The situation with Sean Miller has grown odder still.
As you probably know, ESPN reported that an FBI wiretap revealed that he and indicted runner/agent Christian Dawkins discussed a payment to Deandre Ayton of $100,000.
However, Ayton played this weekend at Oregon State and now his attorney has released this statement saying that neither he, nor his family nor anyone representing them, has taken any money. And since Arizona and the NCAA allowed him to play, that’s hard to argue with (keep in mind that Miller was not allowed to coach).
So what gives?
Well the first question is: who leaked? The documents are under seal and can only be seen or heard by those who have been indicted or their attorneys. If you look at motive, you might think about Dawkins or former Arizona assistant Book Richardson. Either of those guys might have a motive to do that and far more than, say, Auburn’s Chuck Person.
Of course it’s possible that the feds leaked. That happens all the time. It could just be a personal relationship between the reporter and someone who has access to that material.
However, almost no one has heard the tapes and that includes people at the University of Arizona. Here’s what ESPN’s Mark Slabach said about those recordings:
“According to people with knowledge of the FBI investigation, Miller and Dawkins, a runner working for ASM Sports agent Andy Miller, had multiple conversations about Ayton. When Dawkins asked Sean Miller if he should work with assistant coach Emanuel ‘Book’ Richardson to finalize their agreement, Miller told Dawkins he should deal directly with him when it came to money, the sources said.”
It seems clear to us that Slabach has not heard the recordings.
Miller issued a statement saying he’d be “vindicated” (notably he didn’t say it didn’t happen). And despite some intense pressure, the university has not yet fired Miller.
However, that may take some time and legal maneuvering as Arizona gave Miller a contract that pays more for being fired for cause than not. It’s a huge error that could cost Arizona millions.
Or maybe not: there may be a widespread misunderstanding about Miller’s contract.
It’s important to remember that while the content of the alleged call has leaked there’s been no confirmation. And Ayton’s attorney, the university and apparently the NCAA see no problem so we have to assume that in fact no money went to him or his family.
So what the heck happened here?
Well, it seems to us there are a few possibilities:
- The story is absolutely correct - Miller and Dawkins discussed a $100,000 payment which Miller intended to make or have someone else make.
- The story is incomplete: Miller may have discussed the idea and then might have said something like he would never pay for a player and the comment about money could have been something like expenses racked up by Richardson or something out of context. That can’t be clear unless and until the phone calls are released.
- The payment was actually made but not given to Ayton and perhaps he never knew that he was the subject of a negotiation. That’s why charges were dropped against AAU figure Jonathan Brad Augustine, who was allegedly given money that was supposed to induce Brian Bowen to go to Louisville (the money reportedly went with Augustine to Vegas instead where he apparently had a pretty good time).
- Someone is out to get Miller or in some way manipulate public opinion about the case.
- Something else.
As we said, there’s a lot we don’t know still, but what we do know doesn’t make sense.
- Aaron Gordon supports Arizona coach Sean Miller, says college players should be paid
- Ron Cook: Disappointment and sadness for Sean Miller’s alleged involvement in college basketball scandal
- Our View: We ASU partisans take no joy in UA Wildcats’ agony
- Sean Miller caught on FBI wiretap; says he will be ‘vindicated’