The college basketball world is on pins and needles right now as it awaits the fallout from the FBI’s investigation into a widespread NCAA pay-for-play scandal that hinges on numerous documents recovered from and wiretaps of Christian Dawkins and the agency ASM Sports.
The scandal first led to Rick Pitino’s resignation from Louisville, but for months we’ve waited for other big names to be implicated. Documents the FBI obtained detailed various payments made to current and former college stars, but the biggest news was an ESPN report that Arizona coach Sean Miller had been caught on tape discussing a $100,000 payment to current top NBA prospect Deandre Ayton.
That report has faced significant scrutiny since it came out a week ago, as Ayton allegedly denied any conversation of payments with Arizona to the FBI and details from ESPN’s initial report have been questioned, including when the conversation in question happened and if Ayton was even the player involved. While Miller decided not to coach Arizona’s game against Oregon over the weekend, which resulted in a loss, Ayton has continued to play and the coach finally spoke to the media with a fiery denial of ESPN’s reporting on Thursday afternoon.
Miller did not field questions, but read from a prewritten statement denying the report he ever spoke to Christian Dawkins about paying Ayton or that he’s ever paid or arranged for a payment for a recruit. He also said he would be returning his focus to coaching, which would indicate he’ll be back on the bench for Arizona’s next game.
It’s a strong statement and it will be interesting to see how ESPN responds to this, as the reporting in question has come under fire.