Arizona must fire Sean Miller amid mounting evidence he knowingly cheated

Jeff Eisenberg
Arizona head coach Sean Miller (AP Photo/Rick Scuteri)
Arizona head coach Sean Miller (AP Photo/Rick Scuteri)

When he issued a statement in support of Sean Miller after the FBI scandal broke last October, Arizona president Dr. Robert C. Robbins wisely left himself an out.

Robbins explained that he was backing Miller based on the facts he knew at that time, meaning that his stance could change if new evidence implicating Miller emerged.

New evidence has arrived five months later, and to say the least, none of it is good for Miller. FBI wiretaps intercepted phone conversations during which Miller discussed making a $100,000 payment to ensure that heralded freshman DeAndre Ayton signed with the Wildcats, reported late Friday night.

The FBI had tapped the phone of Christian Dawkins, the 24-year-old associate of agent Andy Miller who is a key figure in the FBI’s investigation into bribery and corruption in college basketball. When Dawkins asked Miller if he should work with assistant coach Book Richardson to finalize a deal, the Arizona coach responded that when it came to money Dawkins should deal directly with him, the report said.

Arizona also frequently popped up in a Yahoo Sports piece published Friday detailing Dawkins’ bid to aggressively recruit new clients for Miller. In emails obtained by Yahoo Sports, Dawkins said that former Arizona assistants Joe Pasternack and Emanuel “Book” Richardson were willing to persuade current players to hire Andy Miller to represent them when they turn pro in return for help landing five-star recruit Brian Bowen.

There’s no way that Sean Miller should be allowed to coach his team again in the wake of these reports. Not Saturday at Oregon and not anytime after that. Arizona cannot maintain the pretense it wants to abide by NCAA rules and keep Miller as its coach given the mounting evidence that he and his staff knowingly and repeatedly cheated to land high-profile recruits.

The federal complaint released in September alleged that Richardson accepted a total of $20,000 in bribes from Dawkins, most of which he allegedly gave to a top point guard who committed to Arizona in early August. The only player who fits that description is five-star point guard Jahvon Quinerly, who has since reneged on his commitment to Arizona and pledged to Villanova.

An Adidas executive is quoted in another section of the complaint saying that a recruit believed to be five-star forward Nassir Little had been offered $150,000 to commit to Arizona. In the complaint, Dawkins also referenced not being able to get involved with a current Arizona player because he is already being paid by someone else.

That Arizona administrators stood behind Miller last fall after those initial allegations reflects the win-at-all costs mentality in college athletics today.

Arizona was all too eager to accept the illogical argument that Richardson went rogue in an attempt to make a quick buck. Arizona was also all too willing to believe that a head coach as famously detail-oriented as Miller wouldn’t know how his longest-tenured assistant was operating.

The reason Arizona looked the other way is no mystery: Miller is valuable to the university because he wins. This is a man who brought stability to a proud yet floundering Arizona program when he arrived nine years ago, leading the Wildcats to a 241-72 record, four Pac-12 titles and six Sweet 16 appearances.

Arizona appeared to have a good chance to take Miller to the Final Four for the first time in his career this year before the Wildcats’ season went horribly awry. First came Richardson’s arrest in October. Then a lingering foot injury for standout wing Rawle Alkins. Next was Allonzo Trier’s latest suspension for PED use on Thursday. And now Friday’s news that the FBI has a recording of Miller discussing a six-figure payment to Ayton.

Of course, the fate of Arizona’s 2017-18 season is now the least of its worries.

Late Friday night, former Arizona star Jason Terry called on his alma mater to “clean house,” insisting the school has “too much pride, too much tradition to allow outsiders to tear down what we built.”

Good thing Robbins left himself that out when he threw his support behind Miller months ago. Now is his time to use it.

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Jeff Eisenberg is a college basketball writer for Yahoo Sports. Have a tip? Email him at or follow him on Twitter!