Editorials

If KU basketball committed major NCAA violations, the program must be held accountable

News that the NCAA is poised to issue a notice of allegations that include major violations in the University of Kansas men’s basketball program will severely disappoint every Jayhawk fan.

For everyone else, this reinforces the fear that major collegiate athletics is still a breeding ground for corruption and for the exploitation of young athletes.

Sources have told The Star that the NCAA is preparing the notice, and while the specifics are unclear, it appears likely the allegations will involve recruiting fraud investigated by the FBI.

If major infractions occurred, this could be a devastating blow to the Kansas basketball program.

Investigators allege officials from Adidas helped funnel cash to representatives and guardians of top basketball recruits to get those athletes to play for schools connected with the sportswear company.

The investigation led to several arrests, including assistant basketball coaches. Testimony in one trial linked payments on behalf of Adidas to two Kansas basketball recruits.

Last year, three people were found guilty in connection with the scandal. Others have pleaded guilty.

This summer, an NCAA official said six schools connected with the scandal would receive notices of Level 1 violations, considered the most serious. Kansas, it is now believed, is one of those schools.

Possible sanctions could include loss of scholarships and a ban on postseason play.

Allegations aren’t proof, of course. There are several procedural steps the school can follow before any punishment is decided. It’s possible, perhaps likely, that any sanctions would come several months from now.

The University of Kansas is certainly entitled to its day in court.

At the same time, KU should not attempt to duck responsibility or hide behind technicalities and secrecy. The school should insist on transparency and accountability from everyone associated with men’s basketball as the NCAA process moves forward.

That includes head coach Bill Self. He is a beloved figure in Kansas, and for good reason. His teams win. But victories can never be more important than integrity and appropriate conduct. Self can demonstrate his commitment to both as the allegations are investigated.

He should also take a lead role in the broader debate over major college athletics. It’s clear a reckoning is coming, particularly in basketball, where the competition to recruit often underprivileged athletes is fierce. Schools with major athletic programs must show a willingness to weed out corruption, or the government will step in.

It’s a sad day in Kansas, although — to be candid — this isn’t really a surprise. The university has been on the short list of schools under NCAA scrutiny for some time.

The federal investigation revealed a glimpse of the underbelly of KU’s basketball program, bringing into sharp relief the complex — and potentially corrupt — relationships and arrangements among coaches, recruits and sportswear companies.

If Kansas broke NCAA rules, or violated the law, it must be held accountable. Then the university must clean up the basketball program, and make sure this never happens again.

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