“Based on the facts that we know at this time, we support Coach Miller and intend to provide him with all of the tools necessary to meet our goals and expectations.”
That was the official statement by the University of Arizona administration, in support of the school’s head basketball coach, Sean Miller, following the revelation of an FBI investigation that had scooped up one of his assistant coaches in its far-flung probe of corruption in college recruiting.
However, that statement was issued in October of 2017. Not March of 2021.
For more than three years, Miller has managed to dodge any direct responsibility for the actions of his assistant, Book Richardson. Allegations were handed down, but the school has until now refused to share them.
Richardson was among a small handful of assistant coaches who had been indicted on bribery charges in the federal investigation. He was immediately suspended from the program, and shortly thereafter fired.
Many in the media expected the university to shed the liability and move on with a new coach, rather than get tangled up in a messy situation that could damage the school’s reputation.
None other than Jay Bilas predicted the end of Miller’s coaching career. Bilas, a top ESPN college basketball analyst and one of the most respected voices in the game, told a national audience on a telecast of College Game Day that “I can’t imagine him ever coaching in college again. You can’t deny the facts.”
But Miller is still on the Arizona bench. He just finished his 12th season as head coach.
Even after an ESPN report in late February of 2018 that said Miller was caught on an FBI wiretap discussing with a sports agent a $100,000 payment to steer the nation’s top high school prospect, Deandre Ayton, toward Tucson. Ayton played one season at UofA before entering the NBA draft and is now playing for the Phoenix Suns.
Two years later, in October of 2020, the NCAA delivered a Notice of Allegations to the school, but it had refused, despite numerous public-records requests, to release the contents of the NOA.
But last week, that NOA was forced open for public view, thanks to a lawsuit filed in Arizona Superior Court by ESPN.
According to those documents released by the school on Friday, Miller is facing a Level 1 charge for failing to monitor Richardson and another assistant coach. The basketball program received four other Level 1 violations that included several unethical-conduct charges and one for an institutional lack of control.
A Level 1 violation is the most serious handed down by the college sports governing body. Should Miller be found guilty of the charge, it could cost him $1 million, based on the terms of his most recent contract.
However, that may be the least of his worries. If Arizona decides to cut its losses and run, Miller could be out of a very lucrative job.
And Jay Bilas’ prediction could finally come true.