Making sense of the NCAA’s Allegations to Kansas

Monday afternoon, Yahoo! Sports reported that KU had received its notice of allegations from the NCAA. According to the report, KU basketball appears to be facing five overall charges:  three level-1 violations regarding recruiting, a charge of lack of institutional control, and a charge against head coach Bill Self. With ordinary KU fans most likely in a panic over this, it’s important to analyze what exactly is being levied at KU and what the following months have in store.

It is important to understand that the NCAA has not actually said what the exact chargers are. The Yahoo! Sports article mentioned violations involving the recruiting of Billy Preston and Silvio De Sousa, but we do not yet know the exact details of those violations. It has already been reported that Adidas representative T.J. Gassnola paid Preston and his family $90,000 to attend KU. A $2,500 payment linked to De Sousa’s guardian has also been reported. At face value, these are obvious rule violations, but a little context is necessary to understand where the NCAA might penalize KU. 

There are several important reasons why I don’t think the NCAA will directly punish KU for offering money to these top recruits. The first and most noteworthy is that this is simply not true. T.J. Gassnola testified under oath that he did not tell Self about the payments made (though Self may have had clues; more on this in a bit). Similarly, Preston’s guardian instructed him to keep the payments a secret from KU. When KU discovered something fishy going on with Preston’s finances after an automobile incident, he was withheld from competition. He ultimately never played an official game for Kansas.

There is also the situation regarding De Sousa. As every KU fan knows at this point, Silvio was never aware of payments and ultimately ended up winning an appeal from the NCAA that reinstated him for the 2019-2020 season after sitting out a year. It’s also worth mentioning that the NCAA did in fact clear De Sousa to play in January 2018 when he was a freshman. I think these facts do provide some push back against the NCAA when they inevitably lawyer up and fight the allegations.

However, KU is definitely not in the clear on all this. The lack of institutional control charge is one I think KU will have a tougher time trying to defend. The Yahoo! Sports article mentions texts between Self and Gassnola in which Self mentions that he is “happy with Adidas” and they discuss getting lottery picks. Of course, this is provided with little context to the conversation and certainly appears to be bad at face value. Interestingly, the Yahoo! article did not mention the texts involving assistant coach Kurtis Townsend, who appeared willing to try to meet demands to get Duke star Zion Williamson to attend KU. Zion ultimately went to Duke (a whole different conversation). It was reported that these texts were not submitted into evidence during the Adidas trial, and thus could not be used by NCAA, so it will be interesting to see what the NCAA has to say about this.

What’s worse for Kansas is something that transpired during Silvio’s appeal process. During the process, KU was forced by the NCAA to label Gassnola a “booster” of the program. At the time the NCAA claimed it was only for hypothetical reasons, but I would imagine this will come back to haunt KU. I think the texts between Townsend (whatever those end up being) will be the basis of the lack of institutional control charge. The charge against Self is most likely due to improper communications with said booster, which again, is something that will be hard to counter.

Whatever the actual charges end up being, you can bet that KU will fight tooth and nail, and I really believe recruiting violation regarding De Sousa and Preston can be successfully appealed for the reasons mentioned above. The lack of institutional control charge and the charge against Self will be much harder to win, in my opinion, just because the texts seem to indicate at face value that coaches knew something sketchy was happening with recruiting, even if they did not know the exact details. It seems that there was at least a willingness to let Adidas representatives pay recruits.

In terms of punishment, everything is shear speculation at this point because we do not know the charges. KU could face postseason bans, scholarship reductions, forfeiture of games that De Sousa played in during the 2017-2018 year, and a show cause order against Self. I think the best possible outcome for KU is a reduction in scholarships and the forfeiture of games Silvio played in. Essentially, this would be the “slap on the wrist” outcome.  The worst outcome would be the aforementioned punishments plus a multi-year postseason ban and a show cause order against Self, banning him from coaching for up to a year. This would be the “making an example out of KU” punishment.

I feel like the exact punishment will be somewhere in the middle. I think recruiting and scholarships will take a hit, and KU may receive a one-year postseason ban as well as giving up the 2018 Final Four run. Given the severity of the allegations, I think this is the punishment (if we know we are going to get punished) that KU fans should really hope for. I doubt Self gets a show cause punishment just simply to do his prominence in the basketball world. Also, KU fans should consider it a blessing that Zion did not attend KU, because there would then be direct evidence showing that KU coaches actively conspired to steer a recruit to play for the Jayhawks. With what we have now, we can potentially play the “plausible deniability” claim. However, CJ Moore over at The Athletic commented that due to new rules established by the NCAA, precedent no longer matters when deciding a punishment, so it’s all up in the air.

The actual charges will not come out for several weeks, if not months. After that, the appeal process will take months, so you can bet there will be speculation galore from KU fans (including myself; you are reading this article after all). What’s important to consider is that no punishment will likely be enforced for this season, which is particularly good because KU’s squad this year is very, very good and has a real shot at a national championship. The following years? Tough to say. But for this year, just try to enjoy the season, and maybe we can win a championship and give a final middle finger to the NCAA before we get hammered with punishments.

On a side note, the NOA also mentioned Level II allegations against the football program under David Beady that were self-reported. Because of course David Beaty would. His ghost continues to haunt KU.  *rolls eyes*

Update: Things are starting to trickle out. At the time I was writing this KU released its statement on the NOA. One thing of importance was mentioned in it. It states that KU disagrees with label of “booster,” so we now know that has a part to play in the violation. Basically, KU is about to go to war with the NCAA. Buckle up.