Explaining the FBI college basketball case & allegations related to KU basketball
The Kansas athletic department received two subpoenas from federal prosecutors requesting information related to the FBI investigation into college basketball, The Star has learned through a Kansas Open Records Act request.
The first subpoena, dated Jan. 8, 2018, asked for “[a]ll documents regarding the recruitment and enrollment” of a player whose name was redacted by KU. In addition, the subpoena asked for any record of communication between KU and that player and his family. The document later requested all exchanges between KU department officials and “James Gatto, a/k/a “Jim”; (ii) Christopher Rivers; (iii) Thomas (“TJ”) Gassnola; (iv) Merl Code, and (v) any other representative of Adidas” before asking for all of KU’s contracts and oral agreements KU had agreed to with Adidas.
The second subpoena, signed March 14, 2018, requested all information about the recruitment and enrollment of another player, whose name also was redacted by KU. This subpoena had added stipulations that KU provide:
• Any documents in connection with the player’s eligibility.
• Any interview transcript or recording in connection with the investigation of the player’s eligibility.
KU received both of these subpoenas before federal prosecutors released a superceding indictment in its ongoing college basketball investigation on April 10. The new charges filed that day against Adidas executive Gatto by the U.S. Attorney’s Office in the Southern District of New York revealed that a mother and a guardian of two unidentified KU athletes — believed to be Billy Preston and Silvio De Sousa — were said to have benefited from illegal payments made without the knowledge of the university.
The Star obtained the subpoenas Tuesday from KU after it had requested them through a previous open records request. Following an initial denial, The Star challenged that the documents should be released.
KU public affairs officer Andy Hyland said in an email Tuesday that KU had “decided to exercise our discretion” to release the requested subpoenas.
“These documents do not suggest any wrongdoing by the university,” Hyland said in the email. “We are cooperating fully with investigators in this matter. Because this is an active investigation, it is not appropriate for us to comment further at this time.”
Preston never appeared in the regular season for KU, sitting out KU’s first game for missing curfew and class, according to coach Bill Self, and then the next game against Kentucky on Nov. 15 while the school looked into the “financial picture” regarding his vehicle. Preston missed the next 16 games while KU attempted to get his eligibility reinstated by the NCAA; he eventually chose to leave the school and sign with a Bosnian professional team on Jan. 20.
De Sousa, meanwhile, played in 20 games for KU last season, averaging 4.0 points and 3.7 rebounds. When talking to reporters on July 11, Self said he’d be comfortable playing De Sousa if the 2018-19 season started that week.
“You’ve got to understand something,” Self said then, “Silvio was declared eligible. There was a process the NCAA went through with Silvio to declare him eligible, which there is with a lot of kids, because there were questions about Silvio’s amateurism. Not that there was anything wrong with it, but when a kid transfers schools, when he’s an international kid, there’s a lot of things that trigger certain things. That stuff was all talked about.
“The NCAA is the one who declared him eligible, not Kansas. There’s been nothing I’ve heard to take away from that whatsoever. That doesn’t mean if something comes out new in the future that could be questioned, but I am confident at this point in time. ... Nobody at this stage has given us any information that would lead to believe he could be in jeopardy in that way (eligibility-wise).”
Self did say then that things could potentially change in the future.
“That’s with us not knowing all the information, or do we know all the information?” Self said. “If we know it, then I feel very comfortable. The bottom line is that’s something that’s got to play out. As much as I’d like to say he’s positively this or that, I can’t do that. There’s been no indication yet at this time that we will have a serious problem with that. Something could come up we are unaware of at this time.”
KU Chancellor Douglas Girod — while at new athletic director Jeff Long’s introductory news conference two weeks ago — spoke about his belief that the athletic department would not be impacted by the FBI’s probe. In addition, Girod put a provision in Long’s contract that stated if KU was put on probation or had NCAA restrictions in football, volleyball, men’s basketball or women’s basketball based on events that took place before July 4, 2018, the duration of Long’s contract would be extended “equal to the length of the penalties.”
“That language was ours in discussion with our consultant,” Girod said then. “Knowing of course that story (FBI investigation) is out there, that that conversation continues, we wanted to demonstrate our confidence in where we were with this and our ability to go through this and our belief we are not at risk in this.”
When asked about the FBI investigation, Long said he was “very confident that Kansas … we are going to work through this process and we’re going to be just fine. That was something I certainly considered if I decided to take the job, so I’m very confident we’re going to work through this and in our ability to work through this.”