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Kansas, Bill Self are ready for long, drawn out fight with NCAA


The NCAA is coming for the neck of Kansas basketball, and Kansas basketball is fighting back.

On Monday, the Committee on Infractions sent Kansas their Notice of Allegations detailing a significant amount of cheating perpetrated by the Jayhawks. It included three separate Level I violations, a head coach responsibility charge against Bill Self and a lack of institutional control charge levied at the athletic department.

All of the violations stem directly from the testimony and evidence provided by former adidas bagman T.J. Gassnola at the college basketball corruption trials in the last 12 months, and it’s enough that the future of the Kansas basketball program can legitimately be in doubt. Postseason bans are in the cards. Show-cause orders for Self and assistant Kurtis Townsend, which they can coach under, seem to be the goal. The NCAA can suspended Self as well.

If they pile up enough punishments on his plate, will this be what finally gets Self to head to the NBA? And if he leaves, who is going to take over a program that could be heading into a five-year postseason ban, regardless of how blue the blood is?

However you slice it, there seems to be little doubt that the NCAA is going to try and make an example out of Kansas.

And that is precisely … Bill Self’s defense?

“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,” read a statement Self released late on Monday night. “Compelled to reassure member institutions and the general public that it can police its member institutions, the NCAA enforcement staff has responded in an unnecessarily aggressive manner in submitting today’s unsubstantiated Notice of Allegations, and I, as well as the University, will vigorously dispute what has been alleged.

“In its haste and attempt to regain control, the enforcement staff has created a false narrative regarding me and our basketball program. The narrative is based on innuendo, half-truths, misimpressions and mischaracterizations. In reality, we all know there is only one version of the truth. The truth is based on verifiable facts, and I am confident the facts we will demonstrate in our case will expose the inaccuracies of the enforcement staff’s narrative.”

Combine that with the University saying they will “fiercely dispute … what has been presented” and it’s clear that the school is not going to go down without a fight, that they are not going to fire Self for ‘the good of the program.’

Put another way, this has all the makings of a long legal battle where the only winners end up being the lawyers and their billable hours.

But it also creates an interesting conversation.

For starters, Self has a point. The NCAA, out of their own self-interest, has to drop an anvil on Kansas. Self’s statement is going to be quite the rallying cry on Kansas message boards, but there isn’t a soul on the planet that isn’t wearing blue and crimson tinted glasses that believes Self was in the dark about what Gassnola was doing. The details might have been left unsaid, but Self is too smart to be that naive. He knows how the system works. adidas has a damn-near $200 million investment in Kansas athletics, and it’s good for business to have good players in Phog Allen Fieldhouse.

Gassnola’s testimony was deemed truthful enough to put three men behind bars. He discussed funneling $90,000 to the mother of Billy Preston. He talked about paying the guardian of Silvio De Sousa as much as $20,000. He talked about recruiting Deandre Ayton on behalf of Kansas.

Spare me the righteous indignation. This isn’t a witch hunt.

It is, however, interesting to see the difference in how that testimony is viewed, however.

In court, it was evidence that proved Kansas was a victim. The school had played players that were technically ineligible without knowing it. The players had received scholarship money and federal pell grants that they should not have been eligible to receive. The proof will be when the NCAA vacates the 15 wins that De Sousa played in during the 2017-18 season, when they pull down the Final Four banner that Kansas earned that season.

They were victimized by adidas, who just re-upped their deal with Kansas. The school is gladly taking in $14 million a year for the next 14 years to wear three stripes on all their gear.

But in the Notice of Allegations that Kansas received, adidas is labeled as a “representative of the institution’s athletics interests.” In other words, according to the NCAA, adidas is working on behalf of Kansas, that beyond the monetary exchanges, the contact that Gassnola, Jim Gatto and other adidas employees had with recruits was against NCAA rules. Self, knowing about these contacts, then committed another violation when he did not report them.

And frankly, this is the truth.

adidas is working on behalf of Kansas because what’s good for Kansas basketball is good for adidas. That’s their flagship basketball program. Of course they want Kansas winning the Big 12 every year. Of course they want the Jayhawks playing on ESPN twice a week with a single digit number next to their name. Of course they want the program in the Final Four, on the sport’s biggest stage. Every game, every House Of Highlights video, every news story with a picture on it is marketing for them.

