He may have a top-rated team, but basketball coach Sean Miller is raising ire internally at the UA for an ad campaign some see as helping a business competitor.
The school’s Faculty Senate has publicly questioned the propriety of Miller’s television ads promoting Carondelet Health Network, a direct competitor to the UA Health Network affiliated with the university he works for.
In the wake of faculty complaints, the University of Arizona is poised to pull the plug on the setup when Miller’s endorsement deal with Carondelet expires next year.
At a Senate meeting last week, faculty members questioned UA President Ann Weaver Hart and Athletic Director Greg Byrne over why Miller was representing an entity “in direct conflict with UA,” a written summary of the meeting said.
“If a faculty member or an administrator did that, they’d be getting notes from the legal department telling them to cease and desist,” Wanda Howell, the UA’s chair of faculty, said in an interview.
Adding “insult to injury” Howell said, is that the Carondelet commercials have been filmed inside McKale Center, the home of UA basketball, with the coach standing atop the giant university logo at center court.
Miller signed with Carondelet shortly after his arrival at the UA, according to a 2009 Carondelet news release, and has been its spokesman ever since.
Miller didn’t respond to a request for comment. James Francis, an associate UA athletic director, said the Carondelet ads were part of an official corporate-sponsorship arrangement that permits the use of McKale Center as a backdrop for filming commercials.
It isn’t clear how much Miller earns for the ads. He’s required to disclose outside income annually, but those reports don’t list individual contracts and amounts, only an aggregate figure for all endorsements.
UA spokeswoman Andrea Smiley said the matter predates Hart’s arrival last year. When the president recently heard about it from the faculty, she asked Byrne to look into it.
Byrne came back with a recommendation that Miller’s Carondelet contract not be renewed when it expires in June, Smiley said.
Miller; his predecessor, Lute Olson; and UA football coach Rich Rodriguez often appear in local ads pitching dry cleaners, credit unions and all manner of products and services that aren’t in conflict with UA offerings.
Such deals often bring in hundreds of thousands of dollars for coaches.
Miller, who has a $1.1 million base salary paid from sports revenues, last year collected $200,000 or so from Nike, and another $200,000-plus for endorsements arranged through a national sports marketing firm that set up the Carondelet ads.
Miller also receives incentive pay for his team’s performance. His entire compensation package is expected to top $2 million this season.