Did anything change? Bilas on HBO doc featuring Arizona’s Sean Miller
Multiple Arizona Wildcats recruits or eventual players were named in a public FBI trial that led to sentencing of agents, assistant college basketball coaches and shoe brand employees.
Wiretaps from that trial became public, and in them multiple individuals involved said they believed Arizona head coach Sean Miller was paying players or recruits, which is against NCAA rules. Witnesses on the stand during the trials claimed the same.
In all the mess, there hasn’t been hard evidence to suggest Miller did anything wrong.
So when HBO on Tuesday released “The Scheme,” which follows the story of aspiring agent Christian Dawkins’ role in all this, the question was whether anything more would come of it.
ESPN college basketball analyst and lawyer Jay Bilas can’t see an outcome any more clearly after watching the documentary.
“If I’m (the University of Arizona’s) lawyer … I don’t know that anything really changed after you saw that,” he said.
But Bilas does know this: “If you listen to that and you read the transcripts of the trials that took place in New York and you have read the reporting on this and listen to what was said in the documentary and other places, make your own mind up if you think there is nothing to this.”
In other words, it’s hard not to hear Miller’s voice in the HBO documentary and hear innocence in terms of the NCAA rules.
But NCAA rules, ethics and federal law don’t toe the same lines.
Bilas just doesn’t buy there is nothing to this, complete innocence in any of those terms.
“I don’t really wish to hear athletic directors and/or presidents lecture me on what integrity looks like,” Bilas said. “When you have issues like this and everything goes forward, that’s fine with me … Players have been paid for years. That’s been happening forever and will continue to happen.”
No mini-documentary will change that, he added.
Bilas can’t answer whether the University of Arizona will flinch at what the documentary revealed. The school initially put its support behind Miller when an ESPN report alleged that the head coach broke rules while recruiting center Deandre Ayton. Miller missed a game during that 2017-18 season just after the report surfaced but returned with a written statement — in it he claimed he never knowingly broke NCAA rules — and moved on.
As the trial began and progressed, his job status never appeared at risk.
One wiretap played in court that was recorded in June 2017 involved former Arizona assistant coach Emanuel “Book” Richardson claiming Miller agreed to pay or had paid $10,000 a month to Ayton, who is now a member of the Phoenix Suns. Nothing came of it.
Where does this go from here?
Bilas points out that the cases have been appealed, and the discovery that is in the hands of defense attorneys — like all of the wiretaps not played at trial — will remain undisclosed.
Once the legal processes wrap up, there is more likelihood those leak with potentially incriminating evidence. Maybe not.
As for now, Bilas can’t answer if the HBO documentary changes anything at all regarding Miller’s job status.
“That’s up to the University of Arizona,” Bilas said. “I don’t even know how to respond to (whether his job is at risk). I thought when the initial news came out a couple years ago that a coach couldn’t survive that. Clearly that was proven wrong.”