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NCAA enforcement office calls Kansas’ violations ‘egregious, severe’
5:38 PM ET
  • Mark SchlabachESPN Senior Writer

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    • Senior college football writer
    • Author of seven books on college football
    • Graduate of the University of Georgia

The NCAA enforcement staff said Kansas’ basketball program committed “egregious” and “severe” rules violations that “significantly undermine and threaten the NCAA Collegiate Model,” and alleged that Jayhawks coach Bill Self and assistant Kurtis Townsend “embraced, welcomed and encouraged” Adidas employees and consultants to influence high-profile basketball recruits to sign with Kansas.

That was the NCAA enforcement staff’s position in its 92-page reply to Kansas that the university released on Thursday. The Jayhawks are charged with five Level I rules violations — the most serious — including lack of institutional control. Self is charged with head-coach responsibility violations.

Under NCAA rules, a head coach could be hit with a show-cause order and be suspended up to an entire season for Level I violations.

Kansas is also charged with two Level II violations and one Level III violation related to the football program under coach David Beaty.

Because of the complexity and severity of the allegations, and Kansas’ position regarding Adidas’ role, the case might be processed through the independent accountability resolutions process (IARP). An independent resolution panel (IRP), consisting of five independent members with legal, higher education and/or sports backgrounds, would hear the case and decide what penalties the Jayhawks would face. The IRP’s decision is final and there are no appeals.

“While the football allegations involve alleged Level II and III violations, which are serious alleged violations, there can be no doubt the men’s basketball allegations are egregious, severe and are the kind that significantly undermine and threaten the NCAA Collegiate Model,” the NCAA enforcement staff wrote in its reply. “The institution secured significant recruiting and competitive advantages by committing alleged Level I men’s basketball violations. The institution, in taking its defiant posture in the case, is indifferent to how its alleged violations may have adversely impacted other NCAA institutions who acted in compliance with NCAA legislation.”

Kansas officials, along with Self and Townsend, are disputing each of the five Level I violations regarding the men’s basketball program, as well as each of the nine aggravating factors cited by the NCAA.

“The NCAA enforcement staff’s reply does not in any way change the University of Kansas’ position that the allegations brought against our men’s basketball program are simply baseless and littered with false representations,” Kansas officials wrote in a statement on Thursday. “As the federal trial proved, Adidas employees intentionally concealed impermissible payments from the University and its coaching staff. The University has never denied these impermissible payments were made. For the NCAA enforcement staff to allege that the University should be held responsible for these payments is a distortion of the facts and a gross misapplication of NCAA Bylaws and case precedent.

“In addition, the enforcement staff’s assertion that KU refuses to accept responsibility is wrong. The University absolutely would accept responsibility if it believed that violations had occurred, as we have demonstrated with other self-reported infractions. Chancellor [Doug] Girod, [athletic director] Jeff Long and KU stand firmly behind Coach Self, his staff and our men’s basketball program, as well as our robust compliance program.”

Self’s lawyers also issued a statement disputing the NCAA’s response.

“Coach Self continues to vigorously maintain that the allegations claimed are simply an incomplete collection of misleading assertions, conclusory statements and groundless insinuations,” read the statement from attorneys Scott Tompsett and William Sullivan. “The NCAA’s false narrative starkly contradicts both the developed factual record in this matter as well as the federal criminal trial testimony and verdict, and it is undisputed that the enforcement staff’s own Notice of Allegations includes no claims that Coach Self knew or should have known of any improper payments, which is consistent with the trial evidence and testimony that proved through the jury verdict that Adidas employees intentionally concealed these payments from both Coach Self and his assistant coaches.”

Adidas and its employees and consultants were at the center of a federal investigation into bribes and other corruption in college basketball. The Jayhawks are the company’s flagship program and signed a 14-year, $196 million apparel and sponsorship extension in April 2019.

During a federal trial in October 2018, Adidas executive James Gatto, former Adidas consultant Merl Code and aspiring business manager Christian Dawkins were found guilty on felony charges of wire fraud and conspiracy to commit wire fraud. They are appealing their convictions.

In September 2019, former Adidas consultant T.J. Gassnola was sentenced to probation and fined for his role in pay-for-play schemes to steer recruits to Kansas and other Adidas-sponsored programs.

Gatto was accused of working with Gassnola to facilitate $90,000 from Adidas to former Jayhawks recruit Billy Preston’s mother and agreeing to pay $20,000 to Fenny Falmagne, current Kansas player Silvio De Sousa‘s guardian, to help him “get out from under” a pay-for-play scheme to attend Maryland, which is sponsored by Under Armour.

The NCAA also included allegations that Gassnola provided $15,000 to an unidentified individual to give to the mother of recruit Deandre Ayton, who signed with Arizona, and that Gassnola “communicated in a text message to Self that he had let Self down” when Ayton signed with the Wildcats.

“Regarding the men’s basketball allegations, very few facts are in dispute,” the NCAA reply said. “The institution does not dispute that Adidas and its employee and consultant provided at least $100,000 to families of three men’s basketball student-athletes the institution was recruiting. Bill Self, head men’s basketball coach, and Kurtis Townsend, assistant men’s basketball coach, also do not dispute many of the facts related to Adidas and its representatives having contact with prospects, and that they regularly communicated with Adidas representatives about their recruitment of prospects.

“However, where the parties diverge from the NCAA enforcement staff is on the key issue of responsibility for this conduct. They assert that Adidas and four of its employees or consultants are not representatives of the institution’s athletics interests, arguing the enforcement staff’s analysis is novel, unprecedented and never previously contemplated by the NCAA membership.”

The NCAA enforcement staff contends NCAA membership “feared shoe apparel company involvement and influence in the recruitment of elite student-athletes and then put safeguards into place in an attempt to prevent what occurred in this case.”

“The institution failed to control and monitor the relationship between Adidas’ representatives with its storied men’s basketball program,” the NCAA reply said. “This failure led to TJ Gassnola, a convicted criminal and then Adidas outside counsel, having unfiltered access to the men’s basketball program and allowed for Gassnola and Adidas to profoundly influence the institution’s recruitment of elite men’s basketball student-athletes.

“In fact, Self and Townsend embraced, welcomed and encouraged Gassnola and Adidas’ other representatives’ impermissible involvement. When boosters commit violations, the membership has clearly spoken through its legislative authority and infractions case precedent that the institutions should be held responsible.”

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