Is a Lawsuit Against ESPN the Next Step for Sean Miller?

Will Miller or Deandre Ayton sue ESPN for defamation after Arizona showed support of its coach?

Sean Miller
Head coach Sean Miller of the Arizona Wildcats watches the action. (Chris Coduto/Getty Images)
Getty Images

Arizona coach Sean Miller forcibly professed his innocence on Thursday in a statement that affirmed his status with the team. Meanwhile, a source familiar with the college basketball corruption investigation confirmed with Sports Illustrated that the details of a wiretapped phone call involving Miller were inaccurately reported by ESPN in a story that said Miller “discussed paying $100,000 to ensure star freshmen Deandre Ayton signed with the Wildcats.” The source told SI that relevant FBI wiretaps in the investigation did not being until 2017 — which is months after five-star recruit Ayton had already committed to the school. Ayton committed to Arizona in Sept. 2016. Therefore, the recruitment of Ayton would not have been at issue in an intercepted phone call that occurred in 2017. The source confirmed what Miller said on Thursday: Ayton is not the player on whose behalf former ASM Sports employee Christian Dawkins allegedly sought payment from Miller, and Miller never pursued or made any payments to a recruit associated with Dawkins. If this account is true, it means Miller complied with both the law and NCAA recruiting rules. The same holds true of Ayton, reports SI, whose compliance with NCAA rules would ensure that he remains eligible to play in the final months of his freshmen year. Miller made it clear on Thursday that he would fight the allegations against him. He stressed that he had “never paid a recruit or a prospect” and would never do so, and also brought up the fact that he feels he and Ayton suffered “defamation” by the manner in which the media has reported the allegations. The two could explore suing for defamation, though the odds would not favor them, writes SI.

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