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Why the NCAA Must Come Down on Kansas After Monday’s Court Testimony


College basketball’s FBI trial is now three weeks old, and if we’re being perfectly honest, it’s been a bit of a tamer process than most of us were expecting. Outside of Brian Bowen Sr. admitting that former Louisville assistant Kenny Johnson gave him $1,300 for rent, not much earth-shattering has happened. Sure, a bunch of programs have been loosely implicated – Oregon, Creighton, Texas, Oklahoma State – but we still haven’t gotten anything tangible that truly links anybody or anything to obvious NCAA violations or illegal activities. There have been no shocking text messages. No salacious e-mails. No wire-tapped calls indisputably linking a big-name coach or program directly to illegal activity or major violation of NCAA rules.

To be blunt, most of this trial has been a whole lot of sizzle and not all that much steak.

Or at least that was the case until Monday, where umm, some interesting text messages were shared between the Kansas basketball coaching staff (including head coach Bill Self), Adidas exec T.J. Gassanola and the guardian of Silvio de Sousa, a man named Fenny Falmagne. And while nothing directly, unquestionably links Self to payments, there a whole lot of red flags. And it’ll be fascinating to see what the NCAA does in response.

My colleague Jack Pilgrim did a great job of breaking everything down last night, but let’s take a deeper dive here and make sense of it all.

So it all starts back in August 2017, when Kansas was in the middle of a recruiting battle for De Sousa with Maryland. As we’ve learned through the FBI trial so far, a Maryland booster offered $60,000 to De Sousa’s guardian but De Sousa preferred to go to Kansas. The problem was the 60k they’d already accepted. At that point, Adidas agreed to give Falmagne $20,000 to get out from under that original payment from the Maryland booster.  To be clear, that’s not up for debate. Gassanola has already admitted that he made the payment to Falmagne.

Now, let’s get into the texts. For brevity sake, here is a quick synopsis via ESPN:

On Aug. 9, 2017, Townsend texted Gassnola and wrote, “Coach Self just talked to Fenny let me know how it goes.”

A few hours later, Gassnola texted Self: “Hall of Fame. When you have 5 minutes and your [sic] alone call me.”

Later that night, after Self hadn’t responded, Gassnola texted him again: “I talked with Fenny.”

“We good,” Self asked via text.

“Always,” Gassnola replied. “That’s [sic] was light work. Ball is in his court now.”

Self and Gassanola talked later that night, but because the call wasn’t wire-tapped no one is totally sure what was said. The text exchange concluded a few weeks later, with this:

On Aug. 26, 2017, Townsend forwarded Gassnola a text message that he said he’d received from Falmagne: “Coach has been on the phone with Angola. We are good to go. We will commit tomorrow.”

Four days later, De Sousa committed to Kansas.

In looking at these text messages it isn’t pretty. Even if you interpret these messages in a “best-case scenario” it leaves Self not looking good.

That best-case scenario is this: Earlier in the trial Gassanola testified that Adidas was working with Falmagne to get Adidas to sponsor the Angolan national team (the country De Sousa is from) with uniforms and apparel. Again, in an absolute, head-in-the-clouds, no-college-coach-has-ever-done-anything-wrong, best-case scenario, Self’s calls were about that sponsorship deal. And considering that the final text before De Sousa committed to Kansas referenced “a call to Angola” that isn’t inconceivable. But even in that best-case scenario, Bill Self is still leveraging his relationship with Adidas to land a recruit. It not be an obvious NCAA violation. But it’s still not good.

That’s because, even in that scenario, it’s clear that Self and Adidas are working together to land kids to Kansas. Remember, Self was on the phone with De Sousa’s guardian early in the day and Gassanola was instructed to follow-up later after Self was done. The “we good” text also seems to make it pretty clear that Self knew De Sousa’s guardian was getting something from Kansas/Adidas in return for his commitment. In a best-case scenario it’s gear for the Angolan national team – which is unlikely since, in a weird twist, the Angolan national team already had a deal with Nike (who knew they were such a hot commodity for the apparel companies?). In a worst-case scenario it’s the $20,000 to get out of the deal with Maryland.

