"The University of Arizona and head basketball coach Sean Miller have agreed that it is in the best interests of the University and the basketball program that he will not coach tonight's game in Eugene, Oregon," Arizona said in a statement Saturday afternoon. "Associate head coach Lorenzo Romar will coach in his place. Deandre Ayton is eligible and will play tonight."
The news comes less than 24 hours after an ESPN.com report cited anonymous sources claiming that NBA agent Andy Miller and Miller's company, ASM Sports.. ESPN.com's report does not provide direct quotes captured on wiretap from Miller but cited sources "familiar with the government's evidence." Miller is reportedly caught speaking on the phone to Christian Dawkins, essentially an agent-in-training who worked for then-
The call in question is just one of "multiple conversations about Ayton" between Dawkins and Miller, according to ESPN.com's report. The FBI reportedly has thousands of hours worth of wiretapped phone conversations.
Miller also released a short statement.
"I believe it is in the best interest of our team that I not coach the game tonight," Miller's statement reads. "I continue to fully support the University's efforts to fully investigate this matter and am confident that I will be vindicated. 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."
The Wildcats will not only be without Miller. but also co-leading scorer Allonzo Trier. Trier is appealing his eligibility to the NCAA after trace amounts of a banned substance in his system . Trier and Ayton are both averaging 19.6 points for the Wildcats.
Shortly after the news of Miller not coaching was made public, Shareef O'Neal posted on Twitter that he was de-committing from Arizona. O'Neal is the son of Shaquille O'Neal and a top-40 prospect in the Class of 2019.
At this time I'm am opening up my recruitment due to the current events with the UofA Bball team.I would like to thank all the coaches for recruiting me. At the time my family and I think it's in my best interest to look at other options to assure my play in the NCAA next year.— Shareef O’Neal (@SSJreef) February 24, 2018
Miller, 49, has coached at Arizona since 2009. Prior to that, he spent five seasons coaching Xavier. His career record is 362-119, but now Arizona's 22 wins this season could be subject to vacation from the school or the NCAA if Ayton is ultimately deemed ineligible in retrospect. With Ayton cleared by Arizona to play, more questions due to the details still unsettled from Friday's report.
Ayton pledged for Arizona in early September 2016, and the fact he did so came as a surprise. When he chose the Wildcats, his 247 Sports Crystal Ball predicted overwhelmingly for Kansas. The only other school suspected to get Ayton was Kentucky.
On Saturday night, the attorney representing the Ayton family released a statement. It was posted by Mark Schlabach, the ESPN.com reporter who reported Friday night's story about Miller and Dawkins.
Arizona has played the 2017-18 season under a cloud of tumult, as the program was one of the major components to the FBI's widespread investigation into college basketball recruiting.
Former Arizona assistant coach Book Richardson was charged in September. Richardson had continuously worked for Miller dating back to their time at Xavier. The FBI alleges Richardson took $20,000 in bribes from an undercover agent and help facilitate, illegally, recruitments of coveted, high-profile prospects. Richardson was officially fired by Arizona on Jan. 11. He faces charges for six felonies, including conspiracy to commit bribery and wire fraud conspiracy. Richardson is scheduled to go to trial in April of 2019.
Despite Miller's long-standing affiliation with Richardson, when the FBI story first broke Arizona's athletic director and president publicly stood behind Miller, who at the time said this in an official statement: "I recognize my responsibility is not only to establish a culture of success on the basketball court and in the classroom, but as important, to promote and reinforce a culture of compliance. To the best of my ability, I have worked to demonstrate this over the past 8 years and will continue to do so as we move forward."
Dawkins was one of 10 men charged in September in the FBI bust of college basketball's illicit recruiting underworld, and a Yahoo Sports report from Fridaythat purportedly laid out expenses he made in pursuit of landing prospects. Some of the money amounts shown in the documents published by Yahoo have been denied by the parties associated with said amounts, specifically meals Dawkins made note of in his expense reports.
With Miller's future uncertain, he could become the second head coach to lose his job because of the FBI probe. In October, Louisville fired Hall of Famer Rick Pitino; in wake of the NCAA taking away Louisville's 2012-13 national title. Pitino and Miller having their careers threatened, if not torpedoed, because of the unprecedented involvement of the FBI is a big part of the reason why most in the world of college basketball consider this to be the biggest off-the-court story in the sport's history.