Sean Miller is in some hot water. The head coach of the Arizona Men’s Basketball team has been thrust into the center of the FBI’s college hoops recruiting investigation. According to ESPN’s Mark Schlabach, FBI wiretaps have intercepted phone conversations between Miller and sports agent Christian Dawkins in which the two discussed paying $100,000 to ensure star recruit DeAndre Ayton signed with Arizona.
Miller will not coach in Arizona’s game against Oregon on Feb. 24, according to Greg Hansen. His future status is still very much up in the air. Ayton is currently a freshman on the Wildcats roster and is considered one of the best first-year players in the nation. Miller is the latest high profile name to be implicated in a long-running FBI investigation which is exposing the underbelly of college basketball recruiting.
Here’s what you need to know:
1. The FBI Has Intercepted Over 3,000 Hours of Calls From Dawkins
Miller and Dawkins had “multiple conversations” about the status of Ayton. According to the ESPN report: “When Dawkins asked Sean Miller if he should work with assistant coach Emanuel ‘Book’ Richardson to finalize their agreement, Miller told Dawkins he should deal directly with him when it came to money, the sources said.”
Richardson and Dawkins were both on the FBI’s radar. Richardson was indicted by a federal grand jury in November on multiple charges, including conspiracy to commit bribery and wire fraud. Richardson was one of four assistant men’s basketball coaches at Division I schools who were implicated in the scandal. Those charges came after Dawkins was arrested by federal authorities in late September for similar charges. Dawkins faces a maximum of 200 years in prison.
2. Miller’s Contract Provides Him With Unique Protection
If Miller is fired for cause, the wording of his contract states he would still be paid more than 85 percent of the money he is owed, according to ESPN. That percentage on a firing for cause is “unprecedented” and no clause exists in Miller’s deal which waives the university’s obligation to pay him in the event of an NCAA violation, which appears likely to occur. Miller is under contract through the 2022 season, he is one of the highest paid coaches in the nation and is owed approximately $12 million through the end of his deal.
It gets weirder. If Arizona fires Miller without cause, there will be a 50 percent reduction in what is owed to him. So if the school fired Miller based on these recruiting violations (with cause) they would end up paying him nearly twice as more than if they fired him for no justified reason. There is also a clause in Miller’s contract which states he would have to pay up to $300,000 in damages to the university if an NCAA violation is committed. Arizona also has the right to “claw back” bonuses awarded to Miller. According to AZCentral.com, should Miller leave on his own accord, he would owe the university $500,000. It’s also possible that the two sides negotiate an arrangement to expedite the process.
You can view Miller’s full contract here.
3. Miller Won’t Coach For Arizona On Feb. 24 Against Oregon
It’s unsure what his status will be beyond that, but according to Arizona Daily Star columnist Greg Hansen, Miller won’t be on the bench in the game against the Ducks. The timing of this couldn’t be worse for the Wildcats, who are gearing up for the NCAA Tournament. The team is also in contention for a Pac 12 championship. The game against the Ducks will be a nationally-televised tilt against a conference rival.
A few days after his assistant coach Emmanuel “Book” Richardson was indicted on federal bribery and fraud charges, Miller did release an official statement which said:
“I was devastated to learn last week of the allegations made against Emanuel Richardson. I have expressed to both (University of Arizona President) Dr. Robbins and our Athletic Director Dave Heeke that I fully support the University’s efforts to fully investigate these allegations. As the head basketball coach at the University of Arizona, 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.”
4. Ayton Is One Of The Best Players In The Nation
DeAndre Ayton is considered one of the best freshman in the nation and is also in contention for national player of the year honors. The 7-foot-1 center from the Bahamas is averaging a double-double, with 19.6 points and 10.9 rebounds per game. He will most likely turn pro after his freshman season at Arizona.
In high school, he was a top rated recruit out of Phoenix’s Hillcrest Prep, a prestigious basketball academy. He chose Arizona over Kentucky and Kansas. “He is very excited,” Hillcrest director and co-founder Matt Allen said to AZCentral.com. “He always wanted to go to college. It’s been in his plans. He is excited about going to UA and staying in the state. His mom is going to stay in Phoenix.”
5. The NCAA Has Clearly Defined Amateurism Rules
Rules that are coming under fire in light of this recent investigation. According to the NCAA website: “All incoming student-athletes must be certified as amateurs.” The site clearly defines what an amateur cannot do in order to remain eligible for competition.
That list includes: “Contracts with professional teams; salary for participating in athletics; prize money above actual and necessary expenses; play with professionals; tryouts, practice or competition with a professional team; benefits from an agent or prospective agent; agreement to be represented by an agent; delayed initial full-time collegiate enrollment to participate in organized sports competition.”
Since news of the Arizona scandal broke, former players have come out and voiced their opinion on the topic. Former NBA star Jason Terry is calling for a complete overhaul of the Wildcats program.