So yeah, not good for Self.

Even worse is what happened a few weeks later, when Adidas and Kansas came to terms on a new, long-term deal between apparel company and school. Gassanola began the exchange by congratulating Self on the new deal. Here is the response from Self and ensuing text exchange:

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

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

Self: “That’s how ur works. At UNC and Duke.” Gassnola replied at Kentucky as well.

Gassanola: “I promise you I got this,” Gassnola wrote. “I have never let you down. Except Dyondre (DeAndre Ayton) lol. We will get it right.”

I mean come on.

Even if we’re to give Self every benefit of the doubt in the earlier text exchange (maybe all the calls were just about uniforms for the Angolan national team!!!) how can anyone miss the obvious hints and references here. Self claims he needs a “couple real guys” – which I can’t lie, seems like a bizarre request for a college head coach to make to a shoe company exec if – as Gassanola claimed – Self had no idea that Adidas was working to secure him players. I mean after all, if you need “a couple real guys” isn’t that something – again, if you’re 100 percent clean – you should express to your assistant coaches? Shouldn’t they be the ones working a little harder to get the best players possible to campus? How can a shoe company exec possibly help you get a “couple real guys” if no rules were broken?!?!?

Then after all that, Gassanola agrees and says that he knows how important lottery picks and good players are to the program. Then he says “I have never let you down” except with DeAndre Ayton. To which I ask: How could any shoe company exec – a guy whose job it is to supposedly sell shoes – let down a college head coach? You know, unless he didn’t land him players?!

(One quick side-note: I’m not going to get into the accusations by Self and Gassanola that UNC, Duke and Kentucky are all paying players through shoe companies. One, if Self didn’t know about any payments to his own players – as he claims – then how can he possibly speculate that other programs are doing it? Two, it’s unfair to just assume that UNC, Duke and Kentucky are involved without any corroborating evidence, in the same way it was unfair earlier in the trial to lump in Oregon, Creighton, Oklahoma State and Texas as well. When I see something definitive that unquestionably confirms that these schools broke NCAA rules, I’ll write about it. Until then, I’m not going to accuse them of anything solely on happenstance)

So now the question becomes: What happens next at Kansas in terms of the NCAA? Unfortunately for those hoping the book gets thrown at Self any time soon, I just don’t see it.

Remember, the NCAA has mostly sat on the sidelines while this entire FBI investigation has taken place. Heck, as far as we know, they haven’t even started an investigation with Louisville – a program which was caught over a year ago arranging for a $100,000 payment to Brian Bowen’s family. So if nothing has happened at Louisville in the last year (other than the school voluntarily removing its coach) than it seems unlikely anything is coming down the pipe for Kansas in the immediate future either. I would be stunned if Self is anywhere other than the sidelines when the season opens up in three weeks.

At the same time, let’s look at this in the bigger picture. The NCAA has spent the last year making a big, public fuss about “cleaning up the sport” and doing stuff to remove shoe company influence from recruiting. So don’t they have to do something here? Again, this isn’t some low-level assistant arranging some behind the scenes scheme (like what has happened at other schools), but a prominent head coach, working hand in hand with a shoe company to make sure his school lands a recruit. If they don’t eventually punish Self in some way, won’t it solidify the belief that the NCAA doesn’t really care about cleaning up the sport – not when it comes to punishing one of their cash cow programs? Also, what would stop every other program from doing the same if they know Self wasn’t ultimately punished?

Point being that while it might not come today and it might not come tomorrow, the NCAA has to do something with Self and Kansas here.

To quote Gassanola: The ball is in their court.

And they better do something.

Article written by Aaron Torres

Aaron Torres is covering football and basketball for KSR this season after four years at Fox Sports. Follow him on Twitter @Aaron_Torres, Facebook or e-mail at [email protected] He is also the author of the only book written on the Calipari era, “One and Fun: A Behind the Scenes Look at John Calipari and the 2010 Kentucky Wildcats.”

