Attorney: UA Coach's Removal Amounts to Defamation

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The Alabama-based attorney for former University of Arizona assistant basketball coach Mark Phelps said in a statement circulated Saturday that UA was guilty of defamation when it removed Phelps from the coaching staff in February and tried to use him as a bargaining chip in its ongoing NCAA investigation.

Phelps was accused of a violation involving the academic records of former UA commit Shareef O'Neal, but attorney Donald Maurice Jackson claims neither the school nor the NCAA ever provided evidence that Phelps committed a rules violation. Jackson further says that during a May 20 termination hearing, UA athletic director Dave Heeke admitted he had no knowledge of NCAA violations by Phelps. Representatives of the NCAA enforcement staff have also repeatedly told Jackson they have no evidence of violations by Phelps, according to the attorney.

As reported by the Arizona Daily StarJackson added that UA senior associate athletic director Krystal Swindlehurst implied that Phelps was terminated due to a personality conflict and that associate AD Brent Blaylock provided only evidence about an NCAA rule Phelps earlier broke, for which he was suspended for two games in November 2017.

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