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Friday, February 3, 2017

KU Athletics director explains ‘no comment’ stance on reports of basketball players’ misconduct

Zenger asserts department does not influence investigations

Kansas athletic director Sheahon Zenger speaks during a Big 12 conference meeting in Irving, Texas, Wednesday, June 1, 2016. (AP Photo/LM Otero)

Kansas athletic director Sheahon Zenger speaks during a Big 12 conference meeting in Irving, Texas, Wednesday, June 1, 2016. (AP Photo/LM Otero)

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In recent weeks, members of the highly-ranked University of Kansas men’s basketball team have made national headlines due to off-court incidents.

Nearly half the team has been interviewed in an ongoing KU police investigation of a rape reported at the team’s on-campus apartment building. One player, now on diversion for possession of drug paraphernalia, had disputes with two women last semester that reached the district attorney’s office, though he’s not facing charges there. News outlets have reported other players’ involvement in an internal university domestic violence investigation and an ongoing property damage investigation by Lawrence police.

In an interview with the Journal-World on Friday, KU’s top athletics official said the KU basketball team is not out of control and that KU Athletics has policies in place and sticks to them.

“No,” said KU Athletics Director Sheahon Zenger, emphasizing he was speaking generally and not to any particular allegations.

“Coach (Bill) Self has handled his team with great care over the years and continues to comply with all university and Kansas Athletics policies at all times,” Zenger said.

Zenger repeatedly declined to answer specific questions about the rape investigation and other incidents of misconduct that have been reported in the news.

However, he said KU Athletics’ “no comment” stance on the alleged incidents was required.

“There are legal and ethical reasons that we can’t discuss investigations. If you’re a reader, that leaves you with one side of a story,” Zenger said.

“There are times when it would benefit us to get out there and maybe try and share some other information... We just have to weather the time period when maybe incomplete or inaccurate conversations are being had. That is in an effort to really protect the rights of everybody involved in an investigation.”

He added it also was necessary to protect the investigative process itself. That goes for law enforcement as well as internal university misconduct investigations, such as those conducted by KU’s Office of Institutional Opportunity and Access.

Per KU policy, Zenger said when information about an athlete violating student conduct rules comes to the attention of KU Athletics, it “goes straight up the hill” to Student Affairs, which handles such investigations for all students.

“It’s really a one-way path,” Zenger said. “That information goes up, and we get out of the way. We can’t expedite anything, we can't delay anything, we just simply stand back and let the authorities do their jobs.”

For law enforcement investigations involving student athletes, Zenger said KU Athletics also does not expect special treatment.

“As soon as there is an accusation, that is handed over to law enforcement, and we get out of the way,” Zenger said.

Outside KU Athletics, Zenger said he understood the possibility that some community members would be tempted to give special treatment to athletes with “celebrity status.”

He personally hopes that is not the case, Zenger said.

KU Athletics works hard to treat all its teams and student athletes equally, he said. The KU Athletics compliance office even tries to educate local business owners, for example, to avoid giving athletes special treatment, which in some cases could violate NCAA rules.

Regarding the reported rape of a 16-year-old girl reported at McCarthy Hall on Dec. 18, Zenger said KU Athletics was taking the report very seriously.

“Any crime of that magnitude … there aren’t words for the gravity of such, and how seriously the institution and our department take that,” he said.

Other than that, Zenger said he could not comment, including answering exactly when he learned of the report, what he was told and what action he took.

“This is where I’m not permitted to talk about any ongoing investigation of any kind,” he said.

The rape case remains under investigation, Deputy Chief James Anguiano of KU police said Friday. Police have not released any information about a possible suspect.

Comments

Phil Leister 1 year, 6 months ago

Boy, it just sucks that articles like this are what I'm reading in February about a basketball team who has a chance to do something special in the next couple months.

