University of Kansas

NCAA alleges major violations against KU basketball. Self, school to fight charges

Nearly a year after the underworld of college basketball recruiting was exposed in a federal court case, the NCAA levied serious charges Monday against the University of Kansas men’s basketball program that could bring heavy sanctions.

In a NCAA notice of allegations issued Monday and released by the university, KU was charged with seven violations: five for men’s basketball and two for football. Each of the basketball charges were Level 1 — or the most severe. KU was also cited with lack of institutional control.

The NCAA was forceful in its allegations against both KU basketball coach Bill Self and assistant Kurtis Townsend, as evidenced in one line in the notice that stated the two KU basketball staff members, along with Adidas representatives, “intentionally and willfully engaged in NCAA violations and blatantly disregarded the NCAA constitution and bylaws.”

A determination on punishment by the NCAA infractions committee will take several months to complete, likely past the end of the 2019-20 men’s basketball season, but the violations as outlined in the notice could bring a show cause order and suspensions for Self and Townsend and a NCAA Tournament ban for the team.

Self and his attorneys fought back with powerful statements of their own. Scott Tompsett, one of Self’s lawyers, said, “The NCAA has alleged that Coach Self did not exercise appropriate due care in the management of his program. We will vigorously dispute that allegation.

“The NCAA has not alleged that Coach Self was involved in or was knowledgeable about any illicit payments to recruits or student-athletes. The NCAA has not alleged that Coach Self or anyone on his staff was involved in or had knowledge of any illicit payments. If illicit payments were made, coach Self and his staff were completely unaware of them.”

Tompsett said he and attorney William Sullivan, in the upcoming months, would “prepare a comprehensive and detailed written response” to each allegation.

Self defended himself and his program as well, saying he would “vigorously dispute what has been alleged.”

“In its haste and attempt to regain control, the enforcement staff has created a false narrative regarding me and our basketball program,” he said. “The narrative is based on innuendo, half-truths, misimpressions and mischaracterizations. In reality, we all know there is only one version of the truth. The truth is based on verifiable facts, and I am confident the facts we will demonstrate in our case will expose the inaccuracies of the enforcement staff’s narrative.”

Townsend did not comment.

Regarding the two Level 2 football violations, former KU coach David Beaty’s attorney Michael Lyons indicated his client was looking forward to addressing the NCAA allegations. Beaty is suing KU Athletics for the $3 million remainder of his contract.

“I also understand he has already submitted considerable, objective, documentary evidence to the enforcement staff that undercuts the allegations that I believe KU has marshaled to the NCAA,” Lyons wrote in a statement. “We continue to believe KU’s internal football ‘investigation’ was engineered to attempt to avoid paying David under his contract as promised.

“We will have not comment on the basketball allegations included in the notice nor on the clear discrepancy in the administration’s treatment of the head coaches in the two involved programs. KU is going to be forced to address those issues on its own.”

Beaty filed suit against the athletic department in March, alleging that it sought to concoct a reason to fire him for cause to avoid a $3 million payout.

Beaty’s lawsuit said that after he refused the athletics department’s request for an extension to pay him, KU Athletics initiated an NCAA investigation into the conduct of one of Beaty’s subordinates, which the notice of allegations revealed was video coordinator Jeff Love. The investigation was a pretext to reclassify Beaty’s departure from KU as termination for cause, which would void the $3 million, according to the lawsuit.

The NCAA’s case against KU in basketball appears tied in large part to what was uncovered in the FBI’s investigation into recruiting corruption involving Adidas, KU Athletics’ multi-million dollar apparel sponsor.

Here is a summary of the NCAA’s seven alleged violations sent to KU, which partially redacted the notice, obscuring player names and other details, before releasing it to the public:

