At a press conference today, Arizona basketball coach Sean Miller read a defiant statement, denying that he’d done anything wrong and calling ESPN’s report about him being caught on FBI wiretaps discussing a $100,000 payment to then-recruit DeAndre Ayton “completely false and defamatory.”
“I regret all the negative attention that has been focused on our program,” Miller said. “While I have done nothing wrong, I am responsible for our men’s basketball program and I have been sickened that we are in the spotlight for all the wrong reasons. I have never knowingly violated NCAA rules while serving as coach of this great program. I have never paid a recruit or prospect ... and I never will.”
“Let me be very very clear: I have never discussed with Christian Dawkins paying DeAndre Ayton to attend the University of Arizona,” Miller said. “I also want you to know that the one time someone suggested to me paying a player to come to the University of Arizona I did not agree to it. It did not happen, and that player did not come to the University of Arizona.”
In the immediate aftermath of the ESPN report, Miller did not coach Arizona’s next game, a loss to Oregon, although Ayton played. Shareef O’Neal, top recruit and son of Shaquille, opted to back out of his commitment and head to UCLA in the wake of the scandal.
Arizona was initially implicated in the federal investigation of the NCAA, as assistant coach and longtime Miller ally Book Richardson was shown to be the point man in paying players to come to the school. Several prominent basketball figures, including LeBron James, have criticized the NCAA for their structural rot, and while the NCAA and FBI are talking a big game about restoring the integrity of college basketball, they’re simply going after coaches paying players small amounts of money and working to preserve the NCAA’s exploitative labor model.
Because of a quirk in Miller’s contract, he will be owed twice as much if he is fired with cause than if he is fired without cause.