Former Arizona Wildcats assistant men's basketball coach Emanuel "Book" Richardson has agreed to a plea deal with federal prosecutors in the FBI's investigation into corruption in college basketball.
Richardson was one of four NCAA men's basketball assistant coaches arrested and charged with fraud and corruption in 2017 following a federal investigation that began in 2015. Richardson, who had faced up to 60 years in prison, pled guilty to one county of federal funds bribery, which carries an 18-to-24-month prison sentence, according to Richardson's attorney Craig Mordock. Richardson's sentencing will be determined by the Southern District of New York.
Richardson allegedly accepted $20,000 in bribes and used money to influence UA basketball players who were set to play in the NBA to persuade them to sign with agents affiliated with sports agent Brandon Dawkins.
Tony Bland, a former USC assistant coaches who was among those arrested in 2017, recently agreed to a similar plea deal.
The UA men's basketball program has dealt with numerous off-court distractions since Richardson's arrest. Last year, ESPN's Mark Schlabach reported FBI wiretaps revealed UA head coach Sean Miller, whom Richardson coached under for a decade, discussing a $100,000 payment to the family of prized recruit and eventual No. 1 NBA Draft pick Deandre Ayton. Miller called the report false, and multiple college basketball reporters questioned the accuracy of the report.
The Arizona Board of Regents has met multiple times -- most recently in November -- to discuss the state of the Wildcat men's basketball program and to receive legal advice. UA president Robert Robbins and athletic director Dave Heeke have expressed support for Miller, though Miller's contract was amended in April so that he would forfeit $1 million if he is charged for a crime related to his employment, or is found guilty of committing a Level 1 NCAA violation.
Miller, who is in his 10th season as UA men's basketball coach, has not been formally charged with a crime, and the Wildcats currently boast the nation's top recruiting class for 2019. But despite Monday's announcement, Yahoo Sports said the UA men's basketball program isn't necessarily in the clear. Per that report:
While these deals mean fewer defendants and thus less evidence and testimony, Dawkins, through his lawyer, Steve Haney, has repeatedly declared he has no interest in pleading guilty to any crime or cooperating with prosecutors. He has vowed to fight all charges against him and deal with the consequences. That defense is expected to be vigorous. While Richardson, and his conduct at Arizona, will not be the main focus of the cases, it can still come up in detail in regards to the charges against Dawkins.
Also, any cooperation Richardson and others provide could also be shared with NCAA investigators, ramping up investigations into numerous major programs. The NCAA has confirmed a Yahoo Sports report that it has begun investigating allegations that have arisen from the federal case.