Arizona’s men’s basketball program will not compete in the NCAA Tournament in 2021.
The school announced a self-inflicted postseason ban on Tuesday, doing so in advance of the school going before the Independent Accountability Resolution Process (IARP) later in 2021. This is the second such move by a program impacted by the FBI’s investigation into corruption in college basketball recruiting, a sting operation that began in 2017.
In November, Auburn, which like Arizona had an assistant plead guilty to federal crimes, announced it would be taking a self-imposed postseason ban for 2021.
On Tuesday, Arizona put out this statement: “The University of Arizona is self-imposing a one-year postseason ban on the UA men’s basketball program as a proactive measure in its ongoing NCAA enforcement process. The decision is an acknowledgement that the NCAA’s investigation revealed that certain former members of the MBB staff displayed serious lapses in judgment and a departure from the University’s expectation of honest and ethical behavior. It is also in accord with the penalty guidelines of the NCAA for the type of violations involved. This decision also reinforces the institution’s commitment to accountability and integrity as well as serving the best long-term interests of the university and the men’s basketball program.”
The statement is in part referring to Book Richardson, a former Arizona assistant coach who pled guilty to federal bribery charges in 2019. The NCAA brought forth nine Level I charges against the school this fall, a source previously confirmed to CBS Sports, with a handful of those charges directly tied to the men’s basketball program and/or head coach Sean Miller.
“I understand and fully support the university’s decision to self-impose a one-year post season ban on our men’s basketball program,” Miller said. “Our team will remain united and aggressively compete to win a Pac-12 championship.”
A source told CBS Sports that Arizona’s players were notified of the university’s decision on Tuesday morning. The news comes amid a good start for the Wildcats this season. Arizona won by 14 at home vs. Colorado on Monday night and is off to a 7-1 start. It is unusual for a school in the midst of an NCAA investigation and litigation process to proactively remove itself from the postseason when the team has a good record. One recent analog is Louisville. In 2016, the Cardinals were 18-4 when they announced they would take a postseason ban on their own account. The NCAA wound up not punishing Louisville further with other postseason bans, but the school was put on probation — which it subsequently violated.
Louisville had former assistant coaches accused of wrongdoing after they were lassoed into the federal investigation as well. More than a dozen schools were caught in the crosshairs. It remains to be seen how the IARP avenue is going to go. Memphis is the first school to go through this process (and its case is unrelated to the FBI investigation) and the timeline on its cases is not publicly known.
By the time Arizona is due up with the IARP, schools like NC State, Kansas, LSU, USC and others will have already had their day with that independent panel. Moves like what Arizona did on Tuesday have become a proactive action to potentially avoid harsher punishments from the NCAA’s Committee on Infractions, but keep in mind that the Committee on Infractions will not be hearing Arizona’s case. So until there are precedents set by the IARP, the self-imposed postseason ban tactic stands as something of a gamble for schools trying to get ahead of the hammer.