Arizona Wildcats men's basketball coach Sean Miller said ESPN's reports are false and he intends to continue coaching at UA, Miller said in a statement Thursday.
According to an ESPN report Friday, Miller was heard via an FBI wiretap discussing a $100,000 payment to UA freshman and potential No. 1 NBA Draft pick Deandre Ayton. Miller reportedly told his contact, former sports agent Christian Dawkins, that he should deal directly with former UA assistant coach Emanuel "Book" Richardson about money-related matters.
Miller did not coach in Saturday night's game at Oregon, but Ayton did play in that game.
"While I have done nothing wrong, I am responsible for our men’s basketball program, and I am sickened that we are in the spotlight for all the wrong reasons. Contrary to what has been written this past week, we do our best to run a clean program at The University of Arizona. I have done that since the first day I stepped foot on this campus. Compliance with NCAA rules is extremely important to us, and we work hard to create, maintain and monitor a culture of compliance within our program," Miller said in his statement.
"I have never knowingly violated NCAA rules while serving as head coach of this great program. I have never paid a recruit or prospect, or their family or representative, to come to Arizona. I never have, and I never will. I have never arranged or directed payment or any improper benefits to a recruit or prospect, or their family or representative, and I never will.
"These statements have damaged me, my family, the university, Deandre Ayton, and his incredible family. The only attempted corrections by the original source of the media statements are still inaccurate and completely false.
"I have been completely open and transparent, and I look forward to coaching this outstanding team as we seek to capture a Pac-12 regular-season championship this week. I now intend to turn my focus to basketball, and our players and this team."
Richardson was one of four NCAA assistant basketball coaches arrested in September following a lengthy FBI investigation into corruption in college basketball. In early October, Miller said he was "devastated" to learn of Richardson's dealings, and UA eventually fired Richardson.
"ESPN stands by its reporting on Miller and the FBI investigation," ESPN wrote in a story about Miller's press conference Thursday.
The Arizona Board of Regents held a meeting in Thursday to discuss the UA men's basketball program. At the conclusion of that meeting, UA president Robert Robbins expressed support for Miller and said he expects Miller to coach Arizona for the rest of the season. Robbins said he believes Ayton is not guilty of any wrongdoing.
"Earlier this week, we met with Coach Miller at length and asked him direct and pointed questions. He was eager to speak with us and answered every question we asked. At this time we have no reason to believe that Coach Miller violated NCAA rules or any laws regarding the allegation reported in the media. Additionally, he has a record of compliance with NCAA rules, and he has been cooperative with this process," Robbins and UA athletic director Dave Heeke said in a joint statement.
"While some might be tempted to rush to judgment when there is intense public pressure, due process is the bedrock of fair treatment and acting with integrity. With that in mind, we will continue to pursue every avenue of inquiry available to us during an active federal investigation to fully understand the facts. We recognize that investigation is ongoing, and we will continue to be respectful and cooperative through its conclusion.
"Deandre Ayton, who has been subjected to false, public reports that impugned his reputation, has our full support. We ask that the Wildcat Family rally behind these young men and our coaching staff tonight and throughout the rest of our season."
In a statement, ABOR chair Bill Ridenour said he stands by Robbins' decision.
The 49-year-old Miller was hired as UA's head coach before the 2009-10 season, replacing longtime Wildcat head coach Lute Olson. He led the Wildcats to four Pac-12 championships and three Elite Eight appearances in the NCAA Tournament. He was a three-time Pac-12 Coach of the Year.
Prior to his time at UA, Miller was the head coach at Xavier University. He played college basketball at The University of Pittsburgh.
Arizona is currently in first place in the Pac-12 conference. It is scheduled to host Stanford on Thursday night and Cal on Saturday to conclude regular-season play. UA will head to Las Vegas next week to compete in the Pac-12 Tournament.
Some UA players reacted to Miller's press conference Thursday.
— Rawle Alkins (@Iam_RawleAlkins) March 1, 2018
— Dušan Ristić (@ristic_dusan) March 1, 2018