I’ve casually mentioned a few times over the years that I have some contacts that are semi-insiders to what is going on with Kansas athletics. One of those contacts had been warning me for months that whenever the NCAA decided to officially weigh in on the Adidas-FBI issues, it was going to be worse than anyone expected.
The NCAA officially spoke yesterday. And on the surface, it was indeed worse that most people expected. They bundled all the things we knew about from the FBI case, added some bullshit football stuff to make it look worse, and threw in both the Lack of Institutional Control and a “responsibility charge” against Bill Self. It does not look good right now.
Before I dive into all of that, I’ll remind you of my stance on this: I don’t believe Bill Self, or any other high level D1 basketball coach, is not somehow directly involved or at a very minimum aware of how the shoe companies pay off recruits. He can say he wasn’t involved; Tom Izzo, Roy Williams, John Calipari, Coach K, etc can all say the same thing. As The Athletic’s Dana O’Neil pointed out this morning, these coaches are aware of every aspect of their players’ lives. To pretend they don’t know about those same kids getting paid by shoe companies is insulting.
And any fan who says, “Well, that doesn’t happen here,” is naive. Not every coach is dirty, but every coach turns their back on things they don’t want to know about to make sure they get the kids they want. And every staff as an assistant who is willing to push a little harder to lock down recruits.
I guess the good thing that came out of yesterday was that the NCAA did not uncover anything that we didn’t already know from the FBI trial. Billy Preston’s mom got paid. Silvio De Sousa’s guardian got paid. The NCAA had six months to dig up more and couldn’t find anything else.
Of course, what they allege is plenty enough. And the battle over these charges is going to be fascinating. KU is going to stand behind the results of the federal trial, in which Adidas’ TJ Gassnola insisted he never informed Self of the payments. The jury seemed to believe Gassnola and the judge awarded damages to KU for being defrauded (which I think is kind of garbage, but whatever).
They will also stand behind KU never letting Preston play and declaring De Sousa ineligible when his name appeared on FBI documents.
The NCAA is going to say you absolutely were aware of the payments before you declared those kids ineligible, Self and/or his assistants facilitated the payments, and you’re going to be punished for that.
I was reading a little about what happens from here and it is really interesting. Basically no one knows what to think because of all the new infractions hearing steps that have been added over the past year or so. Either KU or North Carolina State is going to be the first school the navigate the process, and until they do and we see a final result, we have no idea what the institutional bias is right now. Will the final enforcement hearing lean toward supporting the NCAA’s charges, or will KU’s arguments be compelling enough to roll back what the NCAA is alleging?
I really don’t have a feel for what’s going to happen. There is no doubt the NCAA feels humiliated by getting worked over by North Carolina in their academic scandal investigation and want to show they actually have some control of college sports. While KU fans are bitching about being first in line, there is a long list of schools behind them that are going to bubble up soon. KU’s attorneys are going to rack up a lot of billable hours over the next year or so as the school fights back hard. It is going to be ugly and even if KU escapes the worst of the penalties, recruiting is going to take a hit for at least another year, maybe longer.
Force me to make a prediction, and I say KU will have to vacate every game De Sousa played in during the 2018 season, including the Final Four appearance. KU will lose a couple scholarships over a couple years. Kurtis Townsend takes the bullet and retires. Self will take a suspension of two months or less. KU will manage to avoid a postseason ban. And no one is really happy with the result.
Fans of Nike schools were no doubt laughing when the KU news broke. But what gets lost a little in this is how the NCAA just opened a giant window to nail anyone. By declaring Gassnola a KU booster, should they win they can claim any shoe company employee or representative is a booster for any school they work with. (I just read an opinion from an attorney who suggests this open universities to be held liable for actions of anyone they have a business relationship with.) Suddenly there is a pretty clear path to go after every school that recruits elite players every year. I would imagine Nike coaches are less excited than their fans, and are hoping that their bag men were better about covering their tracks than the Adidas guys were.
Now, how do I feel about all this? I feel pretty meh, to be honest. I’ll fully sign myself up as a hypocrite for enjoying Pitino’s downfall and complaining about what’s taking so long for Sean Miller to really face some heat while hoping Self skates through all of this.
Here’s the thing about college sports, which are my favorite: if you buy into them, you have to buy into the fact that basketball and football are inherently corrupt. From the failure to pass proceeds from billion dollar TV contracts directly to the players, to refusing to allow athletes to profit off of their images while their schools can, to the idea that any kid that spends a couple summers playing AAU basketball is somehow still an amateur, to believing the college football and basketball are also somehow still amateur sports, the whole model is broken. You either give up and start watching pro sports, or you accept it and hope your school doesn’t get pinched.
KU got pinched. I’m rooting hard for the NCAA to lose this one. But if KU does indeed get hammered, I’ll shrug my shoulders and hope the program can recover quickly.
I’m sure this won’t be the last post on this subject…