Over the weekend, ESPN reported the U of Arizona basketball coach was caught on tape allegedly discussing a $100,000 payment to, at the time, #1 high school prospect Deandre Ayton. This possible revelation has opened up a myriad of discussions and emotions; from old-timers like Bill Walton and Dick Vitale becoming completely shocked over this news and utterly disappointed to more intelligent people like Steve Kerr and Jay Bilas legitimately discussing the morality of the NCAA and their current rules.
As for me, as a U of A alum who attended basketball games since the 70’s, well……I really don’t care.
First off, recent reports have indicated that some of the information about this seems a bit off. From the timeline that ESPN presented about when the phone call was taken place to what the actual dialog was to where this $100,000 actually went to the absence of any formal charges against the U of A by the FBI or the NCAA despite this ‘concrete’ evidence, it turns out there is a lot more ambiguity surrounding the facts about this. This type of of media irresponsibility really bugs me. All of these allegations may turn out to be true, but this sort of ‘jumping the gun’ reporting makes the media look like fools who are willing to sacrifice solid facts with brevity. This just adds fuel to the Trump narrative about the media, and that is really scary.
Secondly, and more to the point, I really don’t care if Miller did this payment stuff. Every college tries to get a competitive advantage, from offering $50,000 per year scholarships like Stanford and Duke to buying amazing weight rooms and athletic facilities like Alabama and Texas to giving out awesome swag like Oregon. These are all payments, just in different varieties. Also let’s not fool ourselves…..every school has boosters that line the athlete’s pockets along with family. Even Duke. Sorry Dickey V, even Duke. So let’s not be so naive about all of this and realize that these college coaches are more the same rather than different. We like to attach a morality to these coaches (Nick Saban grooming young boys into men or Coach K teaching life lessons via his motion offense), but we really should not. All they want to do is win. And to win is to recruit the best talent. Sean Miller included.
So I will not condemn Sean Miller for this. I will condemn him for his stubbornness on defensive philosophy and his lack of imagination about his offense. I also will condemn him for his unctuous used-car aura he permeates. In fact, I don’t think he is really all that good of a coach. But I don’t think his morality is significantly different than that of media darling Tom Izzo (who by the way has been accused of ignoring sexual abuse allegations from various women about his players).
Sadly, what I DO care about is how the NCAA will bring down the hammer of justice on the U of A. If all of this stuff holds up, it may be a long nuclear winter in Tucson. But until then, I say ‘Coach on Sean! Play on Deandre!! Let everyone hate us!’.
They really are no different.