Arizona Coach Sean Miller Denies ESPN Report, Will Return to Team

Arizona basketball coach Sean Miller will remain with the team after a report said he was recorded discussing paying a player on the phone.
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Arizona coach Sean Miller will remain with the program.

In the press conference Thursday, Miller denied an ESPN report that said he had a phone conversations with former ASM Sports employee Christian Dawkins about a $100,000 payment for freshman DeAndre Ayton and said he has never paid any player or player's family to attend Arizona. 

Miller met with school administrators and his lawyers Monday to discuss his future, according to Evan Daniels and Josh Gershon of 247 Sports. The Arizona regents held a special meeting Thursday to discuss the program and Miller's contract.  

Miller didn't coach Saturday night's game against Oregon after the report had surfaced. 

The coach said he was "confident that (he would) be vindicated" in a statement released prior to Saturday's game. 

ESPN's Mark Schlabach reported Friday that FBI wiretaps showed Miller had multiple conversations with Dawkins about a $100,000 payment to secure the commitment of Ayton. According to Schlabach, Miller told Dawkins to go directly through him as opposed to going through former Arizona assistant Emanuel "Book" Richardson.

Richardson was one of four Division I assistants to be arrested and charged by FBI agents as a result of the agency's investigation into NCAA corruption and bribery. Dawkins was arrested in the fall for his role in facilitating multiple improper payments and benefits to recruits. 

Ayton played in the Oregon game.  

A day after ESPN's report was released, four-star recruit Shareef O'Neal de-comitted from Arizona. O'Neal, the son of NBA Hall of Famer Shaquille O'Neal, committed to UCLA Tuesday.  

However, there have been some doubts raised about the ESPN report. Daniels, Gershon and Brian Snow of 247 Sports noted some discrepancies in the timeline laid out by ESPN. The ESPN report was updated to clarify the date of the call between Miller and Dawkins, but it did not match with the dates the U.S. Attorney's office said it had been wiretapping Dawkins' line, a source told 247 Sports. ESPN issued a correction on it's original story to say the conversation happened in 2016, but 247 Sports reports the U.S. Attorney's office was wiretapping Dawkins from June 9, 2017 through Sept. 25.

Pat Forde of Yahoo! Sports appeared on ESPN 680 and said there was nothing in the documents Yahoo! Sports reviewed that mentioned Miller.

Miller has been the head coach at Arizona since 2009 after coaching at Xavier since 2004. He is a three-time Pac-12 Coach of the Year and has led the Wildcats to four Pac-12 titles. He has a 242–73 record with the Wildcats. 

His contract could become a legal mess of its own, as Sports Illustrated's legal analyst Michael McCann wrote

No. 19 Arizona leads the conference this season at 22–7. The team next faces Stanford on Thursday, and Jeff Goodman of ESPN reports that Miller will coach in that game.