OPINION: Is The University of Arizona a victim in the Book Richardson saga?

It's not as absurd as you might think
Posted at 6:04 PM, Jun 09, 2019
and last updated 2019-06-09 21:08:21-04

On Thursday, former Arizona Wildcats assistant basketball coach Emanuel "Book" Richardson was sentenced to three months in prison following the FBI's multi-year investigation into corruption in college basketball.

Now, we wait for what the fallout of that investigation will mean for the UA basketball program.

UA says it's a victim in this whole mess. In its victim impact statement filed in federal court, UA's general counsel said Richardson's actions "caused real harm to the university," and the basketball program is facing "significant sanctions and penalties from the NCAA" as a result.

That statement was predictably mocked by many in the national media. But is UA's assertion really that farfetched?

Let's start with this fact: None of Book Richardson's illegal actions benefited Arizona basketball in any way. Remember: Book wasn't paying student-athletes to come play for Arizona; he was accepting bribes to steer those athletes toward certain agents when they made the transition to the NBA. The program received absolutely no on-court boost from Book's actions, while seeing its reputation dragged through the mud for two years and counting.

Fact No. 2: All the talk of UA head coach Sean Miller paying players has been just that -- nothing more than talk. Despite an ESPN report alleging Miller discussed a payment to Deandre Ayton, as well as wiretaps from Richardson and others suggesting Miller was paying student-athletes, Miller has yet to be found guilty of anything. What's more, he's yet to be accused of anything.

Now, the Wildcats are going to be subject to some form of punishment by the NCAA, and they should be. Richardson committed illegal actions while he was a UA employee, and per NCAA rules, his head coach can be held accountable.

But to what end? A postseason ban? The Wildcats essentially got one of those last season when they missed the NCAA Tournament as a direct result of the fallout from Book's arrest.

So, when you dive beneath the surface just a bit, you'll realize that UA seeing itself as a victim in this investigation isn't nearly as absurd as some claim it to be.

Will the NCAA see things the same way? That continues to be the million-dollar question.