Editorials

The real victim in NCAA pay-for-play scandal isn’t KU or Bill Self. It’s Silvio De Sousa

KU coach Bill Self comments on the two-year suspension of Silvio De Sousa that was handed down by the NCAA

Following the KU Jayhawks 79-63 win Saturday, KU head coach Bill Self addressed the media and commented on the two-year suspension of Silvio De Sousa that was handed down by the NCAA
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Following the KU Jayhawks 79-63 win Saturday, KU head coach Bill Self addressed the media and commented on the two-year suspension of Silvio De Sousa that was handed down by the NCAA

The University of Kansas’ claim that the school was the victim of fraud perpetuated by a rogue shoe executive was affirmed in court.

In fact, former Adidas executive Jim Gatto agreed to pay KU roughly $200,000 in restitution after a federal jury convicted him and others of wire fraud for making illicit payments to amateur basketball players.

But the real victim in this scandal is Silvio De Sousa, KU’s 6-foot-9-inch power forward, who has been benched by the NCAA with a two-year suspension. De Sousa has played in just 20 games in two years at the school and was forced to sit out the entire last season.

This week, KU officially appealed De Sousa’s suspension, the latest twist in a case that highlights all that’s wrong with college basketball. And on Friday, De Sousa announced plans to declare for the NBA Draft, saying he would return to Kansas if his appeal is granted and pursue a professional career if it’s rejected.

KU coach Bill Self has said that De Sousa needs another year of college experience, but declaring for the draft allows him to keep his options open while this process plays out.

In a letter of support filed with the appeal, De Sousa’s attorney Scott Tompsett underscored how much is at stake.

“Your committee has an opportunity in this case to make a decision that will be life-altering for Silvio,” Tompsett wrote.

Nothing suggests that the uber-talented student athlete knew of the shady deal involving T.J. Gassnola, one of Gatto’s top lieutenants. Gassnola testified during a federal trial last fall that he sent via overnight mail a $2,500 payment to De Sousa’s legal guardian, Fenny Falmagne.

Falmagne denied he ever agreed to accept an additional payment of $20,000 from Gassnola for securing De Sousa’s enrollment at KU.

Although NCAA investigators concluded De Sousa did not know about or benefit from the payments, they unfairly declared that he had violated the organization’s outdated rules on amateurism.

The devastating punishment could derail De Sousa’s promising college basketball career and future prospects. Yes, Falmagne, Gassnola, and KU coaches should be held responsible for any violations. But why is a young player who wasn’t privy to the deal paying a price?

Questions remain about what, exactly, KU coach Bill Self and his assistants knew. Gassnola testified that he had discussed previous payments with Gatto before making them. And Gatto’s sentencing memorandum said that Self and assistant coach Kurt Townsend expected Gassnola to violate NCAA recruiting rules in an effort to recruit players such as De Sousa.

Townsend allegedly discussed the financial requests of a different recruit’s family during a phone call with Merl Code, another former Adidas employee. Townsend is heard on tape saying, “If that’s what it takes to get him for 10 months, we’re going to have to do it some way.”

Kansas cast Adidas as the villain in a corrupt system and the university as the unwitting victim. And a jury agreed.

While the scandal has cast a cloud over Kansas basketball, KU is not a casualty in this high-stakes game of recruiting. De Sousa is.

Allowing the Angola native with a bright future to become collateral damage is grossly unfair. An independent appeals committee should reject the NCAA’s ruling and do the right thing by reinstating De Sousa.

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