Broadcaster Jay Bilas sums up the madness of March and fears to taste it

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In the den of Jay Bilas' home in Charlotte, North Carolina, framed footage commemorates his academic career at basketball at Duke, his days as a foreign professional and the critical reception of I Come in Peace, the science thriller -fiction of 1990 starring Dolph Lundgren, but stars Bilas in the role of Azeck, an extraterrestrial cop. (Los Angeles Times: I'm coming in peace should leave.) But that's the past. Today, thanks to its analyst platform at ESPN and a Twitter account of nearly 2 million followers, Bilas has become a kind of academic basketball awareness. It's a singular voice that can both unravel game tactics for enthusiasts and eviscerate the business model that supports the company as a whole. It's a fierce criticism of amateurism, of the NCAA's policy that facilitates the establishment of a free market for well-paid coaches, administrators, and television directors – everyone involved in college basketball, at home. exception of the players themselves.

So I went to Charlotte to ask Bilas if he, who makes a living in football, reporters who write about it or someone who looks at college basketball or simply fills an annual March Madness support in the pool in his office is complicit in a company that, according to Bilas, is "just plain wrong to be immoral".

Jay Bilas, can we make our tournament selections in peace?

Of course, he says. (Phew.) If you do not like a law in America, you do not leave the country. You push for change. Bilas knows the line of skeptics: Since you despise amateurism so much, why do not you quit your job and do not do something else? "I find this reasoning foolish," he says. "The fact that I am different in politics does not mean that I do not like this business. I love it, that's why I like it. If I did not like it, it would not bother me.

The 6-foot-8 The former center is a licensed lawyer who, prior to becoming ESPN's chief analyst for college basketball, had previously subpoenaed Barney, the purple dinosaur, in a costume suit violating the copyright law. 'author. But over the last decade or so, Bilas, as much as any public figure, has advocated paying players outside academia. He called BS when high school officials in Alabama found a featured basketball player this season because she had filed an accidental payment on behalf of USA Basketball and when the NCAA investigated the former Texas A quarterback & M Johnny Manziel for selling his autograph just when his sweater was sold. on his shopping site. On March 13, Bilas called the NCAA via Twitter for his tepid response in two sentences to the scandal of admissions to universities. several coaches have been accused of accepting bribes to falsely present high school students as athletes in order to guarantee their admission to elite universities. Admirers love her pounding. Critics tell him to shut up already about this stuff.

Not likely. On March 8, a California federal judge ruled that the NCAA rules on amateurism violated antitrust law. She ordered the NCAA to remove education-related compensation caps for tasks such as tutoring, computers, and scientific equipment. The decision, which is apparently a win for the players, is far from imposing a free market system in which college athletes can gain their full value. In an environment where the multimedia rights of the NCAA men's basketball tournament reach $ 8.8 billion and coaches earn more than $ 7 million a year, he thinks that school leaders will ultimately have to act alone and compensate equitably their players. "The idea that the free market works for the whole world, saves athletes, is ridiculous for me," Bilas said. "Absolutely ridiculous."

<p class = "canvas-atom canvas-text Mb (1.0em) Mb (0) – sm Mt (0.8em) – sm" type = "text" content = "Bilas, who grew up in the Los Angeles area, began to feel this economic imbalance in the mid-1980s while he was playing at Duke. But he was not about to speak publicly. "You knew what was rewarded and what was not rewarded," he says. "I was not Norma Rae or anything." When a former Duke player mentioned the idea of ​​boycotting the 1986 Dallas Final Four, which Bilas and his teammates had managed to reach in his high season, his answer was: "Why will we do it next year? "" data-reactid = "28">Bilas, who grew up in the Los Angeles area, began to feel this economic imbalance in the mid-1980s while he was playing at Duke. But he was not about to speak publicly. "You knew what was rewarded and what was not rewarded," he says. "I was not Norma Rae or anything." When a former Duke player mentioned the idea of ​​boycotting the 1986 Dallas Final Four, which Bilas and his teammates had managed to reach in his high season, his answer was: "Why do we do it next year?

After losing his Blue Devils to Louisville in this year's national championship game, Bilas, 55, has played professionally in Italy for two seasons and in Spain for a third. He picked up the role of extraterrestrial actor – unfortunately, Azeck's head exploded – an offseason. Bilas was trapped after his Spanish team fined him for missing the practice time to take the LSAT. He loved coaching but not the itinerant lifestyle. He settled with his wife Wendy in Charlotte, where he joined a law firm. Soon he proposed to call games on local radio and he joined ESPN as a full-time analyst. He retains his former office and is dedicated to recruiting and developing business, but "there will be a moment when they will come in and say," Pack your bags and get out. "

As a broadcaster, Bilas felt that if he could call the players and the coaches for a mess, why should NCAA leaders be excluded? Wendy encouraged her to connect to Twitter 10 years ago to prove that he had more personality than your average geek to watch movies throughout the day. Bilas is like your bald bio teacher, slightly hip, lively and straight. He tweets the words of Young Jeezy's rap every day before signing "I have to go to work" (because, while he corresponded with a Twitter user, he ended the conversation by stating that he was not going to work. he had to actually go to work). Bilas indulges in self-deprecation – "You must have low standards," he told a tickled crowd at a benefit night in Charlotte where he was the guest speaker. It is a switcher who can be caught and who, forever, recognizes that words are important, not his own either. At the March 9 Duke – North Carolina game at Chapel Hill, he watched on-air as Cameron Johnson's North Carolina rebound had improved immeasurably. He then scolded himself at half-time. Rebounds, like most sports, are not quantified. "F-cking idiot," he says backstage.

Bilas was present during the most important episode of the regular season: the foot of rookie Duke superstar Zion Williamson, tearing his Nike shoe, resulting in a sprained knee. If Sion is back in full for the tournament, Bilas loves the chances of his alma mater. Zion too, of course. "As long as he stays healthy, he will earn $ 1 billion," Bilas said of the presumptive priority choice in the NBA project. A Cinderella player to watch: probably the best university basketball shooter, guard Wofford Fletcher Magee. "It looks like he should be the butler of someone," Bilas deadpans.

Before finishing our speech in the pit, I ask Bilas for some parenthesis advice, now that we do not have to worry about being obsessed with the madness of March. Anxiously, he suggests going to KenPom.com, a statistics site for the winners, and checking the offensive and defensive efficiency statistics of each team. Okaaay. Bilas recalibre. Most Americans are allergic to KenPom.com and just want to finish their damn support by the deadline. Feeling that, he leaves the mode "Bilastrator" and gives a judicious advice. "Go with the toughest mascot," he says.