Sean Miller may not be coaching tonight, but Arizona will have its best player. Deandre Ayton is active for the Wildcats.
Rick Pitino was the first major college basketball coach to fall from the FBI probe into the sport. Sean Miller may very well be next.
FBI wiretaps intercepted telephone conversations between coach Sean Miller and Christian Dawkins, a key figure in the FBI’s investigation into college basketball corruption, in which Miller discussed paying $100,000 to ensure star freshman signed with the Wildcats, sources familiar with the government’s evidence told ESPN.
Ayton wound up going to Arizona, and is now a superstar for the Wildcats. He had potential to be the No. 1 pick in the NBA Draft later this year.
Miller will not coach tonight’s game against Oregon. He told his players earlier this afternoon, and the school announcement came just over an hour later.
Deandre Ayton, however, has been cleared to play.
In the same release, Arizona announced that the star big man will play against the Ducks. Here are both statements made by Arizona:
Statement from the University of Arizona:
The University of Arizona and head basketball coach Sean Miller have agreed that it is in the best interests of the University and the basketball program that he will not coach tonight’s game in Eugene, Oregon. Associate head coach Lorenzo Romar will coach in his place. Deandre Ayton is eligible and will play tonight.
Statement from Sean Miller:
I believe it is in the best interest of our team that I not coach the game tonight. 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 argument for playing Ayton is likely that while Miller was caught on tape, there is not yet hard evidence that he was paid. That seems flimsy, but clearly Arizona is willing to see what happens, and worry about an ineligible player later.
Ayton is averaging averaging 19.6 points and 9.6 rebounds per game. Tonight’s game at Oregon tips off at 10:15 p.m. ET, and will be broadcast on ESPN.