33 responses to “Why the NCAA Must Come Down on Kansas After Monday’s Court Testimony”

  1. Alleykat16

    As far as I know and have read no school that’s using the Nike brand have come under fire. I haven’t read all the stuff that’s been put out there. I don’t think Nike is mixed up in this, if I’m wrong please let me know. I’m watching for any information that anyone has

    1. runningunnin.454

      Isn’t Arizona a Nike school? There were some shenanigans with Ayton, but they got their one year with him; and Sean Miller was only suspended for one game.

    2. unbridled

      I would have to think that any relevant shoe company would be doing the same. Just a matter of how sloppy they are to be implicated

  2. Duff86

    This entire scandal, if that’s really what it is, is well above the NCAA’s pay grade. They should just be happy and complacent that they get their fair share of the profits from college athletics. To me, it’s really all above our pay grade. It’s a business, a very lucrative one. Do not be shocked by anything that comes from this. Maybe Coach K is right, that’s it’s a blip, because he already knows it’s going away. The Bill Self texts are a joke. As dumb as they might be, they are a joke. Speculate all you want, but until presented no dollar amount was ever mentioned in exchange for a recruit. Is it against NCAA rules for a coach to talk to a shoe rep? Ask Rick Pitino who helped negotiate U of L’s shoe deal. Who was first in line to reap the most benefit from that contract? That is until Pitino was fired for paying a recruit while the school was on probation? Scandalous? Sure. Money in College Basketball going away? No way.

    1. Bobbum Man

      What are you talking about? How is it above the ncaas pay grade? It’s literally their job to enforce their rules, and I’m pretty sure you don’t have to discuss a specific dollar amount for it to be breaking a rule, him acknowledging it or just being aware of it would be enough for Kansas to be in big time trouble if the ncaa chose to do so. The UL stuff I can’t even put together what ur trying to say and I agree the paying players etc won’t stop, probably ever… but that doesn’t mean people haven’t been caught breaking rules in a major way

    2. Duff86

      You’re clearly not getting it. Because Nike, Adidas, and Under Armor are above the NCAA. That’s what I am talking about. Also, the NCAA doesn’t give a damn about the rules because they get paid from the teams that break the rules. What incentive do they have to hand out penalties to the top performing programs? A pat on the back and job well done? The NCAA just has one job to do. Keep up the guise that college kids are amateurs so everyone else can profit from their talents.

    3. unbridled

      I agree that if anything….the NCAA is complicit, if not actively involved in this scenario

  3. Bobbum Man

    First of all… it amazes me these head coaches and the shoe guys can’t seem to form full sentences… I’m not sure if the grammar in those texts or this article is worse

    1. Bluebloodtoo

      Just keep in mind, the legal system is not about truth. Truth is irrelevant. The only thing that matters is what you can prove, and those texts don’t prove anything by themselves.

  4. Iamheasyouarehe

    So this is really about more billable hours for the lawyers?

    1. Iamheasyouarehe

      If nothing comes of all this, that seems like the bottom line.

  5. UK Big Board Update

    “Rigged witch hunt!” – Bill Self

  6. Wade

    Not hard to give poor kids a donation with shoes and jerseys and put on tournaments for the kids with adidas logos everywhere. That’s fine but it was payments outside of that that matter. Sousa appreciated the gesture but payments and guarantees are what happened. No way around it. Kansas is filthy.

  7. kentuckybackupplayer

    nothing will happen with all of this from the NCAA until Kentucky is implicated and then the NCAA will come in full force. How many infractions does uofl get before they get a real penalty?

    1. Bobbum Man

      You do know they vacated a national championship right?

    2. 4everUKblue

      If it had been Kentucky they would have vacated the NC and given us the death penalty in the first week.

