Arizona’s Sean Miller will not coach against Oregon on Saturday night, a day after ESPN reported through anonymous sources that he was heard on an FBI wiretap discussing a $100,000 payment to current Wildcats freshman Deandre Ayton.
The school said Ayton will be eligible to play against the Ducks and associate head coach Lorenzo Romar will lead the No. 14 Wildcats. Arizona also will be without preseason All-American guard Allonzo Trier, who tested positive for the same banned substance that cost him 19 games last season. Trier and Ayton are Arizona’s top two scorers.
“I believe it is in the best interest of our team that I not coach the game tonight,” Miller said in a statement. “I continue to fully support the University’s efforts to fully investigate this matter and am confident that I will be vindicated. For now, my thoughts are with our team. They are a great group of young men that will support each other and continue their pursuit of winning a Pac-12 championship.”
The school did not specify why Miller won’t coach against Oregon or if he will sit out any other games.
ESPN reported Friday night, citing sources familiar with government evidence, that Miller was heard on a wiretap discussing a $100,000 payment to Ayton to sign with the school. ESPN did not say its reporter heard the audio directly.
Arizona was caught up in the first round of the corruption scandal in September.
Assistant coach Emanuel Richardson was among 10 people arrested as part of a federal probe alleging bribes and kickbacks were being used to influence star players’ choices of schools, shoe sponsors, agents and other services like tailors and financial managers. Payments of up to $150,000, supplied by Adidas, were promised to at least three top high school recruits to attend two schools sponsored by the shoe company, according to federal prosecutors.
Richardson was arrested along with assistant coaches from USC, Auburn and Oklahoma State.
Shaquille O’Neal’s son, Shareef, announced Saturday on Twitter that he is opening up his recruitment, citing the problems at Arizona. O’Neal is one of the nation’s top high school recruits and previously committed to Arizona.
“At this time I’m am opening up my recruitment due to the current events with the UofA Bball team,” O’Neal tweeted. “I would like to thank all the coaches for recruiting me. At the time my family and I think it’s in my best interest to look at other options to assure my play in the NCAA next year.”
Trier was declared ineligible this week after a trace amount of a banned substance was discovered during a drug test late last month. The school said it believes the substance Trier unknowingly ingested a year ago, and said the NCAA agreed. Trier did not play in Arizona’s 75-65 win over Oregon State on Thursday.
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