That’s where this battle will take place.

Can Kansas be victimized by adidas if adidas is working on their behalf?

The answer is: Does the NCAA care if they have enough to win?

Louisville challenges NCAA over recruiting allegations

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LOUISVILLE, Ky. — Louisville has refuted NCAA allegations against its men’s basketball program in the wake of a federal corruption scandal, requesting that the highest-level violation be reclassified.

The university also is challenging that former coach Rick Pitino failed to promote an atmosphere of compliance in his program.

Louisville filed a 104-page response last week to the Notice Of Allegations sent to the school in May. The document stated that college sports’ governing body seeks to ignore wire fraud convictions against several people involved in the scheme – including a former Adidas executive – by suggesting they were representing its athletic interests. Louisville’s contract with the apparel maker was a standard sponsorship agreement rather than a promotional deal, the response added.

“This argument is as novel as it is wrong,” the school wrote in its response. “Even if an institution has some responsibility for the conduct of its suppliers, that responsibility plainly does not extend to acts of fraud perpetrated against the institution itself.”

Louisville also seeks to have several second-tier violations reclassified even lower. The NCAA has until Nov. 15 to respond with the school responding 15 days after before a decision is made whether the case will proceed through the traditional Committee on Infractions or Independent Accountability Review Process (IARP).

The NCAA’s Notice of Allegations states that Louisville committed a Level I violation, considered the most severe, with an improper recruiting offer and extra benefits along with several lesser violations. Those lesser violations also include Pitino failing to promote an atmosphere of compliance.

The NCAA notice completed a two-year investigation following a federal corruption probe of college basketball announced in September 2017. Louisville acknowledged its involvement in the federal investigation related to the recruitment of former player Brian Bowen II. Pitino, who’s now coaching Iona, was not named in the federal complaint and has consistently denied authorizing or having knowledge of a payment to a recruit’s family.

Louisville has previously indicated it would accept responsibility for violations it committed but would contest allegations it believed were not supported by facts. The school also noted corrective measures taken in the scandal’s immediate aftermath, such as suspending and then firing Pitino and athletic director Tom Jurich.

Louisville also dismissed the NCAA’s contention that former Adidas executive James Gatto and amateur league director Merl Code represented the school while funneling illegal payments to recruits at several schools.

“The enforcement staff’s remaining allegations lack factual support and overread the relevant Bylaws,” the response stated, “and rest on the erroneous contention that the conspirators were representatives of the University’s athletics interests.

“For these reasons and others set forth, the panel should reject the enforcement staff’s dramatically overbroad theory, and classify this case as involving a Level II-Mitigated violation.”

Bubbles brewing with season on horizon

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INDIANAPOLIS — With the coronavirus pandemic already forcing changes for college basketball, a bubble may be brewing in Indianapolis.

Indiana Sports Corp. released a 16-page proposal Friday that calls for turning the city convention center’s exhibition halls and meeting rooms into basketball courts and locker rooms. There would be expansive safety measures and daily COVID-19 testing.

The all-inclusive price starts at $90,000 per team and would cover 20 hotel rooms per traveling party, testing, daily food vouchers ranging from $30-$50 and the cost of game officials. Sports Corp. President Ryan Vaughn said the price depends on what offerings teams or leagues choose.

“The interest has been high,” Vaughn said. “I think as conferences figure out what conference and non-conference schedules are going to look like, we’re we’re a very good option for folks. I would tell you we’ve had conversations with the power six conferences, mid-majors, it’s really kind of all over the Division I spectrum.”

Small wonder: The NCAA this week announced teams could start ramping up workouts Monday, with preseason practices set to begin Oct. 14. Season openers, however, were pushed back to Nov. 25 amid wide-ranging uncertainty about campus safety and team travel in the pandemic.

There is already scrambling going on and some of the marquee early-season tournaments have already been impacted.

