UA president reaffirms commitment to Sean Miller following federal trial

University of Arizona President Robert Robbins on Wednesday reaffirmed his commitment to men’s basketball coach Sean Miller following the conclusion of the NCAA corruption federal trial that showed top college coaches were paid off to steer NBA-bound athletes to favored handlers.

Miller has come under fire for the better part of the last year for allegations he either paid players to attend the university or wasn’t knowledgeable about the actions happening within his program.

“Sean’s our coach and we look forward to continuing to participate and cooperate in all the investigations that are going on,” Robbins told KGUN in Tucson on Wednesday. “But Sean’s our coach.”

Miller, 50, has coached Arizona for the past 10 seasons.

In early 2018, ESPN first reported that wiretaps included Miller discussing payments with aspiring sports business agent Christian Dawkins, one of two men who were convicted of bribery conspiracy during the trial. While prior federal trials involving the college basketball scandal confirmed the two spoke, there has yet to be audio evidence used in a trial of Miller speaking to Dawkins about such payments.

The prosecutor during the trial also sought to ask Dawkins about his relationship with Miller. The questioning went nowhere after a judge sustained objections to it.

Miller’s name came up on a wiretap recording played at the trial, but the government never alleged he was involved in the bribery scheme. He has declined to comment.

ESPN’s initial report said FBI wiretaps included conversations between Dawkins and Miller about a $100,000 sum to ensure former top prospect and current Phoenix Suns center Deandre Ayton landed with the Wildcats. On March 1, 2018, following that report, Miller missed a road game as the school looked into the allegations. The head coach returned and read a prepared statement refuting ESPN’s story.

“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,” Miller said.

“Let me be very very clear: I have never discussed with Christian Dawkins paying Deandre Ayton to attend the University of Arizona. In fact, I never even met or spoke to Christian Dawkins until after Deandre publicly announced he was coming to our school. Any reporting to the contrary is inaccurate, false and defamatory.”

Wiretap audio collected by the FBI and played in the trial last Wednesday includes former Arizona Wildcats assistant Emanuel “Book” Richardson claiming head coach Sean Miller paid players, according to Yahoo! Sports.

A third-party attorney, Paul Kelly, was hired by the University of Arizona upon the basketball program’s link to the corruption investigation. He has attended the trials in New York, according to the Arizona Daily Star.

Regardless of Miller breaking any NCAA recruiting rules, he could be at risk of punishment by the NCAA due to a bylaw that says head coaches are responsible for the assistants’ actions.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.