NCAA Charges Kansas Basketball, Coach Bill Self For Multiple Violations In Recruitment Bribery Scandal
Kansas University, one of the most prestigious college basketball programs, was charged with serious NCAA violations on Monday.
The program that has won five national championships and bolstered such talent as Wilt Chamberlain, Paul Pierce and Joel Embiid was formally hit with five Level I charges and two Level II charges. Level I is the highest degree of charges in collegiate basketball.
Last year, the NCAA went public with an investigation into the alleged relationship that Jayhawks coach Bill Self and Adidas shoes had regarding the recruitment of players. Adidas was accused of bribing college players throughout college basketball by using Kansas as its main source of business. The sports gear giant had signed a 14-year, $196 million dollar contract with the Jayhawks basketball program this past April.
Self — a Naismith Basketball Hall of Famer who led the Jayhawks to 14 straight Big 12 championships — is listed in many of those allegations for either knowing, allowing or taking part in illegal recruiting practices of blue chip prospects. The NCAA is rumored to be aggressively applying a by-law that holds head coaches accountable for all the personnel who report to them, whether directly or indirectly. If found guilty, Self could face up to a one-year suspension for the Level I charges and up to half a year for Level II violations.
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“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.”
Adidas’ main consultant to Kansas, T.J. Gassnola, was sentenced last month and put on probation for what is called “pay-to-play” practices, through which a recruiter lures high school basketball from going to other schools by paying their families a substantial amount of money to choose a program of their choosing over another.
Last year, Adidas executive James Gatto claimed in open court through an attorney that the company had approved a $20,000 payment to Kansas player Silvio De Souza only after Self had requested it. Gatto and two of his associates, Merl Code and Christian Dawkins, were found guilty of felony wire fraud and conspiracy to commit wire fraud. Gatto was accused of working with Gassnola to facilitate a $90,000 payment from Adidas to former Jayhawks recruit Billy Preston‘s mother.
The NCAA has charged Gassnola and Self for having text message conversations that show the relationship and recruiting practices. One such case involved the No. 1 pick in last year’s NBA draft, Deandre Ayton, who was being recruited by NCAA teams, Gassnola allegedly provided a $15,000 payment to Ayton’s mother. When Ayton chose Arizona instead, Gassnola texted Self that “he had let Self down.”
Gassnola testified during the trial that Self and his assistants weren’t aware of the alleged payments. However, Gassnola again texted Self after the Adidas multi-million dollar deal, stating that he now has to get “real guys.”
Self and Kansas both came out with a statement that they had “mostly” done no wrong and that the charges are a witch hunt.
“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, mis-impressions 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.”
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