Sean Miller receives ovation in return to Arizona sideline

Sean Miller returned to the Arizona Wildcats sideline for their game against Stanford. It also marked Miller’s return for the first time since an ESPN report implicated him in the FBI’s wide-ranging pay-for-play investigation.

In the wake of ESPN’s report, Miller was replaced by assistant Lorenzo Romar for Arizona’s road loss to Oregon, but returned Thursday night to a more sympathetic home crowd. As Miller emerged from the tunnel before tip-off, an already pumped crowd responded with a deafening ovation.

Earlier in the day, Miller held a news conference in which he vehemently refuted ESPN’s report. Miller also professed his innocence and vowed that he had “never paid a recruit or prospect.”

According to ESPN’s Mark Schlabach, the FBI allegedly recorded the Arizona head coach on a wiretap discussing a $100,000 payment for DeAndre Ayton with ASM agent runner Christian Dawkins during the spring of 2017.

A report on Friday by Sports Illustrated corroborates Miller’s account.

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Sean Miller throughout his coaching career
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Sean Miller throughout his coaching career
LEXINGTON, KY - MARCH 15: Sean Miller head coach of the Xavier Musketeers yells out from the sideline against the Brigham Young Cougars during the first round of the NCAA basketball tourney at Rupp Arena on March 15, 2007 in Lexington, Kentucky. The Musketeers won 79-77. (Photo by Joe Robbins/Getty Images)
CINCINNATI - DECEMBER 22: Head coach Sean Miller of Xavier Musketeers yells at C.J. Anderson #20 during the game against the Tennessee Volunteers at the Cintas Center December 22, 2007 in Cincinnati, Ohio. (Photo by Andy Lyons/Getty Images)
PHOENIX - MARCH 29: Stanley Burrell #34 of the Xavier Musketeers is hugged by head coach Sean Miller as he leaves the game in final minute of the West Regional Final for the last time as a Muskateer at the U.S. Airways Center on March 29, 2008 in Phoenix, Arizona. The Bruins won the game 76-57. (Photo by Stephen Dunn/Getty Images)
Xavier Musketeers head coach Sean Miller directs his team during the first half of their NCAA men's West Regional basketball game against the West Virginia Mountaineers in Phoenix March 27, 2008. REUTERS/Lucy Nicholson (UNITED STATES)
Xavier Musketeers coach Sean Miller yells from the sidelines as his team plays the Pittsburgh Panthers during the first half of their NCAA men's East Regional basketball game in Boston, March 26, 2009. REUTERS/Mike Segar (UNITED STATES SPORT BASKETBALL)
Arizona head coach Sean Miller tosses a ball to one of his players as the Wildcats take the court at the Honda Center in Anaheim, California, Wednesday, March 23, 2011. The Wildcats will face the Duke Blue Devils in the Sweet 16 on Thursday night. (Chuck Liddy/Raleigh News & Observer/MCT via Getty Images)
TUCSON, AZ - NOVEMBER 19: Head coach Sean Miller of the Arizona Wildcats talks with (L-R) Grant Jerrett #33, Nick Johnson #13 and Brandon Ashley #21 during a break from the college basketball game against the Long Beach State 49ers at McKale Center on November 19, 2012 in Tucson, Arizona. The Wildcats defeated the 49ers 94-72. (Photo by Christian Petersen/Getty Images)
SALT LAKE CITY, UT - MARCH 21: Nick Johnson #13 talks with head coach Sean Miller of the Arizona Wildcats in the second half against the Belmont Bruins during the second round of the 2013 NCAA Men's Basketball Tournament at EnergySolutions Arena on March 21, 2013 in Salt Lake City, Utah. (Photo by Harry How/Getty Images)
TUCSON, AZ - FEBRUARY 06: Head coach Sean Miller of the Arizona Wildcats reacts after a basket against the Oregon Ducks during the second half of a college basketball game at McKale Center on February 6, 2014 in Tucson, Arizona. The Wildcats defeated the Ducks 67-65. (Photo by Ralph Freso/Getty Images)
LAS VEGAS, NV - MARCH 13: Head coach Sean Miller and injured player player Brandon Ashley of the Arizona Wildcats watch Rondae Hollis-Jefferson #23 of Arizona guard Brandon Taylor #11 of the Utah Utes during a quarterfinal game of the Pac-12 Basketball Tournament at the MGM Grand Garden Arena on March 13, 2014 in Las Vegas, Nevada. Arizona won 71-39. (Photo by Ethan Miller/Getty Images)
ANAHEIM, CA - MARCH 27: Coach Sean Miller of the Arizona Wildcats speaks during a press conference after the fourth round of the 2014 NCAA Men's Basketball Tournament at the Honda Center on March 27, 2014 in Anaheim, California. (Photo by Paul Dye/J and L Photography/Getty Images )
14 March 2015: Arizona head coach Sean Miller looks in awe after receiving the PAC 12 Tournament trophy during the PAC 12 Men's Basketball Tournament championship game between the Oregon Ducks and the Arizona Wildcats at the MGM Grand Garden Arena in in Las Vegas, Nevada. (Photo by Marc Sanchez/Icon Sportswire/Corbis via Getty Images)
March 26, 2015: Arizona Wildcats head coach Sean Miller and Arizona Wildcats forward Rondae Hollis-Jefferson (23) during the NCAA Division 1 Men's Basketball Championship Sweet Sixteen round game between the Xavier Musketeers and the Arizona Wildcats at the Staples Center in Los Angeles. (Photo by Ric Tapia/Icon Sportswire/Corbis via Getty Images)
Dec 19, 2015; Tucson, AZ, USA; Arizona Wildcats head coach Sean Miller signals during the first half against the UNLV Rebels at McKale Center. Arizona won 82-70. Mandatory Credit: Casey Sapio-USA TODAY Sports / Reuters Picture Supplied by Action Images (TAGS: Sport Basketball NCAA) *** Local Caption *** 2015-12-20T055319Z_434172211_NOCID_RTRMADP_3_NCAA-BASKETBALL-UNLV-AT-ARIZONA.JPG
March 18, 2017; Salt Lake City, UT, USA; Arizona Wildcats head coach Sean Miller reacts to officials during game action against the Saint Mary's Gaels during the second half in the second round of the 2017 NCAA Tournament at Vivint Smart Home Arena. Mandatory Credit: Joe Camporeale-USA TODAY Sports
March 18, 2017; Salt Lake City, UT, USA; Arizona Wildcats Arizona Wildcats guard Kadeem Allen (5) and head coach Sean Miller react during the 69-60 victory against the Saint Mary's Gaels second half in the second round of the 2017 NCAA Tournament at Vivint Smart Home Arena. Mandatory Credit: Joe Camporeale-USA TODAY Sports
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