March 1 (UPI) -- Arizona basketball coach Sean Miller told reporters Thursday that he has never paid a recruit and denied reports that he was involved in paying Deandre Ayton to attend the school.
Miller made the comments during a news conference at the McKale Center in Tucson, Ariz. He said he now intends to turn his focus to basketball.
The 49-year-old coach spent five seasons at Xavier University before leaving to coach Arizona in 2009. He has led the Wildcats to a 242-73 record during that tenure and into the NCAA tournament in six of his seven seasons at the helm.
Last Friday, ESPN published a report saying that sources familiar with the government's evidence during an FBI investigation said that FBI wiretaps intercepted conversations between Miller and Christian Dawkins. The report stated that Dawkins - a "runner working for ASM Sports agent Andy Miller" - and Sean Miller discussed a $100,000 payment to ensure that Ayton signed with Arizona.
"Let me begin by saying that I regret all the negative attention that has been focused on our program and the difficult position that this has created for President Robbins, Dave Heeke and the Arizona family and especially our players and their families," Miller told reporters Thursday at his news conference. "I appreciate all the support I've received during this difficult time. Thank you to everybody."
"While I have done nothing wrong, I am responsible for our men's basketball program and I am sickened that we are in the spotlight for all the wrong reasons. Contrary to what has been written this past week, we do our very best to run a clean program at the University of Arizona. I have done that since the first day I stepped on this campus. Compliance with NCAA rules is extremely important to us and we work hard to create, maintain and monitor a culture of compliance within our program."
Ayton was ranked the No. 3 player in the 2017 ESPN 100 recruiting rankings for the top high school basketball prospects.
"I have never knowingly violated NCAA rules while serving as head coach of this great program," Miller said. "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 improper benefits to a recruit or prospect or family or representative and I never will."
"I also understand that there is an ongoing federal investigation and because of this I cannot do anything that might compromise the integrity of this investigation."
"However, on this point, I cannot remain silent in light of media reports that have impugned the reputation of me and the university and sullied the name of a tremendous young man, Deandre Ayton. Let me be very very clear: I have never discussed with Christian Dawkins paying Deandre Ayton to attend the University of Arizona. In fact, I never even met or spoke to Christian Dawkins until after Deandre publicly announced he was coming to our school. Any reporting to the contrary is inaccurate, false and defamatory."
"I'm outraged by the media statements have been made and the acceptance by many that these statements were true. There was no such conversation. These statements have damaged me, my family, the university, Deandre Ayton and his incredible family."
"The only attempted corrections by the original source of the media statements are still inaccurate and completely false."
"I also want you to know that the one time someone suggested to me paying a player to come to the University of Arizona I did not agree to it. It never happened and that player did not come to the University of Arizona. Out of respect for this ongoing investigation and the privacy of the student-athlete and his family, I'm not going to share further details concerning this matter."
The Wildcats released statements last week saying that Miller and the school agreed that he shouldn't coach on Saturday against Oregon. The Ducks beat the Wildcats 98-93.
"I appreciate more than anyone can realize Dr. Robbins and the university carefully considering this matter and acting upon facts," Miller said. "I have been completely open and transparent and I look forward to coaching this outstanding team as we seek to capture the Pac-12 regular-season championship this week."
"I now intend to turn my focus to basketball and our players and this team. I once again want to express my thanks to all of those who supported me and this now completes my statement on this matter."
Arizona hosts Stanford at 10 p.m. Thursday at the McKale Center. The Wildcats wrap up the regular season on Saturday against California.
Ayton, 19, is averaging 19.9 points and 11.2 rebounds this season for the Wildcats (22-7).