Jay Bilas Criticizes College Basketball During COVID, Calls Players 'Essential Workers'

By Stephen Douglas
The 2017 ESPYS - Show
The 2017 ESPYS - Show / Kevin Winter/Getty Images
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Jay Bilas and Jon Sciambi worked Tuesday night's Duke-Illinois game on ESPN. Since the game wasn't particularly close, Bilas had some time to go off script towards the end of the broadcast and took aim at the NCAA and conferences for playing through the pandemic. Bilas pointed out that the players are being treated like essential workers and that if it was lightning outside, you wouldn't ask the players what they wanted to do if you were making a decision about whether or not to play.

Bilas says it's a different "COVID environment" now than it was in October when the decision to play was made. He's right. There are three times as many cases per day now than there were two months ago. Does it matter though? Would the decision really be any different?

The equation hasn't changed for collegiate athletics. The NCAA and the schools are OK with kids flying around the country and being potentially exposed because there is so much money to be made. Money that isn't seen by the people generating it.

Bilas deserves credit for actually trying to have the conversation on the sport's biggest stage outside March Madness: a Duke game on ESPN. Seeing games canceled at the last minute and watching teams scramble to find opponents makes it hard to pretend this isn't just a business. That's why teams have to sign contracts before they play. And that sure sounds like a situation where employees would be involved.

The circumstances these college athletes are preforming under are just going to get worse as the NCAA does whatever it can to get to March. The only question is if Bilas will be the only one brave enough to say anything about how bad this all looks.

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