TUCSON, AZ — The future of the University of Arizona basketball program and its coaches will be under scrutiny in a New York courtroom next week, but head coach Sean Miller won’t take the witness stand.
A federal criminal trial begins Monday in connection with the ongoing FBI pay-to-play college basketball investigation. Former University of Arizona Assistant Coach Emanuel "Book" Richardson had originally been charged in the case, but he agreed to a plea deal earlier this year. Richardson admitted to taking $20,000 to influence players to sign with specific agents and financial planners, and court document show he planned to give some of the money to pay a recruit.
"I have not seen a case like this in college athletics," said Phoenix lawyer Andrew Pacheco, a former federal prosecutor and UA graduate. "I think that it has uncovered what is a widespread practice among some individuals, and it really does create a black mark."
University of Arizona head coach Sean Miller will not be allowed to testify at trial, the judge ruled Friday. According to one court filing earlier this month, defense attorneys had intended to “elicit testimony from the subpoenaed coaches" about their "involvement in NCAA rule-breaking by paying student-athletes" in an effort to "pull back the curtain on college basketball." Miller does not face any criminal charges.
The FBI investigation dates back to 2017, and includes wiretapped conversations, undercover agents, and a cooperating witness.
"The government's theory is that by bribing college coaches, the college coaches are depriving the universities of their honest services," Pacheco said. "They are being bribed to make decisions in their professional capacity that go in a certain direction."
Bruce Pascoe, a longtime Wildcat basketball reporter for the Arizona Daily Star, said he's watching to see if the NCAA also takes action after the trial.
"They could have a situation that something comes out that they could have an NCAA violation," Pascoe said. "Then the NCAA could take that piece of evidence from that federal proceedings, and then investigate it on their own, incorporate it, rule on it, or whatever they want."
If a university violates the rules governing college sports, Paacheco said the school could face "anything from the 'death penalty' when a school is not allowed ot have any sports activities for a period of time, to financial penalties, to a loss of scholarships, to a ban on post season play."
ABC15 reached out to the NCAA for comment and did not receive a response.