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Jay Bilas: Backing Arizona basketball based on ‘no proof’ a shallow argument

Sportscaster Jay Bilas speaks onstage at The 2017 ESPYS at Microsoft Theater on July 12, 2017 in Los Angeles, California. (Photo by Kevin Winter/Getty Images)

Jay Bilas was among the first defenders of Arizona Wildcats head coach Sean Miller when his program was first dragged into the FBI investigation of college basketball corruption.

The arrest of Arizona assistant Emanuel “Book” Richardson, however, was only the first of a long string of references of the Wildcats’ involvement since the investigation began in late 2017.

This week, audio collected on a wiretap was played at the federal trial. It caught Richardson alleging that Miller paid former Arizona star Deandre Ayton $10,000 a month. Beyond that, no, there’s no proof it happened.

But well before this week, the constant references to the Arizona program, multiple assistants and players it recruited has since changed Bilas’ opinion.

“You would have to have your head buried very deep in the sand and do some pretty tortured mental gymnastics to try to suggest that there was no improper NCAA activity on the part of Coach Miller and the Arizona program,” Bilas told Doug & Wolf on 98.7 FM Arizona’s Sports Station. “The idea, somehow, that his former assistant that was his current assistant at the time that these recordings were made … what sort of motivation would Book Richardson have to make those claims (if untrue)?

“If Book Richardson had made those claims to the NCAA, this would be over. This would be an open and shut infractions case.”

While there has been no audio of Miller himself played during any of the trials thus far, that doesn’t mean it doesn’t exist, said Bilas, who also has a law degree from Duke.

But considering Miller is very much responsible for the actions of his then-assistant Richardson, either coach’s involvement could be up for punishment under NCAA rule. Former agency runner Christian Dawkins has also been captured on a secret video claiming that Richardson told him Miller was involved in allegedly impermissible actions by NCAA standards.

“For those who say, ‘Hey, we see no proof,’ that’s a very shallow view of this in my judgment,” Bilas said.

“I am not naive. You would have to be either fanatical in support of the Arizona program or painfully naive to believe everyone here is lying. It’s not credible and it’s not logical to take that route.”

Miller has already been interviewed by the FBI and has said he didn’t pay Ayton. There is potential for NCAA infractions to be found down the road, be it Miller’s or Richardson’s doings. Other programs likely pay players under the table to keep the NCAA’s veil of amateurism alive, for sure.

Bilas doesn’t like it either. He thinks college athletes should be paid.

Arizona is just the team that’s been in the headlines this instance, and regardless of any more evidence coming out, Bilas believes, if he were in charge of the University of Arizona’s athletic department, this would be over with already. Miller would have been fired.

“We have those rules now and I believe in rules,” he said. “If I think the speed limit should be changed, I don’t think everybody should be able to drive over the speed limit with impunity.

“The idea that you have administrators who fall all over themselves talking about integrity all the time, ‘We believe in the rules’, who are just standing by (until proof is found) … I find that unconscionable.”

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