Arizona coach Sean Miller sits out game following wiretap report

Arizona head coach Sean Miller in the first half during an NCAA college basketball game against Oregon, Saturday, Jan. 13, 2018, in Tucson, Ariz. (AP Photo/Rick Scuteri)
Rick Scuteri/AP
Arizona coach Sean Miller sat out Saturday night’s game against Oregon.

Arizona’s Sean Miller will not coach against Oregon Saturday night, a day after ESPN reported through anonymous sources that he was heard on an FBI wiretap discussing a $100,000 payment to current Wildcats freshman Deandre Ayton.

The school said Ayton will be eligible to play against the Ducks and associate head coach Lorenzo Romar will lead the No. 14 Wildcats. Arizona also will be without preseason All-American guard Allonzo Trier, who tested positive for the same banned substance that cost him 19 games last season. Trier and Ayton are Arizona’s top two scorers.

‘‘I believe it is in the best interest of our team that I not coach the game tonight,’’ Miller said in a statement. ‘‘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 school did not specify why Miller won’t coach against Oregon or if he will sit out any other games.

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ESPN reported Friday night, citing sources familiar with government evidence, that Miller was heard on a wiretap discussing a $100,000 payment to Ayton to sign with the school. ESPN did not say its reporter heard the audio directly.

Arizona was caught up in the first round of the corruption scandal in September.

Assistant coach Emanuel Richardson was among 10 people arrested as part of a federal probe alleging bribes and kickbacks were being used to influence star players’ choices of schools, shoe sponsors, agents and other services like tailors and financial managers. Payments of up to $150,000, supplied by Adidas, were promised to at least three top high school recruits to attend two schools sponsored by the shoe company, according to federal prosecutors.

Richardson was arrested along with assistant coaches from Southern California, Auburn, and Oklahoma State.


Shaquille O’Neal’s son, Shareef, announced Saturday on Twitter that he is opening up his recruitment, citing the problems at Arizona. O’Neal is one of the nation’s top high school recruits and previously committed to Arizona.

‘‘At this time I’m am opening up my recruitment due to the current events with the UofA Bball team,’’ O’Neal tweeted. ‘‘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.’’

Trier was declared ineligible this week after a trace amount of a banned substance was discovered during a drug test late last month. The school said it believes the substance Trier unknowingly ingested a year ago, and said the NCAA agreed. Trier did not play in Arizona’s 75-65 win over Oregon State on Thursday.

Meanwhile, Michigan State said its star player Miles Bridges was cleared to play by the NCAA.

Documents showed Bridges may have improperly accepted benefits from an agency implicated in the federal investigation.


“Michigan State presented its findings to the NCAA, and Miles Bridges has been cleared for competition moving forward, beginning Sunday at Wisconsin,’’ Michigan State interim athletic director Bill Beekman said in a statement Saturday.

Bridges is averaging 17-plus points and nearly seven rebounds for the second-ranked Spartans.

At Kentucky, the university said it found no eligibility issues or rules violations with current players and staff after Friday’s Yahoo! Sports report listed Wildcats freshman Kevin Knox among several players having had a meal or contact with a former agent.

Knox and former Wildcats Bam Adebayo and Nerlens Noel were mentioned in the report. The school said in a statement Saturday it reviewed the matter and determined there were no issues or violations ‘‘based on the available information.’’

Elswehere, San Diego State provisionally suspended senior forward Malik Pope, the team’s leading scorer and rebounder, while its compliance department investigates whether he received a $1,400 loan from an agent.

And Texas is withholding junior guard Eric Davis Jr. from competition until further notice after he allegedly received, according to the documents, a $1,500 loan from ASM Sports associate Christian Dawkins.

The documents obtained by Yahoo include bank records and expense reports from former NBA agent Andy Miller and his agency, ASM Sports. Duke, North Carolina, Texas, Kentucky, and Michigan State are among the schools involved.

The documents, obtained in discovery phase of the investigation, also link current players including Michigan State’s Bridges, Duke’s Wendell Carter, and Alabama’s Collin Sexton to potential benefits that would be violations of NCAA rules.

The NCAA was obviously outraged, but is in a difficult spot. The documents have not been made public and the organization can’t exactly take action against schools or players based upon a report by a news agency.

Should the information be made public before or during the NCAA Tournament, the NCAA would be faced with potentially having to declare some of the nation’s top players ineligible and impose sanctions on many of the game’s most recognizable programs.