Arizona regents chair: Board never said Sean Miller's job is safe

PHOENIX -- A day after Arizona board of regents member Bill Ridenour told the Arizona Republic that Arizona men's basketball coach Sean Miller's job was not in jeopardy, the board's chair wasn't willing to go that far.

"We never made a statement to that effect," chair Ron Shoopman said following a special board meeting intended "for legal advice and discussion in the wake of federal court cases linking the Arizona men's basketball program to pay-for-play schemes."

Thursday's meeting, held at Arizona State University's downtown Phoenix campus, came less than two weeks after allegations involving the Wildcats surfaced in a federal criminal trial that led to the convictions of Adidas executive Jim Gatto, former Adidas consultant Merl Code and Christian Dawkins, a former runner and aspiring agent.

"Is it concerning to us, what's going on in the national stage? You bet," Shoopman said. "We are as concerned as you are, but you have our pledge that we will take action when action is warranted, and we're aggressively pursuing the facts as we look into all of this."

University of Arizona president Robert C. Robbins and athletic director Dave Heeke both attended the meeting, which was closed to the public. Shoopman did not get into the specifics of what was discussed in the meeting and Robbins declined comment.

"We have great confidence in President Robbins and our structure," Shoopman said. "The board advises and has oversight. We hire the presidents and we fire the presidents. The presidents hire and fire the coaches. That's what happens."

Added Shoopman: "When we have the information that is available to take action, this board is not going to be shy about doing so. And we have been assured by President Robbins that he feels the same way."

Dawkins, Code and Gatto were convicted last week of felony conspiracy to commit wire fraud and wire fraud related to pay-for-play schemes to send high-profile recruits to Adidas-sponsored schools, including Kansas, Louisville and NC State.

On Sunday night, ESPN reported that Dawkins made or received phone calls from a number associated with Arizona's Miller at least 13 times from May 3, 2017, to July 2, 2017. The records show that each of the calls Dawkins made to or received from the number assigned to Miller lasted at least five minutes.

Among other allegations during the corruption trial, Brian Bowen Sr., the father of former Louisville signee Brian Bowen II, testified that former Arizona assistant Joe Pasternack offered $50,000 for his son to sign with the Wildcats. The elder Bowen testified that Dawkins relayed Pasternack's offer to him.

Defense attorneys also suggested during the trial that Arizona offered -- or was prepared to offer -- $150,000 for highly regarded prospect Nassir Little to sign with the Wildcats. The government and defense attorneys agreed that the money wasn't requested by Dawkins on behalf of Little's family. Little is a freshman at North Carolina.

ESPN reported in February that Dawkins and Miller had discussions about a $100,000 payment that ensured that star center Deandre Ayton, the No. 1 pick in June's NBA draft, signed with the Wildcats from the class of 2017.

In a statement on Feb. 25, Arizona's outside counsel, Paul Kelly, said Ayton "credibly and consistently maintained that neither he nor any member of his family" received money to influence his decision during multiple interviews with federal prosecutors, the FBI and NCAA.

At the time, Miller denied the allegations -- and adamantly insisted he had never willfully broken NCAA rules.

"I have never knowingly violated NCAA rules while serving as head coach of this great program," Miller said, while reading from a statement on March 1. "I have never paid a recruit or prospect or their family or representative to come to Arizona. I never have, and I never will. I have never arranged or directed payment or any improper benefits to a recruit or a prospect or their family or representative, and I never will."

Miller did say then that someone once asked him to provide payment to a player, but he declined to do it. It's unclear if he was referring to Dawkins. "The one time that someone suggested to me paying a player to come to the University of Arizona, I did not agree to do it," Miller said. "It never happened, and that player did not come to the University of Arizona." Former Adidas consultant Thomas "T.J." Gassnola, who was a cooperating witness for the government during the corruption trial, testified that he gave $15,000 to a friend of Ayton's family to deliver to the player's mother while Ayton was in high school. In a text message that Gassnola sent to Kansas coach Bill Self, Gassnola expressed disappointment that he couldn't help deliver Ayton to the Jayhawks.

Evidence presented by the government during last month's trial revealed that Dawkins also claimed to be closely associated with former Arizona guard Rawle Alkins, who was a two-year starter with the Wildcats from 2016 to 2018 before turning pro. Alkins went undrafted and signed a two-way deal with the Chicago Bulls in July.

In a Sept. 5, 2017, email that Dawkins sent to his business partner Munish Sood, Dawkins detailed payments he planned to make to Alkins and his cousin Rodney Labossiere. Labossiere, who grew up with Alkins in New York, moved to Tucson, Arizona, in September 2017, according to property records reviewed by Outside the Lines.

Dawkins wrote that he planned to pay Alkins $2,500 per month from September 2017 through April 2018 -- when Alkins was still playing for Arizona -- plus $30,000 in travel expenses for his family. Dawkins also wanted to give Labossiere a four-year deal to work as a manager for his sports management company.

Former Wildcats assistant Emanuel "Book" Richardson was indicted by a federal grand jury for allegedly accepting bribes from Dawkins and others to influence Arizona players to sign with Dawkins' fledgling sports management agency and certain financial advisers. Richardson is scheduled for trial in April and faces charges of soliciting bribes as an agent of a federally funded organization and two counts of fraud.

Arizona officials have denied multiple open-records requests from ESPN for any subpoenas the university received from the federal government for information and grand jury testimony related to the investigation. They also have declined to provide Miller's cellphone records and his correspondence with university officials. They repeatedly cited "the balancing test established by the Arizona courts to protect the best interests of the state" in their refusal to release the records.