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NCAA hammers Kansas basketball (and Adidas) for alleged recruiting violations

Bill Self

(Photo by Jamie Squire/Getty Images)

Since the NCAA began to proactively investigate the corrupt culture in many of the athletic departments of its member schools, institutions such as Kansas have waited nervously for the results to be made public.

Kansas got its news on Monday. And it was not pleasant.

The NCAA’s enforcement staff charged Kansas with lack of institutional control and came down very hard on men’s basketball coach Bill Self, charging him with responsibility violations.

It doesn’t get much worse than this: The Jayhawks have been hit with five Level I violations and two Level II abuses within the football program under former coach David Beaty.

Most of it has to do with Kansas either authorizing or looking the other way while its partner, Adidas, was paying off relatives of recruits in an effort to get them to Kansas.

The next step belongs to Kansas. The university has 90 days to respond, but it did not waste any time letting the NCAA know how it feels.

“It is already clear from an initial review that the University will fiercely dispute in detail much of what has been presented,” the university said in a release.

The allegations are very serious, and if true, can do great long-term damage to one of the nation’s dynastic college basketball programs. And what of Self, who is a former president of the National Association of Basketball Coaches? His reputation is very much on the line.

Self vigorously defended himself in his own statement.

“By the NCAA’s own admission through its public statements early this summer, it’s no secret that there is tremendous pressure on the NCAA to respond to the federal court proceedings involving college basketball. … In its haste and attempt to regain control, the enforcement staff has created a false narrative regarding me and our basketball program,” Self said in a statement. “The narrative is based on innuendo, half-truths, misimpressions and mischaracterizations. … I will strenuously defend myself and the program, but I will respect the process and will not speak to the details of the case.”

Much like what happened to Rick Pitino at Louisville, and is currently going on at UConn with former head basketball coach Kevin Ollie, the NCAA is cracking down on head coaches for not having enough control over staff members and boosters it believes are routinely circumventing its rules.

If Self is ultimately found guilty of Level I violations, he could be suspended for an entire season, based on the discretion of the NCAA’s committee on infractions. According to the NCAA, Self was reportedly involved in three Level I allegations. One of his assistants, Kurtis Townsend, is implicated as well.

“The NCAA has not alleged that Coach Self was involved in or was knowledgeable about any illicit payments to recruits or student-athletes,” Self’s attorneys, Scott Tompsett and Bill Sullivan, said in a statement. “The NCAA has not alleged that Coach Self or anyone on his staff was involved in or had knowledge of any illicit payments. If illicit payments were made, Coach Self and his staff were completely unaware of them.”

Silvio De Sousa/Bill Self

(Photo by Ronald Martinez/Getty Images)

At the core of the issue is the relationship the Kansas staff maintained with the employees of Adidas, the sneaker company. Adidas is being investigated for alleged corruption. It signed a 14-year, $196 million business deal with Kansas in April.

An Adidas consultant, T.J. Gassnola, was fined and placed on probation for participating in pay-for-play arrangements to get recruits to attend Kansas.

Among the many allegations is that the lawyer for a former Adidas executive told a jury in New York his client authorized a $20,000 payment to current Kansas player Silvio De Sousa’s guardian after Self and Townsend asked Gassnola to handle the transaction.

A few days before the Kansas-Adidas deal was announced, Gassnola texted Self and thanked him for helping the sponsorship deal get done.

Self responded: “I’m happy with Adidas. Just got to get a couple real guys.”

Gassnola replied: “In my mind, it’s KU, bill self. Everyone else fall into line. Too f—ing bad. That’s what’s right for Adidas basketball. And I know I am RIGHT. The more you win, have lottery pics and you happy. That’s how it should work in my mind.”

Josephine Potuto, a professor at the University of Nebraska College of Law and a former chair of the NCAA Division I Committee on Infractions, told ESPN that Adidas could be interpreted as a booster.

“Typically, when you think about a booster, you think of somebody who is trying to assist a particular school,” said Potuto. “To the extent that one of the shoe companies was providing payments to a prospect or to the family members of a prospect, and the interest was getting the prospect to attend a particular school, that would sound as though that would fall within that [booster] provision.”

The NCAA had a lot on the line here and can be expected to push Kansas and Self hard if for no other reason than to draw a line for coaches and boosters at other schools to respect.