sentence, it would appear that Miller will be at his usual place on the Arizona bench when the season opens against Eastern New Mexico on Nov. 1.
That’s the good news. The really good news.
The not-so-good news is that the damage done to recruiting may have begun. Simi Shittu, a five-star prospect from Vermont, just canceled a campus visit that was scheduled for Nov. 3. As far as we know, the 6’8″ forward didn’t give a reason for the cancellation, but it doesn’t take much to connect the dots to the Richardson fiasco.
On the good-news front, Miller’s 2018 recruiting class that is ranked No. 1 in the nation is still intact. However, that’s a very tenuous situation at best. Miller has to count on holding the line after he likely loses the crown jewel of the class, Jahvon Quinerly.
Quinerly, a 5-star point guard from New Jersey, made a big splash in early August by announcing at halftime of the SC30 Select Showcase on ESPNU that he was committing to Arizona. Now, he’s liable to make even bigger news on the way out. He appears to be one of the players targeted in the DOJ probe for taking money and, if that turns out to be the case, he won’t be with the program long.
That leaves the other two high-profile foundations of the 2018 class, 4-star guard Brandon Williams and 4-star power forward Shareef O’Neal, son of NBA legend Shaquille O’Neal, still on board.
But it’s still early in the investigation and too soon to tell how this whole ugly mess will end up.
In the meantime, the natives are restless in Tucson.