Another day and another chunk of the Kansas basketball drama that won’t go away. This time, the sworn affidavit of what happened that December night outside a college bar.
Another day and another reason for all sides to dig in, even further, the extremists drifting more irrevocably away from what this story is really about and why it deserves to be told.
Josh Jackson’s stardom has created the perception that this is about him. It is not. Kansas basketball’s profile has created the perception that this is about coach Bill Self’s program. It is not.
This is about the University of Kansas administration, fairness, delayed response from police and possible Title IX violations.
This particular story is happening in a college town in Kansas, but the truth is it could’ve happened anywhere — and who among us believes it hasn’t?
KU basketball is the biggest source of pride, revenue and exposure in Lawrence. The same could be said about basketball programs in Lexington, Ky., and Chapel Hill, N.C., or football programs in Manhattan, Kan., Columbia, Mo., or many other places.
This needs to be made clear, because the specifics of this story — Jayhawk basketball, and all the pride or distaste it generates around Kansas City based on rooting interests — has driven many on all sides to lose track of what matters.
Unbiased, neutral experts are saying that a major university likely violated Title IX protocol. If you believe nothing else, that alone is news, and worth noting, no matter how much an athletic director attempts to shift the conversation publicly.
A star player for a program that generates eight figures in annual revenue was accused of inflicting property damage and interviewed almost immediately afterward with his coach present. But the matter did not appear to be further investigated until nearly two months later, after a reporter had asked to see the police report.
Isn’t that curious? Doesn’t this deserve to be questioned?
Planting the flag at either extreme serves no legitimate purpose. KU is not a pirate ship, and The Star is not chasing a vendetta. Pushing prepackaged, muscle-memory accusations means an unnecessarily more difficult time for those on each side who simply wish to know what improvements can be made.
Look, I understand why many who work or cheer for KU are frustrated by the drip-drip-drip way the news has come out. It’s frustrating for The Star, too. It would be cleaner, and clearer, if presented in one major story instead of a series of smaller breaks. That is simply not the way these types of stories develop.
My bosses may not like me writing this, but I understand the frustration generated by a story about the playing time of women’s basketball player McKenzie Calvert, whose father, Tim Calvert, has been quoted extensively in our newspaper. There are defensible basketball reasons Calvert’s playing time diminished.
But if I can say that publicly, I hope KU officials like athletic director Sheahon Zenger can recognize that in months of coverage, nothing The Star has reported has been proven incorrect. They simply cite privacy laws and complain that their side of the story hasn’t been told, despite repeated requests from multiple Star reporters to get them to explain.
It would be shoddy journalism if The Star published the father’s accusations without verifying them, or without asking for the university’s response. That hasn’t happened. It would be shoddy journalism if The Star ignored news because the university refused to respond. That hasn’t happened, either.
We can all understand why this story makes university officials uncomfortable. Nobody enjoys being asked hard questions. We can all further understand the difficult spot the university is in with limitations in what they can say publicly.
But UMKC’s handling of Martez Harrison’s dismissal from the men’s basketball team and one-year suspension shows a university can explain itself without violating the law.
KU officials know why this is news. They must understand that “just trust us” is not a credible defense — and that insinuations that Calvert has been difficult to manage do not address possible breaks of Title IX protocol, let alone the delayed response by police.
It’s also disappointing that they continue to search for ways to make this go away, rather than meet the consequences of their university’s mistakes head-on.
Zenger told the Lawrence Journal-World this week that Mr. Calvert has delayed meeting with the university. This is, in the most generous reading, intentionally misleading.
Mr. Calvert directed an unsolicited call from Jackson’s attorney to his own attorney, and KU’s condition for a proposed meeting required Calvert to respond within 24 hours. Ultimately, the university also wants McKenzie Calvert to sign a waiver so they can discuss her situation at KU.
We can go point by point like this until the lines go hazy and there is no clear public understanding about what went wrong. Unfortunately, by now, that’s probably the most likely ending. That’s too bad.
Humans respond to incentives, and the incentives are to keep the cheers and money coming. If those incentives pushed the barriers of fairness or legal protocol, nobody is accusing anyone at Kansas of acting with malice. Just clumsiness.
It could’ve happened a lot of places. If it happened here, this is an opportunity to improve. For everyone.