University of Kansas

NCAA suspends Silvio De Sousa for two seasons; KU fires back, will appeal

Kansas forward Silvio De Sousa must sit out the remainder of the 2018-19 basketball season and all of 2019-20 “because his guardian received payment from a university booster and agent and agreed to receive additional funds from the same person,” the NCAA ruled Friday.

De Sousa had not played in a game this season after he was held out of competition by KU pending a review of his eligibility. Kansas will appeal the NCAA ruling, with athletic director Jeff Long calling the ruling “unfair and punitive” and basketball coach Bill Self saying he had “never witnessed such a mean-spirited and vindictive punishment” against a player in his 30-plus years of coaching.

Scott Tompsett, a Kansas City-based attorney specializing in NCAA infractions who represents De Sousa, said he “will work with KU to do everything legally possible to get this outrageous decision reversed.” De Sousa declined comment to The Star.

The NCAA said in a release that “according to the facts provided for purposes of the reinstatement request (that KU made after declaring De Sousa ineligible about two weeks ago), De Sousa’s guardian received payment of $2,500 from an agent and booster of the school. He agreed to accept additional payment of $20,000 from the same individual and an Adidas employee for securing De Sousa’s enrollment at Kansas.”

During a federal trial regarding corruption into college basketball last fall, former Adidas representative T.J. Gassnola testified that, sometime before January 2018, he overnighted a $2,500 payment to De Sousa’s legal guardian, Fenny Falmagne. Gassnola said he sent the money in an envelope inside a magazine, so De Sousa could pay for online classes.

Read Next

Gassnola testified that he also originally offered Falmagne $20,000 to help him get out of a previous arrangement with a Maryland booster, who was paying Falmagne $60,000 with the expectation being that De Sousa would attend Maryland. Gassnola testified that he had discussed previous payments with then-Adidas executive Jim Gatto before making them.

But Gassnola said he never ended up making that $20,000 payment to Falmagne because he was worried about the FBI’s investigation into college basketball.

Falmagne told The Star on Friday that he did indeed receive $2,500 in cash in the mail. He told The Star it was not apparent who sent the money. He told The Star he gave the money to charity — a church in Florida. Falmagne said the NCAA was aware of this and has receipts of the transaction that he provided to the organization.

He said it was not true that he agreed to accept $20,000 for securing De Sousa’s enrollment at Kansas.

“That did not happen. There’s nothing there,” Falmagne told The Star.

He told The Star that no decision had been made on De Sousa’s future, whether he would stay at KU or possibly turn pro.

“We don’t know yet,” Falmagne said. “We are really going to have to do something here because the kid didn’t do anything wrong. We are going to talk to the people at KU, Silvio’s attorney and go from there.”

After he was cleared to play for KU in January 2018, De Sousa appeared in 20 of 23 games as a freshman last season as Kansas won its NCAA-record 14th consecutive Big 12 Conference title, including all eight postseason games on the Jayhawks’ run to their 15th Final Four in school history.

The NCAA said Friday that “according to the guidelines adopted by the NCAA Division I membership, when a prospective student-athlete allows a third party to involve himself in the recruitment process, the prospective student-athlete is then responsible for the actions of that person, regardless of whether the prospective student-athlete had knowledge or if benefits were received. Membership guidelines state the starting point for these violations is permanent ineligibility, but the NCAA staff recognized mitigation based on the specific circumstances of this case when making its decision.”

The NCAA added: “When a school discovers an NCAA rules violation has occurred, it must declare the student-athlete ineligible and may request the student-athlete’s eligibility be reinstated. The NCAA staff reviews each student-athlete reinstatement request individually based on its own specific facts. This decision may be appealed to the Division I Student-Athlete Reinstatement Committee, which is comprised of representatives from NCAA schools.”

Self and Long each issued furious statements about the NCAA ruling.

“We are shocked and incensed by today’s decision, and we will immediately appeal as this was clearly an unfair and punitive ruling for a young man who had no knowledge of any NCAA violation, nor did Silvio personally benefit from the violation,” Long said. “While we will continue to work with the NCAA on the broader matter, we have an obligation and a desire to advocate for our student-athletes, and will continue to do that for an outstanding young man.”

Added Self: “In my 30-plus years of coaching college basketball, I have never witnessed such a mean-spirited and vindictive punishment against a young man who did nothing wrong. To take away his opportunity to play college basketball is shameful and a failure of the NCAA. Silvio is a tremendous young man who absolutely deserves to be on the court with his teammates in a Jayhawk uniform. This process took way too long to address these issues. We will support Silvio as he considers his options.”

Tompsett also called the NCAA’s decision “outrageous.”

“It should shock the conscience of anyone who believes in fundamental fairness,” Tompsett said. “Silvio did absolutely nothing wrong. He was not involved in any wrongdoing by the adults, he did not know about any wrongdoing by the adults, and he did not benefit from any wrongdoing by the adults.

“Let me be very clear: Silvio never received any illicit money from anyone. The NCAA’s decision illustrates the absurdity of how the NCAA enforces its rules: A young man who did nothing wrong has had his life altered in a very negative way through no fault of his own.”

Related stories from Kansas City Star

Gary Bedore covers all aspects of Kansas basketball for The Star — the current team as well as former players and coaches and recruiting. He attended KU and was born and raised in Chicago, as well as Lisle, Ill.
Jesse Newell — he’s won an EPPY for best sports blog and previously has been named top beat writer in his circulation by AP’s Sports Editors — has covered KU sports since 2008. His interest in sports analytics comes from his math teacher father, who handed out rulers to Trick-or-Treaters each year.