Arizona’s Sean Miller will not coach the Wildcats Saturday night against Oregon, as college basketball continues to reel from Friday’s reports by ESPN and Yahoo Sports regarding the FBI investigation into corruption in the sport. Associate head coach Lorenzo Romar will coach in Miller’s place against the Ducks.
“I believe it is the best interest of our team that I not coach the game tonight. I continue to fully support the university’s efforts to fully investigate this matter and am confident that I will be vindicated,” Miller said in a statement released by the school Saturday afternoon. “For now, my thoughts are with our team. They are a great group of young men that will support each other and continue their pursuit of winning a Pac-12 championship.”
Miller, it was reported by ESPN on Friday, was captured on an FBI telephone wiretap discussing a $100,000 bribe to ensure star recruit Deandre Ayton signed with Arizona. That story was published hours after Yahoo Sports reported on hundreds of documents suggesting current and former players at more than 20 Division I schools, including Arizona, had received impermissible benefits.
Ayton is eligible to play Saturday, Arizona said in a statement.
During ESPN’s “College Gameday” on Saturday, analyst Jay Bilas called the ESPN report “a career-ending thing for Sean Miller. Career-ending. I can’t imagine him ever coaching in college again.” He also suggested Arizona put Miller on administrative leave until the investigation has been completed.
Fellow analyst Seth Greenberg, the former head coach at Virginia Tech, echoed Bilas, saying Miller “will not coach another game at Arizona, Deandre Ayton will not play another game at Arizona, and the games that he did play will be forfeited, and Arizona will not play in the NCAA tournament.”
NCAA President Mark Emmert said Saturday in an interview with CBS that it was the school’s decision regarding the coach and player named in the ESPN story. Emmert added that the NCAA has been in touch with every school named in the report and is looking into potential eligibility issues, which Emmert hopes will be resolved by Selection Sunday on March 11.
Should Miller be fired, he stands to make a hefty sum from Arizona. As reported by ESPN’s Darren Rovell, Miller will be owed $5.15 million should he be let go without a reason — and, in a bizarre twist, $10.3 million if he is fired for cause, which federal crimes typically constitute.
Miller has been the head coach at Arizona since 2009, leading the program to four regular season and two tournament championships in the Pac-12, as well as three Elite Eight appearances. He was named Pac-12 Coach of the Year in 2011, 2014 and 2017, and the Wildcats currently sit atop the conference at 12-3 (22-6 overall).
Texas announced Eric Davis Jr., who was mentioned in the documents published by Yahoo, will be held out of competition while it investigates the allegations. San Diego State’s Mailk Pope, who was also named, was provisionally suspended by the school and did not travel with the team for Saturday’s game against San Jose State.
Several other athletes mentioned, however, were cleared by their respective schools. Michigan State released a statement that said star player Miles Bridges had been cleared by the NCAA; Alabama’s Collin Sexton played against Arkansas; and Duke’s Wendell Carter was also cleared by an internal investigation by the school. Kentucky, which was also named in the Yahoo report, said it conducted a review and found no eligibility issues or rules violations of any current student-athletes or staff. And USC said its launched an investigation into the naming of leading scorer Chimezie Metu, and has thus far determined him eligible to continue playing. Per Sports Illustrated, the Trojans will “act accordingly” should more information concerning Metu arise.
While details continue to emerge, at least one high-profile recruit made a decision based on the allegations in the reports. Shaquille O’Neal’s son, Shareef, announced his decommitment from Arizona on Saturday.