Predictably, at the end of Friday's Kansas basketball Media Day, Bill Self deftly handled questions about the Adidas scandal that rocked college basketball three weeks ago and keeps on rockin'.
If you’re innocent, you tackle the questions precisely as Self did. If you’re less than innocent and don’t want to confess, you tackle the questions precisely as Self did.
What else is one to do but what Self did?
The only ones who ultimately know which schools and which coaches have anything about which to worry are the feds and they ain’t talking.
Self uttered confident words when asked to share his assurance level that his program doesn’t have any issues that will land it in the middle of the scandal.
“I’m much more concerned about our sport than I am Kansas,” Self said.
Those words no doubt led to more peaceful weekends for Kansas fans on edge because now that Rick Pitino is on “administrative leave,” Self happens to have the biggest name of any college basketball coach at an Adidas school.
Self could have followed every NCAA rule to the letter of the law, but the fact that he lands elite recruits every year who wear Adidas shoes in college and in most cases in their professional careers will make inquiring minds wonder and then ask questions that won’t go away any time soon.
Adidas has been the apparel provider for Kansas Athletics, Inc., since the fall of 2005, when a previous relationship with Nike ended.
Days before the scandal broke, Kansas announced it had agreed to a 14-year deal with Adidas for a total package valued at $191 million, part coming in money (aka cash, scratch, bones, dead presidents, frogskins, greenbacks, cheese, cheddar, cake) and part in product (sneakers, warmup suits that generally look much better on young athletes than aging administrators).
Jim Gatto of Adidas was one of 10 men arrested in the scandal and has been accused of arranging for a high school prospect to receive $100,000 to attend Louisville, an Adidas-sponsored university.
Naturally, Self knows Gatto and was asked about whether he has spoken to him since his arrest.
“Well, I do know Jim. We've been with Adidas for 10 years or whatever, so you know most of those guys within the company,” Self said. “But it was very disappointing and disheartening and obviously a dark cloud for our profession and everything. But to answer your question, no, I've had zero contact. Zero.”
Asked about charges of Adidas being involved in six-figure payments to prospects, Self said, “That surprises me, yeah. That does surprise me. Now, I’m not going into a lot of detail. What’s not surprising is third parties’ involvement (in recruiting). Everybody should know that. That’s prevalent everywhere.”
And legal in many ways.
“There’s nothing illegal about agents talking to kids and their families in ninth or 10th grade the way the rules are today. There’s nothing illegal about shoe companies funding AAU programs,” Self said. “That’s what’s been encouraged and that’s what’s been done and that’s what’s been said legal, so it shouldn’t come as a total surprise that you could have influence coming from third parties when those things are prevalent.”
Self talked about the FBI response in the form of a letter to a Freedom Of Information request from the Kansan. The letter essentially said that if Kansas is being investigated by the FBI the documents from that possible investigation are in a folder that won’t be shared with the public.
“Based on what I have been told and what I have seen is it was very clear that it was a standard answer that would be responded to by anybody that would have questions about any school that FOI'd that could potentially be having any type of, not involvement, but any type of connection in any way, shape or form with what the FBI is trying to do,” Self said. “That's the way it was explained to me. That's the way I understood it. I don't think our fans at this point in time have anything to worry about.”
At this point in time. So who knows about the future? Who knows what the feds’ end game is? All Self can do is continue to coach his basketball team as if the scandal is something that involves Kansas only to the extent that is a prominent program in a sport under a degree of heat it never has experienced because the feds have so many more tools at their disposal, including the power of subpoena, than NCAA investigators.
Jim Marchiony, who has had the rotten job of spokesman for the athletic department since Lew Perkins was AD, said the FBI has not contacted Kansas relating to the scandal, which is better than if it had contacted KU with bad news, but only in the way that receiving an incomplete on a report card is better than an “F.”
The feds, of course, are under no obligation to share with anybody that they are being investigated.
Also, a scheming third party who would benefit from a recruit attending a school with a massive audience is under no obligation to inform the coach of that school about lending illegal assistance.
“There are 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. “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 a concern for anybody, I would say, that there could be some things out there that have gone on in recruiting that don’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.”
Who knows? The feds know what they know and they’re trying to find out what they don’t know.
They don’t work on anybody else’s deadlines. Drip, drip, drip, sweats the college basketball world.