Arizona announced in February that it was moving to fire assistant basketball coach Mark Phelps as a result of the university's commitment to "the highest standards of integrity and ethical conduct."
Now, however, it appears the UA is more likely to let his contract simply run out.
Phelps, who makes $275,000 annually, has been on paid leave since UA removed him from coaching in early February. The UA never gave a reason for its decision, but ESPN reported that Phelps was accused of an NCAA violation regarding the academic transcripts of former recruit Shareef O’Neal.
UA president Robert C. Robbins said Thursday that “there’s a process to separate with (Phelps) and that’s ongoing.”
When asked if the school might just let Phelps' contract expire on June 30, Robbins said that was "my understanding." Phelps, and all coaches, are technically service professionals at Arizona, and the school’s dismissal policy for service professionals states that they must be given a chance to respond before being fired. Former assistant Book Richardson spent 119 days on paid leave while he responded to the UA's plans to fire him.
The Arizona Board of Regents announced in February that it supported UA's move to terminate Phelps.
The Star filed a public-records request in February seeking communication records between Phelps and UA and/or the NCAA regarding his indefinite suspension. But the school has not filled the request.
Phelps’ attorney, Alabama-based Donald Maurice Jackson, did not return messages this week seeking comment. He initially told ESPN that Phelps was a victim of entrapment.
“Mark Phelps has done absolutely nothing in violation of NCAA rules,” Jackson told ESPN in February. “He has been fully cooperative with the NCAA. He has been in daily contact with the compliance staff. This is a direct response to a published story (about alleged NCAA rules violations at Arizona), and they’re trying to entrap a coach in something he had no involvement in.”
UA athletic director Dave Heeke said at the time of Phelps’ removal that UA head coach Sean Miller “fully supports this decision, which we agree is in the best interests of our men’s basketball program and the University.”
• Arizona State coach Bobby Hurley issued a statement Thursday night saying that he and school officials "are in discussions to extend our agreement" amid rumors that he was a candidate to replace Chris Mullin at St. John's.
"My family and I are proud to be Sun Devils and want to remain at Arizona State for a long time," he wrote. Hurley said he would have "no public comment on my contract status" until the extension was finalized.
• Four-star 2020 shooting guard Ian Martinez of JSerra Catholic High in San Juan Capistrano, California, tweeted Thursday that UA has offered him a scholarship.
• Former five-star forward Jordan Brown is seeking a transfer from Nevada. The UA was a finalist to land him a year ago, but currently has no scholarships available to offer should coaches want to re-recruit him.
• Five Cal players have now entered the NCAA transfer portal after Golden Bears coach Wyking Jones was fired: Justice Sueing, Connor Vanover, Darius McNeill, Roman Davis and Juhwon Harris-Dyson.