There may be a reason that Kansas coach Bill Self has approached the slamming of his program by accusations of five Level 1 NCAA violations with the kind of defiant swagger we saw from the Hall of Famer this week. He’s been telling recruits and players he has messages that amount to evidence that will exonerate him, according to a source.
This week, Self and his Jayhawks program received notification of the alleged violations, centering on testimony that former Adidas representative T.J. Gassnola had paid family members of Kansas players at the program’s behest.
Self was defiant from the beginning on the charges and he quickly got the backing of the school. On Thursday, he said the charges only would be a distraction for this season’s team, “if I’m not very mature about it. But I plan on being very mature about this. And I plan on coaching this team better and harder than any team I’ve had here at Kansas.”
By Friday evening, maturity was out the window. Self, a Hall of Fame coach, appeared in a slickly produced school promotional video wearing a white T-shirt emblazoned with an Adidas logo and two large gold chains, strolling through the aisles of a record store before the camera zooms in on him giving a wink.
The video proceeds to advertise the scheduled appearance of rapper Snoop Dogg at Kansas’ ‘Late Night in the Phog’ next week to celebrate the opening of the Jayhawks’ basketball season.
Bill Self, Kansas Say NCAA Seeks a Scapegoat
Kansas has 90 days to respond to the NCAA’s case, which had been built over a period of months. The process is expected to take at least six months, which means KU’s current season won’t be affected.
Self and Kansas responded with strong public statements released on Monday night. The school did the same. The statement essentially accuses the NCAA of seeking to take down Kansas because it needed a strong response after the FBI’s investigation of corruption in college basketball and the ensuing trial, which began two years ago.
“In its haste and attempt to regain control,” Self’s statement said, “the enforcement staff has created a false narrative regarding me and our basketball program. The narrative is based on innuendo, half-truths, misimpressions and mischaracterizations. In reality, we all know there is only one version of the truth. The truth is based on verifiable facts, and I am confident the facts we will demonstrate in our case will expose the inaccuracies of the enforcement staff’s narrative.”
Gassnola testified during the federal NCAA trial that he paid family members of Kansas’ Billy Preston and Silvio De Sousa, among others, but Gassnola never directly said he did so at the behest of Self or the Jayhawks staff. That’s a key point in Self’s favor.
That’s where the messages Self has may come into play. If Self has evidence that shows he was not involved in payment schemes, the NCAA case could wilt quickly.
NCAA’s Attempted Enforcement Has Been Ineffective
Self’s defiance, too, could also be encouraged by the relative lack of consequences for big-time basketball programs in the wake of the FBI investigation. Evidence in the case, presented in the Southern District of New York, was first unsealed in September 2017 and sent a chill through college basketball at the time—the assumption was that major changes would be necessary after the Feds made their case.
There were arrests and some ruined reputations. But there were not the widespread repercussions many expected.
Louisville’s Rick Pitino—who had other issues affecting his job status at the time—is the only major coach to have lost his job, in relation to payments by an Adidas executive to recruit Brian Bowen. LSU coach Will Wade was suspended, but only briefly. Former NBA agent Andy Miller of ASM Sports was implicated, too, in giving impermissible loans to NCAA players.
A would-be agent, Christian Dawkins, was accused of conspiring with Arizona coach Sean Miller to pay star Deandre Ayton $10,000 per month. Dawkins got a six-month sentence in the trial, the same sentence as an Adidas ‘organizer.’ Another Adidas official got a nine-month sentence.
While Miller’s hold on his job at first seemed tenuous in the wake of those charges, he’s managed to make it through two seasons because, while there was discussion among outside parties about Miller paying players, there was no direct evidence linking him to those payments. The FBI is not turning over further evidence, so the NCAA’s enforcement arm will be limited to working with evidence that was presented at trial.
And that’s relatively thin material, against both Miller and Self. Arizona has walked a fine line, taking the position that the school wants to have all charges investigated while also supporting Miller, who could sue the school if he were fired but later shown to have done no wrong. Miller has been defiant in the face of accusations and has brought in one of the top-ranked recruiting classes in the nation for this season.
Self, perhaps with exonerating evidence in hand, is following the same path and is doing so with the full-throated backing of Kansas. He’s willing to thumb his nose at the NCAA. He’s got the T-shirt to prove it.
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