The Maui Invitational will be moved from Hawaii to Asheville, North Carolina, with dates still to be determined and organizers clear that everyone involved “will be in a bubble environment that limits their movement and interaction outside the venue.” The Batttle 4 Atlantis has been canceled. The Cancun Challenge will be held in Melbourne, Florida, not Mexico.

More changes almost certainly will be coming, including what to do with the ACC-Big Ten Challenge.

“I think we’re past the guesswork on whether we play 20 conference games or more than that,” Purdue coach Matt Painter said Friday. “We’re trying to get everybody set like in terms of MTEs (multi-team events), figuring out when to play the ACC-Big Ten challenge.”

Painter, who was part of the NCAA committee that recommended how to start the season, noted part of the uncertainty stems from differing protocols imposed by campus, city and state officials.

In Indianapolis, Vaughn believes the convention center, nearby hotels, restaurants and downtown businesses, many within walking distance of the venue, could safely accommodate up to 24 teams. The 745,000-square foot facility would feature six basketball courts and two competition courts.

Anyone entering the convention center would undergo saliva-based rapid response testing, which would be sent to a third-party lab for results. Others venues could be added, too, potentially with more fans, if the case numbers decline.

If there is a taker, the event also could serve as a dry run for the 2021 Final Four, also slated for Indy.

“It’s not going to hurt,” Vaughn said. “I can tell you all the planning we’re doing right now is the same for a Final Four that’s been scheduled here for any other year. But it would be nice to have this experience under our belt to see if it can be done.”

Maui Invitational moving to North Carolina during pandemic

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ASHEVILLE, N.C. — The Maui Invitational is moving to the mainland during the coronavirus pandemic.

One of the premier preseason tournaments on the college basketball schedule, the Maui Invitational will be played at the Harrah’s Cherokee Center in downtown Asheville, North Carolina.

Dates for the tournament announced Friday have yet to be finalized. The NCAA announced Wednesday that the college basketball season will begin Nov. 25.

This year’s Maui Invitational field includes Alabama, Davidson, Indiana, North Carolina, Providence, Stanford, Texas and UNLV.

All teams, staff, officials, and personnel will be in a bubble environment that limits their movement and interaction outside the venue.

Burton eligible at Texas Tech after 2 seasons at Wichita State

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LUBBOCK, Texas — Junior guard Jamarius Burton has been granted a waiver from the NCAA that makes him eligible to play this season for Texas Tech after starting 52 games the past two seasons for Wichita State.

Texas Tech coach Chris Beard announced the waiver Thursday, which came five months after Burton signed with the Big 12 team.

Burton has two seasons of eligibility remaining, as well as a redshirt season he could utilize. He averaged 10.3 points and 3.4 assists per game as a sophomore at Wichita State, where he played 67 games overall.

Burton is from Charlotte. He helped lead Independence High School to a 31-1 record and the North Carolina Class 4A state championship as a senior there.

NCAA season set to open day before Thanksgiving

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The NCAA men’s and women’s basketball season will begin on Nov. 25, the day before Thanksgiving.

The Division I Council voted Wednesday to push the start date back from the originally scheduled Nov. 10 as one of several precautions against the spread of coronavirus.

The later start date coincides with the decision most schools made to send students home from Thanksgiving until January out of concern about a potential late-fall and early-winter flareup of COVID-19. Closed campuses could serve as a quasi bubble for players and provide a window for non-conference games.

The maximum number of regular-season games has been reduced from 31 to 27. The minimum number of games for consideration for the NCAA Tournament was cut from 25 to 13.

Teams can start preseason practices Oct. 14 but will be allowed to work out 12 hours per week beginning Monday.

No scrimmages against other teams or exhibitions are allowed.

In other action, the council voted to extend the recruiting dead period for all sports through Dec. 31. In-person recruiting is not allowed during a dead period, though phone calls and other correspondence are allowed.

The men’s and women’s basketball oversight committees had jointly recommended a start date of Nov. 21, which would have allowed for games to be played on the weekend before Thanksgiving. The council opted not to do that to avoid a conflict with regular-season football games.

The council is scheduled to meet again Oct. 13-14 and could delay the start date and change other pieces of the basketball framework if circumstances surrounding the virus warrant.