TUCSON, AZ — While college basketball programs head to their respective conference tournaments this week, the University of Arizona men's program is sitting at home serving its one-year self-imposed postseason ban. The future beyond that is murky at best, but school president Robert C. Robbins backed his coach today.
"Coach Miller is our coach. We're working with him about remaining our coach, obviously," said Robbins. "We want to move forward to continue to make progress and keep our team together and give him the ability to go out and recruit players and plan for next year."
While Miller is at the heart of the five Level I NCAA rules violations Arizona faces, the university is in a quandary. Miller is entering the final year of his contract, which for recruiting purposes is a no-go. The time is now to either extend him or fire him.
"He's out there recruiting," said Robbins. "We've got a really good team. They're young, but good, and we're eager to move forward and get the final chapter of this now almost-four-year saga over."
"You can say what you want about Sean Miller, but he's not the first one, and he's not the last one [involved in NCAA scandal]. But as a head coach, he's knee-deep in this," said David Ridpath, an expert on NCAA compliance and sanctions. "The fact that they [UA] really fought this, I think really put them into a corner. If Arizona wants to live or die with Sean Miller, that's exactly what's going to happen."
While the NCAA Notice of Allegations said the ultimate responsibility for the integrity of the men's basketball program rested with Miller, and his staff's actions reflect on him as the head coach, Athletic Director Dave Heeke and President Robbins were also named in the NOA for "compromising the integrity of the investigation."
"There's still some very serious allegations against Sean Miller, and certainly the head coach control aspect, but to actually have the athletic director and president and other administrators mentioned, that was a bit surprising. That's the bigger red flag for me in many ways," said Ridpath. "You combine that with really fighting like hell to keep the NOA from being public, it just does not make the university look really good. I do wonder once this is all done, it sounds to me what we might be looking at are some wholesale changes, not just in basketball."
President Robbins said the school hasn't heard from the Independent Accountability Resolution Process, which is also adjudicating cases against LSU and Kansas, but once they do, there is no more appeals process.
"I'm eagerly awaiting them to tell us how they view what the NCAA has done to this point," said Robbins. "Are they going to add more things to us? Are they going to hopefully take away some things? Then once we hear from the IARP, which I unfortunately think is going to be weeks, if not months away, then we can move forward with responding to these new allegations and finally find out what is the final verdict in this very long, very taxing, complex and very sad chapter in the history of the University of Arizona."