NCAA launches formal investigation into Arizona men's basketball program amid FBI probe

Ron Chenoy / USA TODAY Sports

Amid allegations of cheating and numerous ties to the ongoing college basketball trial, the NCAA has launched an investigation into the Arizona men's basketball program, a spokesman for the university confirmed to the Arizona Daily Star Friday.

The official reasoning for the probe remains unclear but the unofficial motives for it do not. Former associate head coach Emanuel "Book" Richardson, a long-time staffer for Sean Miller, was arrested and recently plead guilty to bribery as part of a scheme to steer certain players to managers and financial advisers. In federal testimony this week, he's been the subject of more allegations tying him to knowledge of a pay-for-play scheme.

Miller hasn't come out unscathed amid the most recent trial either. Former runner-turned-convicted felon, Christian Dawkins, said via video recordings played in court last week that he had a relationship with Miller and that he knew of the backdoor dealings that were being done to get top-shelf players to play for him.

"And the thing with (former Arizona assistant) Book (Richardson), Arizona is like, Sean Miller has to know everything that's going on," Dawkins is heard saying on the FBI's video capture. "I can call Sean and have a conversation like, this is what's going on. Like, this is what's needing to be done."

FBI recordings on Wednesday played in federal court added more damning evidence against Miller, who, according to a conversation between Dawkins and Richardson, discussed alleged payments he was making for two players at the school: Deandre Ayton and Rawle Alkins. Dawkins on FBI wiretap alleged Miller "was paying, or had promised to pay, $10,000 a month" for Ayton, according to Yahoo Sports.

The news that the NCAA is probing Arizona is no surprise. Yahoo Sports' Dan Wetzel, Pat Forde and Pete Thamel in February reported that an investigation into the program (and others) by the NCAA was ongoing, but until Friday, Arizona had not confirmed the probe. Plus, the inflammatory allegations brought to light in court over the last few weeks were always going to have ramifications with the NCAA.

It remains unclear if the probe could be the beginning of the end for Miller, who has staunchly denied all allegations he payed players to come to play for him in Tucson. But under new NCAA rules passed last year, which gives it the power to use outside evidence -- in this case, evidence via federal trial -- as part of its own case, the microscope on Miller and his program as a whole will be more intense than ever.

Miller's status was discussed on the latest Eye on College Basketball Podcast. 

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