The addition of Arizona’s postponed trip to Oregon to the schedule means that Arizona’s 2020-21 season will last an extra two days, finishing up on Monday in Eugene. A non-conference game could still be added after that, but seems unlikely.
So that technically means the offseason will begin on Tuesday, which also means that’s when coach Sean Miller will be entering the final year of his contract.
Miller, who is finishing up his 12th season at Arizona and just reached 300 wins at the school, is under contract through 2021-22, with that final year officially beginning on July 1. He is set to earn $2.9 million next year, the same as for 2020-21, with a base salary of $1.8 million and $700,000 for peripheral duties (such as radio and television programs and speaking engagements) as well as $200,000 annually from both Nike and IMG.
“You know, I’m just not there right now,” Miller said Tuesday when asked if any he or his representatives have had any extension talks with the UA, noting that he’s focused on this season’s remaining games. “When all of that ends I think your question is a fair question, but right now I’m just going about my day thinking about those things.”
It’s almost unheard of for a college coach to get into the final year of a contract because of the impact it could have on recruiting. Arizona doesn’t currently have any players committed in the 2022 class, and without an assurance that Miller will still on the job it’s unlikely any prospects would pledge to the program.
For the first half of his tenure at Arizona, Miller regularly received contract extensions. He was extended in 2012, 2013, 2014, 2015 and most recently in February 2017, with that last one extending him out through the 2022 season. The Arizona Board of Regents does not allow contracts of greater than five years, and at each time he’s been extended as far out as possible.
The 2014 extension also created a “Longevity Fund” for Miller in the form of shares of a publicly traded Master Limited Partnership. That fund is worth approximately $4.1 million, with Miller receiving most of its value last May while another 50,000 shares became vested last May are to be paid in May 2022.
There’s been no additional years added since 2017, but Miller did have his contract adjusted in April 2018 when ABOR approved an amendment that he’d owe the school $1 million “if he is criminally charged for any crime related to his employment as the university’s head coach, or if he is found to have committed level I NCAA violation, the most severe of the NCAA violation sanctions.”
That language was added in reaction to a report by ESPN earlier that year that Miller allegedly offering $100,000 to ensure Deandre Ayton would play for Arizona. That report that was never substantiated.
Arizona is reportedly accused of multiple Level 1 violations, including “a lack of institutional control and failure to monitor by the university and a lack of head coach control by men’s basketball coach Sean Miller.” The UA has acknowledged it has received a Notice of Allegations from the NCAA but has not publicly disclosed the contents of that NOA.
The school self-imposed a postseason ban for this year in December, calling it a “proactive measure in its ongoing NCAA enforcement process” as well as :an acknowledgement that the NCAA’s investigation revealed that certain former members of the MBB staff displayed serious lapses in judgment and a departure from the University’s expectation of honest and ethical behavior.”
If Miller were to be fired with cause, Arizona would only be liable “for salary and incentive payments due as of the date of termination.” That language appeared in his original contract in 2009 and has not changed.
Former ESPN business reporter Darren Rovell tweeted back in 2018 that this meant Miller would be due 100 percent of his remaining contract if fired for cause, but a more careful look at the language indicates he’d just be due whatever he hadn’t been paid for the years he’d completed.
A termination without cause, however, would entitle Miller either $1.25 million or $1.6 million, depending on when it happened.
The smaller amount would come if he were to be fired after July 1, when he’d be in the final year of the contract and thus entitled to “an amount equal to one-half of the sum of his then-current salary for coaching and additional duties, for each year or portion thereof (pro rata) remaining in the contract.”
That language is also from the original contract, as is the clause that he’d be due $1.6 million if terminated at any point during his fourth year, which technically ends June 30.