    3. unbridled

      I didn’t think the vacated national Championship at line beard U had anything to do with the shoe company pay to pay program. Am I wrong?

  8. CoachCat

    It’s not in the best interest for the NCAA to go looking into elite teams. Imagine UK, UNC, Duke, Kansas, etc get caught. Think about the revenue lost

    1. Cletis75

      I think it would reignite fanbases at other schools to get motivated at their possibilities with the bluebloods on the shelf. Better opportunity to get big name recruits and make bigger splashes. Blueblood canvases spend money no matter. Smaller schools canvases splurge when they get an opportunity.

    2. Cletis75

      Fanbases not canvases! Damn spell check

  9. henderblue

    Will Kansas be proactive in this scenario, ala U6? Would they take action against their coach? I don’t see the NCAA taking much action. They seemingly never do.

    1. 4everUKblue

      Unless it involves Cal or UK.

  10. King_tucky

    Unc arguement. It’s not ncaa business to tell us how we treat our students. We give 20000 to other students also. We just gave it to a non athlete student. It’s what we do at Kansas. So u (the ncaa) stay out of Kansas’s school operations. This ain’t bout athletes, we do it for other students to. N u cant punish us for how we run our school. How is that any different than UNC s excuse for fake classes? Explain if I am missing something. Its NCAA not the Law, they will do what they please when it comes down to it. And would nail it to Lil Podunk university if they done this, make a example from someone who wont lose them to much money from a bad punishment. But UK did their time, I want to hang em all, put em on sports illustrated 1 by 1, with tags like Prostitutes University, U of Pay to play, and college of skippers. Roy Williams jerks off mnkeys!

    1. Cletis75

      Hey now, what you got against monkeys?

    2. Bobbum Man

      Lol… sad thing is they could probably find a random non-athlete and give them 20k cash and probably be successful using this argument… I think the ncaa will do what it can to avoid hurting its big programs.. unfortunately for UL they didn’t know and tried to be proactive, could have gone the Arizona route when caught and just decide to keep playing ur dirty player and keep letting ur coach be on the sideline while the ncaa does nothing about it

  11. sp

    Wishful article is wishful

  12. jaws2

    Nothing to see here, move along.

  13. notFromhere

    If the NCAA wanted it changed this could have happened over a decade ago. They knew it then and that’s why they’ve been looking to hammer Cal for so long. They bich about someone taking a test for someone, and somebody being paid the equivalent of a scholarship 5 years ago. They dont care about the system as long as they have a public sacrifice in the altar of “amateur athletics” every few years.

    They’re too busy worrying about losing stars to the NBA and manufactured tournament drama through screwing teams out of their seeding and putting them into brackets 1000 miles from where they should be.

    They’re rolling in cash so they don’t care. Cal and KY better wear a hazmat suit, though, because the mud and sht is gonna be hurled their way because they’re a favorite target.

  14. StuckinLville

    Dont forget Bill Self has major violations on his record. As a matter of fact, his 08 championship team was on probation at the time. I still dont feel they will do anything to him but you never know. With that said, there’s no way Sousa is eligible and any games he was apart of last season should be vacated. There’s no way he can be eligible after this.

  15. Luether

    Good post, Aaron…

    1. Skooms

      Whether Self gets nailed or not, it’s already been proven that De Sousa got paid. That immediately makes him ineligible, which means Kansas will have to forfeit any game he played in. Even most of the KU fans know he’s NEVER going to play college ball again. It amazes me that most of the analyst continue using him as a reason KU’s front court will be loaded and almost unstoppable.

  16. serdi

    Kansas needs to tell the NCAA to stick it and that they will talk when the rightly sanction the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. Until then the NCAA has no grounds to charge ANYONE.

    If UK EVER gets accused of anything, I hope they stand up and totally ignore.

  17. Wade

    Just pay them for jersey sales. Only some will make money and that’s fan favorites and top players. Everyone’s happy! Jerseys are expensive and there kids, it will thrill them and be good enough. Others get a scholly!