  • Adidas representative Jim Gatto and outside consultant T.J. Gassnola offered and provided impermissible benefits and had impermissible recruiting contacts with prospective and future KU basketball player Billy Preston (name redacted). Documented were $89,000 in payments to Preston’s family (name redacted).
  • Townsend and Adidas representatives engaged in violations when recruiting prospective and future KU basketball player Silvio De Sousa (name redacted). Included in the violation was that Townsend asked former KU coach Larry Brown about Townsend’s interest in recruiting De Sousa. The NCAA said Brown “impermissibly” contacted De Sousa’s legal guardian Fenny Falmagne, who had a previous relationship with Brown. Brown informed Townsend that the guardian wanted Adidas to outfit a non-scholastic basketball team with which he was affiliated. Townsend failed to report this violation to KU compliance. Falmagne, in the past, has told The Star that he was seeking equipment for Angola’s national team.
  • Townsend and Self had knowledge of some impermissible recruiting contacts by Adidas representatives. In one particular case, Gassnola communicated with Self that he had given $15,000 to a family friend of future Arizona basketball player Deandre Ayton (name redacted), with Gassnola later communicating to Self that he had let him down. Townsend also was accused of failure to report violations involving Adidas’ contact with recruits to KU compliance.
  • Self did not promote an atmosphere of compliance based on “personal involvement in violations,” including him having knowledge of Gassnola interacting with prospective players and their families at Late Night in the Phog, a KU recruiting event. Self also is accused of knowing about Gassnola’s impermissible phone calls with family members of prospective student-athletes.
  • The NCAA claimed that KU lacked policies to keep Adidas officials from committing NCAA violations and did not properly supervise interactions between the athletics department and the apparel-maker’s representatives. What’s more is the NCAA is alleging that three unnamed senior KU athletics officials had concerns about Gassnola’s interactions with the men’s basketball team, but that the athletic department did nothing to educate Gassnola about NCAA rules or monitor what he was doing. The NCAA also took KU to task for several employees allegedly knowing that Preston had a car that was not registered with the athletics department’s compliance staff.
  • The KU football team exceeded the allowable limit of coaches, as Love participated in “technical and tactical instruction” with student-athletes. Specifically, Love met with the quarterbacks six to 10 times and provided instruction, including the sending of educational videos through text messages.
  • Beaty did not properly monitor his staff because Beaty knew Love was a former college quarterbacks coach. On at least one occasion, Beaty observed Love alone in a meeting with the quarterbacks watching film and failed to ask further questions to confirm compliance.

The NCAA is weighing a number of aggravating and mitigating factors in assessing KU’s potential punishments. For the athletic department, the NCAA said that KU committed several Level 1 and Level 2 infractions and delayed the investigation when it stalled in producing Self’s telephone records.

Factors weighing in KU’s favor is its history in self-reporting lesser infractions, the notice of allegations said.

KU chancellor Douglas Girod issued a statement in clear support of his 17th-year men’s basketball coach: “While we will accept responsibility for proven violations of NCAA bylaws, we will not shy away from forcefully pushing back on allegations that the facts simply do not substantiate. We stand firmly behind Coach Self and our men’s basketball program, and we will continue to work diligently to do what is right.”

Athletic director Jeff Long reiterated those comments while backing Self: “We strongly disagree with the allegations regarding men’s basketball. We fully support Coach Self and his staff, and we will vigorously defend the allegations against him and our university. As for the football violations, we fully met the requirements and our responsibility to the NCAA by self-reporting the violations when our compliance procedures uncovered the issues. I am confident in our process to respond to the allegations and look forward to resolving this matter.”

One of the more problematic issues facing KU is the NCAA’s allegation of a lack of institutional control, which the NCAA itself defines as among the worst infractions. The notice of allegations recites a lengthy list of shortcomings in KU’s responsibility to ensure that its athletics department complies with NCAA rules.

Universities have 90 days to respond to a notice. The NCAA has granted extensions to schools in the past.

The school response then is sent to an NCAA enforcement committee. That committee has 60 days to file a reply and a “statement of the case.”

Next, a hearing date is scheduled with the NCAA committee on infractions. At that hearing, the university is allowed to present its case with an NCAA ruling to follow. The ruling could take several months to reach.

If a school is assessed penalties, it has the opportunity to appeal.

Self made clear he had always taken pride in his commitment to operating with integrity. The NCAA, in its letter, made a note that both Self and Townsend had not previously Level 1, 2 or major violations.

“Every student-athlete who has ever played for me and their families know we follow the rules,” Self said.

“These allegations are serious and damaging to the university and to myself, and I hate that KU has to go through this process. With our staff’s full cooperation, these allegations will be addressed within NCAA procedures and with urgency and resolve. I will strenuously defend myself and the program, but I will respect the process and will not speak to the details of the case.”

Don't have a KC Star subscription? Help support our sports coverage

If you already subscribe to The Star, thanks for your support. If not, our digital sports-only subscription is just $30 per year. It's your ticket to everything sports in Kansas City ... and beyond, and supports our award-winning coverage.
Related stories from Kansas City Star