TUCSON, AZ (AP) — Arizona has initiated the process to fire assistant coach Mark Phelps and suspended him indefinitely with pay due to an NCAA rules issue.
The school said in a statement Wednesday the move was not related to a federal probe into basketball recruiting that cast a cloud over the program and led to the arrest of another of Sean Miller’s assistant coaches in 2017.
“The University of Arizona is committed to the highest standards of integrity and ethical conduct and our commitment to those principles is unwavering,” Arizona athletic director Dave Heeke said in a statement. “The decision to remove Coach Phelps immediately is a direct result of that commitment. We strive to compete within the rules of the NCAA and the Pac-12 Conference, and we will continue to cooperate fully with the NCAA. Coach Miller fully supports this decision, which we agree is in the best interests of our men’s basketball program and the University.”
Don Jackson, Phelps’ Atlanta-based attorney, said Phelps was placed on administrative leave based on an unresolved NCAA matter, adding he performed his duties in strict compliance with NCAA and university policies
“Although Coach Phelps is disappointed with the decision to place him on leave, he will continue to fully cooperate with both university investigators and NCAA staff,” Phelps said in a statement. “He is confident that he will be fully exonerated and allowed to resume his coaching career.”
Phelps was suspended for two games at the start of the 2017-18 season for an unspecified NCAA violation. A former head coach at Drake, he has been an assistant under Miller since 2015.
Another of Miller’s assistants, Emanuel Richardson, recently pleaded guilty to conspiracy to commit bribery for accepting money to steer recruits to Arizona. He was one of 10 people, including four assistant coaches at prominent schools, arrested in September 2017 as part of the federal probe into shady recruiting practices.
Richardson told a judge he accepted $20,000 in 2017 in exchange for a promise to steer student athletes potentially headed to the NBA to an aspiring business manager, Christian Dawkins. Prosecutors said Richardson planned to use $15,000 of the money to entice one prized recruit to attend Arizona.