An assistant basketball coach at the University of Arizona told a recruiter for a professional sports agent in June 2017 that Wildcats head coach Sean Miller had “bought” the services of star center Deandre Ayton for $10,000 per month.
The phone call was recorded by investigators and was played in Manhattan federal court on Wednesday during the bribery trial of the recruiter, Christian Dawkins, and another man, former amateur coach Mel Corde. Both men are accused of funneling money from apparel giant Adidas to the families of prominent recruits to get them to attend colleges sponsored by the company.
Yahoo Sports said Arizona assistant coach Emanuel Richardson and Dawkins were discussing the possibility of recruiting Ayton to sign with Dawkins’ sports management firm when Richardson asked, “You know what he [Miller] bought per month?” When Dawkins indicated he didn’t know, Richardson answered, “I told you, 10.”
“He’s putting up some real money for them [expletive deleted],” Dawkins responded.
Miller, who led the men’s hoops program at Xavier University for five seasons before becoming head coach at Arizona in 2009, has denied violating any NCAA rules. He and LSU head coach Will Wade had been subpoenaed to testify in the ongoing trial, but U.S. District Judge Edgardo Ramos ruled last month that the pair were not relevant to the bribery case against Dawkins and Corde.
A spokesman for the Arizona men’s basketball program did not immediately return requests for comment.
In February 2017, Miller received a contract extension that pays him a base salary of roughly $2.6 million per year.
Ayton played for one season at Arizona, averaging 20.1 points and 11.6 rebounds per game. The Wildcats finished the year with a record of 27-8 and were knocked out of the 2018 NCAA tourney in the first round by Buffalo. The following June, the Phoenix Suns tapped Ayton with the first overall pick in the NBA draft.
Richardson is awaiting sentencing after he pleaded guilty in January to a charge of bribery conspiracy. Prosecutors said Richardson accepted $20,000 from agents in exchange for convincing players he coached to hire those agents to represent them. Three other former college basketball assistants have pleaded guilty to similar charges: Chuck Person at Auburn University; Tony Bland at USC; and Lamont Evans, who coached at South Carolina and Oklahoma State.
For his part, Dawkins has denied allegations that he paid a $2,500 bribe to Evans, claiming that the money was meant to pay expenses for the family of South Carolina basketball player P.J. Dozier. Dawkins has argued that it wouldn’t make sense to bribe coaches because they don’t have enough influence over players’ business decisions.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.