One of the more interesting things that's happened in the last several years, basketball wise anyway, is the rise of Jay Bilas to...well, what? He's a superb broadcaster, relaxed and witty on camera.
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More than that, though, he's become a major influence when it comes to the various debates about what the NCAA does and how it should do it. It's really a pretty remarkable turn of events. Can you imagine Dick Vitale having this sort of influence?
Not at all.
Keith Jackson? Billy Packer? Anyone?
The only broadcaster who has ever had this sort of influence was Howard Cosell, and in Cosell's case, people respected his intellect even when they couldn't stand him personally.
He had a lot to do with the re-evaluation of Muhammad Ali after his refusal to enter the draft for the Vietnam War.
But while he was entertaining, he was not necessarily liked. Actually, a lot of people truly despised the Winston-Salem native.
But they still listened.
Bilas has certainly proved likeable, and he's also having a major impact on the discussions surrounding NCAA reform. Really, when you think about it, what public figure is having a bigger impact?
Coach K talks periodically about having a commissioner for college basketball. We've always thought he'd be a great person for that job if he wanted it, but as great as he'd be, Bilas has mass communication skills which would make him a huge asset to the game. Food for thought.