Where to begin in this convoluted mess that has now clouded the men’s basketball program – and just a day before it was set to open the season by talking to the media about what could be – might be? – a glorious season?
First, UA assistant coach Emanuel “Book” Richardson has been relieved of his duties at the University of Arizona after being arrested for being a part of a federal corruption scheme, according to documents released early today. UA representatives made that announcement about 1 p.m., in what has been an evolving story.
And then there’s this: The scheduled media day press conference has now been postponed.
Since 2015, the FBI had been investigating the influence of money on coaches and student-athletes. It covered bribes to players, student-athletes, player’s advisers among others.
Co-defendents Christian Dawkins and Muish Sood were businessmen who were at the center of the scheme.
According to federal documents released early this morning and apparently took UA by surprise, Richardson took $20,000 – $5,000 once and $15,000 from Dawkins and Sood – last summer with intent to funnel money to a recruit from apparent agents in order he steer potential clients – now student-athletes – to their company.
According to the document, it “appears (Richardson) to have kept (money) for himself and some of which he appears to have provided to at least one prospective high school basketball player in order to recruit the player to (Arizona). In exchange for the bribe payments, Richardson agreed to use his influence over the student-athletes he coached to pressure them to retain Dawkins and Sood as a manager and financial advisor, respectively.”
Book was one of four coaches arrested Tuesday morning, including USC assistant coach Tony Bland, LaMont Evans. He was paid $235,000 last season.
It’s still too early how or if the NCAA will get involved, but it’s likely that will occur.
UA issued this statement, which was not attributed to anyone specifically.
“We were made aware of the Department of Justice’s investigation this morning and we are cooperating fully with the FBI and the U.S. Attorney’s office. Assistant coach Emmanuel Richardson was immediately suspended and relieved of all duties.”
“We were appalled to learn of the allegations as they do not reflect the standards we hold ourselves to and require from our colleagues. The University of Arizona has a strong culture of compliance and the expectation is we follow the rules.”
“We became aware of the situation involving one of our men’s basketball coaches Emmanuel Richardson this morning. We have been working in conjunction with the University, and have confirmed that Richardson has been suspended effective immediately. We will cooperate fully with authorities as they move through their investigation.
“We work under the basic directive that all department personnel operate within applicable laws and NCAA rules. The behavior that Richardson is accused of is completely unacceptable and does not reflect the principles of this athletics department.”
Pac-12 Commissioner Larry Scott commented earlier in the morning.
“As Commissioner of the Pac-12 Conference, I am deeply troubled by the charges filed in federal court today against a number of individuals involved in college basketball, including two assistant coaches employed by member institutions of our Conference. Protection of our student-athletes, and of the integrity of competition, is the Conference’s top priority,” Scott said in a statement. “I have been in contact with the leadership of both universities and it is clear they also take this matter very seriously. We are still learning the facts of this matter, but these allegations, if true, are profoundly upsetting to me. They strike at the heart of the integrity of our programs, and of the game that so many people love and play the right way.”
In a press conference this morning, Joon Kim, acting U.S. attorney for the Southern District of New York, said what the findings have shown the shady side of the sport.
“If you read the three complaints, over 100 pages, you will find yourselves inside the dark underbelly of college basketball,” he said. “The madness of college basketball went well beyond the big dance in March.”
What is not known is whether current UA players were involved in any of the mess. In the federal document, it references a current player had been persuaded to “select any one of the group of agents that Richardson had recommended.”
But that Richardson (because of the money he was receiving) “would tell players to retain Dawkins and his company.”
In a meeting, Richardson was noted as saying he was “happy” to steer a particular student-athlete who was on the men’s basketball team at UA to their company.