Arizona basketball has been dragged through the mud by the media over the past week, with ESPN leading the figurative torch and pitchfork mob. Mark Schlabach, a senior writer at ESPN, wrote on Feb. 25 that Arizona head coach Sean Miller discussed a 100,000 dollar payment to Deandre Ayton with agent runner Christian Dawkins.
That statement is incredibly damning, given the ongoing FBI investigation and the September arrest of Arizona assistant coach Book Richardson in connection to the investigation.
Miller didn’t coach in Arizona’s loss to Oregon on Saturday night, but stated in a press conference on Thursday that he’s innocent of all allegations, and that he’s coaching for the rest of the season.
Why is Miller denying everything in the Schlabach story? The story was based on unnamed sources. Miller could be guilty of paying Ayton, or he could be clean, but either way, no judgement can or should be made based on “sources close to the investigation.”
However, every talking head at ESPN has called for Miller to be burned at the stake. Dick Vitale lectured America on how disgusting Sean Miller is and how much of a disgrace he is to the game of basketball. But Vitale went on this rant while sharing a sideline with Mike Krzyzewski and JIM BOEHEIM! My first reaction to this is that the ESPN and the rest of the world need to mandate that Dicky V never, ever talk about the Pac-12, or anything west of the Big 12, really, because it’s getting ridiculous. How many games was Boeheim suspended a few years back for academic fraud?
Then again, on College Game Day, Jay Bilas called for Miller’s job. He called the report ‘career ending.’ Then, Seth Greenberg went on to say that Deandre Ayton wouldn’t play in Oregon, Miller wouldn’t coach again at Arizona, and that Arizona won’t play in the tournament. The first two hot takes were absolutely wrong. For the latter, it can be assumed that, since no action has been taken against UA and the ‘Cats are still in the AP Top 25, that Arizona will will be dancing in March.
After this week-long saga: who looks worse? An entire media outlet has dumped on one man because an unnamed source said something. Right now, there’s no proof of anything. If in a paper for my class on global climate change I said that Scott Pruitt kicks baby seals and puppies for fun and enjoys the view of freshly deforested land, and only named an unknown source, should I get an A? Would it be appropriate for my professor to then publicly shame Pruitt and call for his job?
I mean, ESPN’s analysts has been wrong about everything to date — Miller’s still in Tucson, Ayton’s played, and no one’s going anywhere anytime soon. Mark Schlabach has been radio silent on Twitter since Feb. 25. ESPN has issued several corrections and retracted a correction. In other words, it’s a complete mess.
Now, whether the allegations are true or not, only the FBI can tell us, so therefore, we will most likely never know. But what I do know is that ESPN has looked awful throughout this entire process. The blatantly false reporting has tainted Schlabach, College Gameday and ESPN’s reputations and credibility.