Bill Self in two simple sentences said a lot Friday to possibly calm the concerns of any Kansas supporters on edge that the Jayhawks could get caught up in the FBI’s investigation of college basketball recruiting.
“I don’t think our fans at this point in time have anything to worry about. I’m much more concerned about our sport than I am Kansas,” Self, KU’s 15th-year coach, said Friday in discussing the case that so far has resulted in 10 individuals being arrested as part of an FBI probe into fraud and corruption in the sport. That includes four assistant coaches in the sport and two reps for Adidas, the company that has a sponsorship contract with KU Athletics.
Self, at Friday’s KU men’s basketball media day, acknowledged that he does know Jim Gatto, Adidas’ global marketing director for basketball, who is facing federal charges of wire fraud and money laundering.
“Well I do know Jim,” Self said. “We’ve been with Adidas 10 years (since 2005) or whatever. You know most of those guys in the company. It was very disappointing and disheartening and obviously a dark cloud for our profession and everything. (But) no, I’ve had zero contact, zero (with him about this case).”
Self was asked if there’s a fear that individuals such as Gatto, who face possible jail time, might offer incriminating evidence on other schools besides the ones in which assistant coaches have already been arrested and charged with crimes.
“I’m not going to get into that because I’ve never, ever visited with him in regards to anything that would be remotely associated with how he would react in a situation like this. Nothing. So I can’t answer that question at all,” Self said.
Self did agree with the possibility that a shoe company could steer a player to a school by paying the player without the school knowing.
“I would say that there’s … fear might not be the right word, but I think there is obviously things going on in recruiting that a lot of times coaches would not know about, because you don’t know what agents and families talk about when they meet,” Self said, noting agents are allowed to meet with high schoolers and their families. “You don’t know about that stuff. You know, you’d like to know as much as possible, but I think that would probably be impossible to know every little thing.
“Would there be concerns? Yeah, that would be concerns for anybody I would say, that there could be some things out there that’s gone on in recruiting that doesn’t involve just the school and the family and the recruit. But I’m not saying that’s prevalent. I don’t believe it is, but who knows? I guess it could be the case.”
He was also asked about KU’s contract with Adidas. KU Athletics has agreed orally to a 12-year extension with the company. The new pact — 14 years in total — would provide $191 million in sponsorship and apparel.
“Well, you’d have to ask my superiors that (if the deal will be signed). … I don’t know anything about the contract moving forward or the dates or if it’s signed yet. I really don’t know that.”
Self said the fact KU is an Adidas school has been used against the Jayhawks in recruiting.
“Has it hurt us to date? No, I don’t think it has. But I don’t know, it’s not signing date yet, either,” Self said. “I know that we spent plenty of time making sure we explained the position of what’s transpired so far based on what we know. But as of this point, I don’t think it’s been a big deterrent (to landing players).”
He continued on the topic: “Whenever in recruiting there could be something out there that has been reported, whether it’s reliable, unreliable, total myth, whatever, there’s usually competitors that will make sure that information gets to people,” Self said. “Unfortunately that’s how it works. You can say that’s negative recruiting. I’m not sure if it’s reported and you forward an article, I’m not sure if that’s negative recruiting. A lot of times the things that are reported are so inaccurate that it puts you on the defense. And I would be lying if I wouldn’t have to tell you that we have addressed these issues with everyone that we’re recruiting.”
Finally, Self said he was not concerned about the FBI’s response to a Freedom of Information Act request by the University Daily Kansan that stated any documents related to KU and Adidas could not be released because an ongoing investigation.
“What was reported was accurate, but it was incomplete, because if I’m not mistaken, The Kansas City Star and The (Lawrence) Journal-World ran something right after that that says that would have been (the FBI’s) standard answer if anybody … would have FOI’ed the FBI regarding anything going on with this investigation,” Self said. “That’s the way it was explained to me. That’s the way I understood it.”
Self, the NABC president, said college sports figures to change following the FBI investigation.
“We have to do something to evaluate where we are and where we want to go, because I think the model the way we see it now will not exist in the near future,” he said. “There may be tweaks, but I also think there could potentially be some major changes.”