The timeline of the scandal surrounding Arizona basketball
From Thursday, Feb. 22, through Thursday, March 1, the Arizona Wildcats went through arguably one of the strangest weeks in their basketball program’s history.
The fallout lingered beyond that stretch and continues to do so heading into the Pac-12 Tournament, which begins on Wednesday.
That tumultuous end to the 2017-18 regular season was preceded by an FBI investigation into college basketball corruption that led to the firing of Arizona assistant coach Emanuel “Book” Richardson, who was among 10 people arrested on Sept. 26.
While the noise would turn down for a few months, it ramped back up for a week-plus roller coaster.
Here’s a look at the timeline of Arizona’s final two weeks of the regular season.
As it turns out, the junior guard’s second time being ruled ineligible was only the start to a wild week.
The school announced the results of a late January 2018 drug test on Trier showed a positive result for a banned substance — the same one that kept him out of 19 games to begin the prior season. An “amount detected was minuscule by scientific standards and appears to be a remnant of a substance, which the NCAA agreed, Allonzo had unknowingly ingested in 2016,” Arizona said in a statement.
Trier was ruled ineligible prior to the team’s game against Oregon State that day.
The Wildcats didn’t look right without Trier but managed to recover in overtime for a road win. Deandre Ayton had 19 points and 12 rebounds for Arizona.
The biggest hammer yet to drop in the reporting of the FBI’s investigation into college basketball recruiting practices, a report by ESPN’s Mark Schlabach claimed Miller told Christian Dawkins, a runner working for then-sports agent Andy Miller, that “he should deal directly with (Richardson) when it came to money.”
Schlabach wrote that an anonymous source to his story heard such the exchange on an FBI wiretapped phone conversation.
A separate report that would follow later that night from Yahoo! Sports detailed further how programs such as Arizona would attempt to go about recruiting.
How could Miller coach given the report that dropped just more than 24 hours before the team’s game against the Oregon Ducks? The answer: He didn’t.
The university chose to have Miller not coach the team or be with them, as he flew back separately to Tucson.
“I continue to fully support the university’s efforts to fully investigate this matter and I am confident that I will be vindicated,” Miller said in a statement. “For now, my thoughts are with our team.”
With uncertainty surrounding not only Miller’s future but the programs as well, the Wildcats took some hits in recruiting, and rightfully so.
It started with O’Neal, the son of former NBA star Shaquille O’Neal who would decommit just a day after the report surfaced. He would later commit to UCLA.
Arizona might not have picked up a victory in Eugene, Ore., but Ayton sent a message that he was here to stay.
Ayton played and was a monster, racking up 28 points and 18 rebounds to go with four blocks.
The attorney obtained by the University of Arizona to conduct an internal investigation of the basketball program amid the FBI probe said Ayton “has abided by all applicable rules and regulations.”
Ayton was questioned by the FBI over six months prior and denied knowing anything regarding a payment to play for Arizona.
Miller remained away from the team following the report.
Miller would spend that time away from his team reportedly meeting with his lawyers and Arizona administrators. The meeting was to determine Miller’s future with the program, according to 247 Sports’ Evan Daniels.
Speculation grew Wednesday after the Arizona Board of Regents called a Thursday meeting at 2 p.m. to discuss Miller’s contract.
The school announced there would be a press conference for Miller less than two hours before the regents meeting that Thursday.
Miller was strong in his statement, denying any wrongdoing. He would not answer any questions.
“There was no such conversation,” Miller said of an alleged phone discussion with Christian Dawkins, a runner for a sports agency who was arrested in the FBI’s investigation of college basketball corruption. “These statements have damaged me, my family, the university, Deandre Ayton and his entire family.”
A few hours later, University of Arizona president Robert Robbins and Arizona Board of Regents chair Bill Ridenour spoke to reporters following their regents meeting.
They would announce full support of Miller, as would athletic director Dave Heeke.
Robbins said that Arizona was not allowed to listen to the cited FBI tapes as its federal investigation regarding Richardson was ongoing. He also said he hadn’t spoken to Miller as part of the independent investigation due to FBI restraints — those were lifted following the ESPN report, allowing Miller to express his innocence to Heeke and Robbins.
The president also said he and Miller’s lawyers discussed mitigation clauses in the head coach’s contract “that would be enacted if there are any further things that come out during any investigation about violations of NCAA rules.
As if the Wildcats needed any more good news on Thursday with a game against Stanford set for the evening, Trier was ruled eligible hours before tip.
He ended up only missing two games on the Oregon road trip.
In the game later that day against Stanford, Miller received encouragement from the Tucson faithful with a standing ovation.
The Wildcats won that game 75-67, and Trier scored 18 points to go with four assists.
Miller returning wasn’t enough for more damage to come on the recruiting trail.
Williams, the team’s only remaining 2018 commit, decommitted. The point guard would make sure to note he was not completely closing out the Wildcats, but opening his recruitment once again.
With a 66-54 home win over Cal in the Pac-12 finale — two days after Miller’s return — Arizona clinched the regular season conference title.
On senior night, Ayton, Trier and sophomore Rawle Alkins were honored, and Miller said it was because they were “not coming back,” as all three are projected to be selected in the 2018 NBA Draft.
“Those guys deserved an ovation just like the seniors because they’re not going to play at McKale again,” Miller said.
March 5: Ayton wins Pac-12 Player of the Year
Heading into the Pac-12 Tournament, Ayton received plenty of accolades, including Pac-12 Player of the Year.
Ayton was also All-Pac-12 First Team, all-freshman team and all-defensive team.
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