TUCSON, AZ (KOLD News 13) - Another shake-up for the University of Arizona Men’s Basketball team as the university announced plans to fire assistant coach Mark Phelps for reasons that have nothing to do with the FBI.
According to college basketball reporter Jeff Goodman, the university and the NCAA are investigating possible violations relating to an online course and former Wildcat recruit Shareef O’Neal, who ironically opted out of his Arizona commitment when the FBI investigation came to light and instead chose to play for UCLA.
The UA released a statement confirming that it has suspended Phelps with pay.
Athletic Director Dave Heeke wrote the following:
“The University of Arizona is committed to the highest standards of integrity and ethical conduct and our commitment to those principles is unwavering. 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.”
Alabama lawyer Donald Jackson posted on Facebook that Phelps “has performed his duties in strict compliance with NCAA and University policies.” He went on to write, “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. He is confident that he will be fully exonerated and allowed to resume his coaching career.”
This is not the first time Phelps has been punished for rules violations. November of 2017, nearly two months after the FBI case went public, the university suspended Phelps five days without pay because he broke NCAA rules also unrelated to the bribery case.
Phelps is in his fourth season with Arizona.
The Wildcats host Pac-12 leader Washington on Thursday night. Tip-off is 7 p.m.