Brian Wilson 1 year, 6 months ago

I am still wondering about the timing of Max well leaving. The incident occurred around December 17th and Evan announced his leaving in the newspaper on December 31st. All of which occurred while students were on break. Was he involved? Maybe he didn't want to be in the middle of this mess and he disapproved? Who was his roommate? Weird that the investigation is delayed. What more needs to be done? Did someone leave town? Lots left unanswered.

Marius Rowlanski 1 year, 6 months ago

This is either a story being hyped by the media with half-truths and innuendo or there has been a serious breach in off-court behavior by members of this team.There also appears to be a common thread connecting these accusations/investigations with unnamed accusers and anonymous/witnesses.

The upperclassmen leaders on this team need to step up and put an end to the late night shenanigans where nothing good ever happens even if nothing comes from these investigations.

John Randall 1 year, 6 months ago

It is too much to expect team members to coerce better behavior on the part of younger players. Passing along lessons learned is as far as they should go. No one, even coaches, can do someone else's growing up for them. Whenever it's tried we see worse development in almost every case.

Dirk Medema 1 year, 6 months ago

Older people mentoring younger people is a common way of passing along lessons learned - hopefully of good behavior, though it does work both ways. If you check on successful programs, whether that be athletic or otherwise, you will see this being a common reality, whether it pertains to workouts, film review, study sessions, work practices or social behavior.

What you might be taking acceptation to is the extreme the Marius seems to be taking. Trying to force adults, even young adults, to do one thing or another against their will is potentially counterproductive. The extreme also seems to fit in with jumping to the conclusion that the players are involved in late night shenanigans.

There are 2 things we know:

  1. There are lots of accusations that haven't been proven

  2. There was 1 accusation that was proven false (not just "charges dismissed").

Titus Canby 1 year, 6 months ago

Lessons learned? While you're in college: - Never go to a bar. - Never go to a party. - Never date anyone. - Never leave your room except to go to class, practice or a game. - Skip the college experience, and go straight to the pros.

Special treatment? These kids (yes kids) are targets.

If any of them is proven to have done something wrong, they deserve the same punishment as anyone else. Until that happens, if it does, they're innocent.

Marius Rowlanski 1 year, 6 months ago

Big targets, especially when it comes to players who could possibly have a professional career after leaving Kansas.

Marius Rowlanski 1 year, 6 months ago

John, you are absolutely correct. I did not intend to sound as if there was any way for the upperclassman to do more then to lead. I remember an interview with Josh Jackson at the end of a game where he stated that Mason called him at the mall to verify that was where he was. That is the most anyone can expect. Of course, they cannot coerce the younger players to make better decisions.

This recent string of events seems to be centered where all the basketball players stay. I'm not privileged as to how much the upperclassman knew or whether they were aware at all until after the fact. I just meant to say that if they were aware then maybe they could have influenced the outcome before the police were involved.

When I first read about the possible rape with and alleged 16-year-old, I forgot that the younger players are only 2 or 3 years older. An 18-year-old or even a 19-year-old dating a 16-year-old girl is probably very common but unfortunately, the law doesn't distinguish when it comes to involving minors in drugs and alcohol or having sex (statutory rape).

Dirk did a much better job of making the point that I was aiming for.

Doug Wallace 1 year, 6 months ago

How is it the responsibility of Zenger,Self or any other head coach at KU or heck any other college that when they set the guidelines/rules to them and they break them regardlessly?.These guys are young adults there has to be a time they have to learn.

Thing is yeah they are in the schools care ok.I know they sit down with them and set the rules and try to be mentors/role models for them or at least most of them do!There has to be a voice of Chris Rock saying "I wouldn't do that *&^% if I was you" in their head when they think of doing something wrong, better yet talking to them and trying to help them not be in that situation in the 1st place.

Somehow you got to pound it in their heads and say this is the opportunity of a lifetime usually a free ride at a school that alot of people wished they had, and you tell them do not screw this up!After you have talked to them and warned them about not doing the wrong thing if they end up doing a bad thing it is on them.You notify the powers that be and let them face the music.It is one thing if it is like Miami in the past or recently with Baylor football that is a different matter of them letting bad behavior slide or knowingly turning a blind eye like they did, But otherwise point is it is not Zenger Self or any other coaches problem what they do whne you told them.Character is doing the right thing when no one is looking!

