We’ve known for more than a year now that the NCAA was working on its case against Kansas since Adidas rep TJ Gassnola testified under oath in a New York court that he was paying players on behalf of Kansas basketball.
So here we are, the NCAA has delivered five “level one” violations against Kansas basketball – two additional violations were directed toward the football program. These alleged violations are all based on the actions of Gassnola and Jim Gatto, who orchestrated large payments to families of players who attended Kansas (Billy Preston and Silvio De Sousa).
The university has been hit with one of the worst violations a program can receive in “lack of institutional control” and head coach Bill Self has been accused of being aware of this pay-for-play scheme and “not promoting an atmosphere of compliance based on ‘personal involvement in violations.’”
All five violations basically circle around the idea that Kansas – meaning Self and assistant coach Kurtis Townsend – knew Adidas officials were committing violations to secure commitments and welcomed Gassnola’s and Gatto’s cheating.
It looks bad for Kansas. In fact, it looks devastating. But that is how it is supposed to look. The NCAA has one shot to deliver these allegations in a way that will scare Kansas and sway the public to get behind what looks to be the biggest takedown it has ever attempted.
The university has 90 days to respond to the notice and while they will likely take their time, know that they will deliver a similarly shocking response that will have many wondering if they will be punished at all.
In the meantime, all we can do is speculate and there are big concerns for both sides of this fight that are not being told in the documents.
When Gassnola testified under oath in court during the FBI’s investigation of apparel companies – where it was decided schools like Kansas had been defrauded by Adidas – he confirmed he paid players to come to Kansas but also said Self and Kansas were in no way aware of his or Adidas’ actions. So, by leveling these allegations against Kansas, the NCAA is choosing to say it believes every part of Gassnola’s testimony other than the part where Kansas didn’t know. It’s a slippery slope where we start to wonder if Gassnola really perjured himself to buy Self more time. The NCAA is using text message correspondence between Self and Gassnola to paint a relationship between them where it was virtually impossible for Self to not know, despite the lack of conclusive language in those texts.
Back in February when the NCAA finally made its decision in the case of De Sousa’s eligibility, Kansas was faced with the choice of declaring Gassnola a booster on a recommendation from the NCAA to expedite its investigation into the appeal of De Sousa’s eligibility. Big picture, this is trouble for Kansas as the NCAA can now say Self had a booster (Gassnola) under the program’s supervision cheating on the program’s behalf. It’s a mess and I think Kansas would have never designated Gassnola a booster otherwise.
More trouble for Kansas comes with how its case will be handled. It already came as a surprise when the NCAA gained access to the evidence the FBI used in its case – something we originally thought couldn’t happen. But due to changes in NCAA policy, access to texts, phone calls and other pieces of evidence is available. Additionally, the Committee on Infractions will be tasked with dishing out Kansas’ punishment, the caveat being these cases starting with KU and going forward will not be decided based on precedent. The possibilities for what the NCAA could do to Kansas are endless and quite frightening because it is clear the NCAA is out to make an example out of a blue-blood program.
The good news when it comes to these violations is that it is very unlikely all five will be inflicted on Kansas. The bad news is getting just one level one violation to stick will likely result in a postseason ban and suspension of at least a season for Self.
These allegations or the process under which punishments will be handed out will not affect this season of Kansas basketball and with a strong team, there will be fun basketball to keep our minds off of this sore subject.
Jason Brown is the sports editor of the Leavenworth Times. Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org