After more than three years from its inception, the FBI investigation into corruption in college recruiting has claimed another casualty.
Sean Miller, the men’s basketball coach at University of Arizona, was fired yesterday.
Despite the fact that Miller has never been directly charged with anything other than failing to control his program, the college administration has finally decided to remove the dark cloud that has been hanging over the Wildcat program since Miller’s former assistant coach, Book Richardson, was among the first group of coaches to be caught up in the federal probe in September of 2017.
The NCAA launched its own investigation and, in October of 2020, delivered a Notice of Allegations to the university, but the school refused to release the contents of the NOA until last month when a lawsuit filed by ESPN forced the document into public view. The NOA contained five Level I violations for the program, one of which was leveled at Miller for failing to monitor his program.
For more than three years, Miller has managed to dodge any direct responsibility for the actions of Richardson — despite the fact that an ESPN report in February of 2018 claimed that Miller was caught on an FBI wiretap discussing with a sports agent a $100,000 payment to steer the nation’s top recruit, Deandre Ayton, to Tucson. Ayton spent one year as a Wildcat before entering the NBA draft, and now plays for the Phoenix Suns.
It appears the school is no longer willing to stand behind their coach of 12 seasons and has decided it is time to step away from what has become a continuing public relations nightmare for its men’s basketball program.
The university will reportedly honor Miller’s contract, which expires in May of next year. Associate head coach Jack Murphy, who left his job as head coach at Northern Arizona University two years ago to rejoin Miller’s staff, will take over as interim head coach.
Statements released by the school explained that the administration had evaluated the situation and “we feel like its the appropriate time to make a change, so that we can again restore , begin to rebuild the overall high-caliber status of this incredible world-class program.”
After the legendary Lute Olson spent 25 years building the Arizona program into a national power, Miller took it over in April of 2009 and continued to maintain a consistent national presence by pulling in top-10 recruiting classes year after year.
The 29-year coaching veteran, who has a 302-109 record at Arizona, took his team to seven NCAA tournaments, advancing to the Elite Eight three times, but never making it into the Final Four. During his time on the bench, the Wildcats either won outright, or shared, a total of five Pac-12 regular-season championships.
His 2020-21 team went 17-9 overall in his final season, with 11 conference wins. But the final regular-season game with Oregon, a 69-80 loss, was his last game as the Arizona coach. There was no Pac-12 Tournament or NCAA Tournament, since the university had self-imposed a ban on postseason play.
The postseason ban was a sign the university was beginning to clean up the mess.
Miller’s departure has become the next step in that process.