Ben Kane 1 year, 6 months ago

what happens to the big12 if baylor football gets the death penalty?

Ben Kane 1 year, 6 months ago

espn will love that. yes that would have to happen in the short term but can the big12 keep baylor without a football team?

Bryce Landon 1 year, 6 months ago

How could Baylor get the death penalty, and what does that have to do with the issue at hand here?

Marius Rowlanski 1 year, 6 months ago

It will never happen. If the basketball team can survive a murder and a scandal at every level on the team, the football program has nothing to worry about.

Dirk Medema 1 year, 6 months ago

Even PSU didn't get the death penalty.

Jim Stauffer 1 year, 6 months ago

I have searched for and still not found an explanation as to why an investigation into a rape where the victim knows her assailant is handled in such a way as to cause the entire community to wonder what part our players had in said rape.

They are identified as witnesses. There would be no damage to the investigation if more specifics as to why they are witnesses was given.

Why is the assailant not in jail if, indeed, a rape actually occurred?

If I go down the street and shoot my neighbor and he survives and tells the police he knows who shot him, they will come and arrest me and put me behind bars. Please tell me why this rapist is not behind bars when it was reported the girl knew who raped her.

Jonathan Allison 1 year, 6 months ago

the only explanation seems to be that the police are still investigating whether or not the alleged rape actually happened.

Barry Weiss 1 year, 6 months ago

Does anyone know the latest on Carlton? To me, since he has had his court date and was given diversion, I'd think Coach could lift his suspension or maybe comment on it. I'm worried that the longer the silence on his situation continues, the more it "could" mean he is being looked at in the bigger deal.

Dirk Medema 1 year, 6 months ago

I hear that Coach Self's back is doing fine so Carlton will remain suspended indefinitely, which I believe means until he can scratch his way out of the doghouse or whatever penance has been given.

There have been other players suspended indefinitely that we never know what the violation was or what the corrections were (see Greene last year). Coach hasn't spoken about those things in the past, and I think it was part of his recent comment that it wasn't going to change. What happens in the program stays in the program.

That being said, it is nice to see Dr Z step up to set the record straight for the entire athletic department. Inquiring minds want to know, but sorry.

Good leadership Dr. Zenger.

Marius Rowlanski 1 year, 6 months ago

Maybe he is. I hope not but the police searched his room where the paraphernalia was found. I don't know if the police searched any other player's room. I would guess they had a warrant or Bragg should have requested they get one.

Dirk Medema 1 year, 6 months ago

My understanding is they were questioning Vick (Hey, can we come in and talk?), not Bragg, when they noticed the pipe that was left out in the room. They could have done something then, because they were allowed into the room, and it was in plain sight, but that they returned later with a search warrant. That's probably to allow them to look for anything worse, which is a good sign leading to the diversion.

That's pieced together from a variety of articles and comments.

Andy Tweedy 1 year, 6 months ago

Do we know if the police are investigating forcible rape or statutory rape? This whole thing has such a strange feel to it, but that could just be because it's gotten more press than the average accusation, and people at every level have to explain themselves because everybody is jumping to conclusions?

Bryce Landon 1 year, 6 months ago

Given the girl is 16, it's definitely statutory. It could be both.

Marius Rowlanski 1 year, 6 months ago

That's the big question. When I first read 16-year-old, I forgot that the players involved are probably only 2 or 3 years older. A not uncommon occurrence. I was looking at the Age of Consent Laws in Kansas:

http://www.ageofconsent.us/state-laws/kansas-age-of-consent-laws/

They are pretty ambiguous when it comes to the age of the offender. There really should be a difference between an 18-year-old and a 35-year-old having sex with a 16-year-old.

Barry Weiss 1 year, 6 months ago

I hope Carlton is at least at the game today.

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