In case you haven’t heard, it hasn’t been a fun few days for Kansas basketball.
On Friday, the Kansas City Star reported that the school was in big trouble with the NCAA, and could potentially get hit with multiple Level I NCAA violations. And as it turned out, that report was the appetizer to the main entrée that hit Monday afternoon.
That’s because, after an investigation into the school, the NCAA dropped their “Notice of Allegations” on Monday night (the Notice of Allegations is a report on what the NCAA found during their investigation). You can read the whole thing here if you please, but if you want the short, sweet version, here is what you need to know:
The NCAA has basically accused Adidas of recruiting on behalf of Kansas, of promising or giving money to players families and guardians to help steer them to Kansas. And according to the NCAA, those Adidas reps did all of that with the approval and knowledge of Bill Self and his lead assistant Kurtis Townsend. Basically, Self and Townsend may not have directly dropped a duffel bag of cash at recruits’ feet. Instead, according to the NCAA, Adidas did it for Bill Self. With Bill Self’s blessing.
With the news, it put Kansas in the direct cross-hairs of the NCAA. Based on what we learned on Monday, the NCAA appears serious about going after one of its cash cow programs and golden goose head coaches.
So to answer your question, yes, Kansas could and likely will be in real trouble. And yes, it leaves Self’s future at the school quite cloudy.
Let’s take a look at what we know, what went down, and what could be next for both Kansas and other programs in college basketball:
What Background Do You Need to Know?
Now to be clear, most of what came out yesterday is technically “new.” If you paid attention during the FBI trial a year ago, you would have seen some version of Monday’s news coming. Maybe no one could have seen just how aggressive the NCAA ended up being. Or exactly the amount of blood that ended up on Bill Self’s hands (that’s figurative blood, not literal. Thankfully).
But again, we should have seen this day coming.
That’s because about a year ago, Self’s text communications with Adidas rep TJ Gassnola came to light at the FBI trials in New York. There was a lot of back-and-forth between the two (and as it turns out, other Adidas reps and Self and his staff) but the most incriminating stuff came straight from Self’s text messages to Gassnola. Those were the texts where Self said to Gassnola “I’m happy with Adidas. Just got to get a couple real guys.” Gassnola responded by saying “I have never let you down. Except Dyondre (DeAndre Ayton) lol. We will get it right.”
Had it not been for the FBI trials, there is no way the NCAA could have ever gotten access to those texts. But because of the FBI trial there they were, and it appears the NCAA is intent on using them against Self. It’s something that I wrote about a full year ago, where I openly wondered how the NCAA couldn’t use them against Kansas. Apparently, the NCAA agreed and came down on Kansas, with those text messages as the basis for their lengthy list of allegations. Even though Kansas argued against it, there really was no other way to interpret them as Kansas and Self working together to get De Sousa to Kansas.
Speaking of De Sousa and Kansas, let’s also not forget that Kansas has already… ADMITTED TO NCAA VIOLATIONS!!! Kansas fans don’t want to hear it. But, when Silvio de Sousa was suspended for all of last season, Kansas worked with the NCAA, in hopes of getting his suspension reduced. To get that suspension reduced, the Kansas administration admitted that Gassnola had in fact funneled money to De Sousa’s guardian to get him to Lawrence. At the time, the KU defense served its purpose: De Sousa’s suspension was reduced from two full seasons to just one. At the same time, they also opened up the reality that yes, they had a player who was only at Kansas because Adidas paid his guardian to get him there.
That’s also what makes what happened next even more wild: Yes, Kansas admitted that Gassnola paid De Sousa’s guardian to send him there. But they also claimed –get this – that Gassnola went rouge, that he did so without any knowledge of Kansas and its staff. That’s right: Kansas claimed that despite the fact that Gassnola and Self were in constant contact in the lead-up to De Sousa’s commitment, Self had no idea that Gassnola had given the kid’s family anything.
It seemed like a preposterous claim at the time, and apparently the NCAA agreed.
Which brings us back to Monday.
The NCAA called out Self under it’s new “Head Coach Responsibility” guidelines, which basically hold the head coach responsible for the actions of everyone around the program. The NCAA also hit Kansas with a “Lack of Institutional Control” charge. If you read the report, the NCAA claims that Kansas officials knew about Gassnola and other Adidas reps hanging around the program, but did nothing to stop them. Nor did they report their concerns to the NCAA.
So yeah, that’s not good for Kansas. And for half a second, let’s give credit to the NCAA here. For two years they’ve claimed they wanted to clean up college basketball and minimize the role shoe companies played in the recruitment of high-caliber high school players. But no one was quite sure if they would actually go after one of their big, money making programs.
Only they have.
And Kansas is officially on the clock.
What’s Next for Kansas?
In terms of “What’s Next,” don’t expect anything to happen to Kansas this season. The school has 90 days to respond to Monday’s report, to explain why the NCAA is wrong and deliver proof in their defense. Expect them to use that entire time, and for the two sides to go back and forth well into next summer. Because of it, don’t expect Bill Self to miss any games this season or Kansas to miss this year’s NCAA Tournament.
And if there were any doubt about that, Kansas and Bill Self both released statements Monday night, which read in part, “it is already clear from an initial review that the University will fiercely dispute in detail much of what has been presented.”
So yeah, Kansas ain’t going down without a fight.
At the same time, it’s hard to figure out exactly what and how they will fight. To be clear, for the school to win the battle with the NCAA and get Self cleared without any major punishment, the school will have to prove that the allegations made against him and the school are false. That seems like it will be a hard thing to do when 1) The school has already admitted to the NCAA that Gassnola helped land De Sousa in Lawrence 2) There is documented proof that Self and Gassnola were in touch in the lead-up to De Sousa’s commitment.
Based on the information we already have, I really don’t know what Kansas’s argument would be. And if they can’t defend it, then that leaves Self with a very uncertain future. Especially with those new “Head Coach Responsibility” rules in place.
What Could Happen to Self?
According to those new “Head Coach Responsibility” rules, Kansas could face up to five years ban from the NCAA Tournament (won’t happen) and they also call for up to a one-year show cause penalty for the coach. Yes, you read that correctly: If Self is found responsible of what the NCAA claims, they could suspend him for a full year.
Will they? Given that these rules have never been enacted before, it’s impossible to know. But that is what the NCAA has recommended as punishment. Which also leads to the next question which is, if it goes down that road, would Kansas and Self just decide to part ways? Would Self really want to sit out for a season? Would Kansas really want him out for that long? Considering Self is still in his mid-50’s, is this the time where he finally makes his long-rumored jump to the NBA?
Who knows? But it does feel like the NCAA is ready to hand out some major punishment to him.
What Does Monday’s News Mean for Other Schools Caught in the FBI Probe?
Furthermore, I’d also add this: With the NCAA so clearly intent on bringing the hammer on Kansas and using those “Head Coach Responsibility” rules, it seems like a bad sign for the other programs involved in the FBI probe as well. While Sean Miller was never directly caught the way Self was, would the NCAA go after him, with one of Miller’s assistant coaches currently in prison? What about Bruce Pearl at Auburn?
As for those wondering about Louisville, they will be an interesting case study as well. Like NC State, Louisville has cleaned house since the FBI news broke two years ago. They have a whole new administration and head coach? Could the Cardinals avoid punishment? To take it a step further, could the NCAA hit Rick Pitino with those “Head Coach Responsibility” rules and give him with a one-year show cause? It seems in play.
That conversation is for another day though, and right now all we know about is Bill Self and Kansas. they seem intent on a long, drawn out fight with the NCAA.
Based on what we know right now, it’s not a fight I expect them to win.