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Thursday, April 12, 2018

Chancellor mum on whether independent review of KU Athletics is needed; KU saying little about partnership with Adidas

University of Kansas Chancellor Douglas Girod and a KU-branded adidas basketball are pictured in Journal-World file photos.

University of Kansas Chancellor Douglas Girod and a KU-branded adidas basketball are pictured in Journal-World file photos.

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A spokesman for Kansas Athletics Inc. stopped short Thursday of saying the department would support a third-party, public review of its recruiting practices and policies.

University of Kansas Chancellor Douglas Girod has yet to answer a question about whether he thinks an independent review would be appropriate in the wake of a federal indictment that alleges a family member and a guardian of two KU basketball players are involved in a pay-to-play scheme orchestrated by an executive with Adidas, which is a partner of the KU Athletic department.

When asked whether the athletic department would object to an independent review of its operations that would be made available to the public, KU Athletics spokesman Jim Marchiony said department leaders are confident in its current processes, which do include the use of outside reviews. However, when asked whether those outside reviews could be made public, Marchiony said he was uncertain.

“I think we have confidence in our process and in the involvement of an independent entity along with our compliance staff to ensure we are following NCAA rules,” Marchiony said as part of an impromptu interview at his athletic department offices.

Since 10:30 a.m. on Wednesday, the Journal-World has been seeking comment from Girod on whether he believes an independent review of athletic department practices is warranted following Tuesday’s indictment, which was the first to link KU to the widening college basketball scandal. As of 12:50 p.m on Thursday, the Journal-World had not received an answer from the chancellor’s office.

Tuesday's indictment from the U.S. Attorney’s Office from the Southern District of New York does not implicate any KU official or coach. However, prosecutors have cautioned that their investigation continues and that additional charges are possible.

The latest indictment does provide more detail about the alleged pay-for-play scheme and provides additional information about the consultants that Adidas has employed to work on its behalf.

The indictment alleges that James Gatto, an Adidas executive, had a phone conversation with an Adidas consultant who is active in the world of AAU basketball. The Adidas consultant — who is not named in the indictment — told Gatto in a phone conversation that “another $20,000” payment would be needed to convince a particular basketball recruit to attend KU rather than an another school that is sponsored by a rival athletic apparel company.

The New York Times has reported that two sources close to the investigation have confirmed the unnamed Adidas consultant is T.J. Gassnola. Gassnola had run an Adidas-sponsored youth basketball program in Massachusetts. Gassnola also has a significant criminal history and has been publicly tied to having connections to an NBA agent.

He began showing up as a red-flag character in the world of amateur basketball as early as 2006. An article by The Boston Globe in 2006 reported that Gassnola had a lengthy criminal history. The newspaper reports Gassnola had been convicted three times of larceny or receiving stolen property and had been ordered by judges in at least 11 civil cases to pay more than $45,000 in back debt.

The article describes Gassnola as “a pariah among many youth coaches for his history of breaking laws, rules and promises." The article even states that one witness in a case involving Gassnola told police that Gassnola claimed to be a member of an organized crime family in Massachusetts. Gassnola denied that claim to the newspaper, but did acknowledge that he previously was involved in bookmaking.

More recently, in 2012, multiple media organizations reported that the NCAA temporarily banned Gassnola’s AAU team — the New England Playaz — from participating in NCAA-sanctioned events. The reason for the ban was Gassnola’s alleged association with NBA agent Andy Miller.

Despite Gassnola’s past, the indictment says that Gassnola — who was identified only as CC-3 — continued to serve as a “consultant” for Adidas in its high school and college basketball programs.

KU officials must decide whether they want to remain affiliated with Adidas. The school and the company announced in September a $191 million, 14-year extension for Adidas to serve as the shoe and athletic apparel provider for KU Athletics. However, that deal has not been signed.

In October, Marchiony told the Journal-World that KU was still completing its due diligence on the deal, but that work “has nothing to do” with the case against Gatto and other Adidas associates.

On Thursday, Marchiony said KU continued to “monitor the situation” and offered no guidance on when or whether the deal would be signed.

“We have been discussing since last year an extension with Adidas,” Marchiony said. “We will continue to monitor the situation and make the best decision for the university and our students.”

When asked whether KU Athletics was prepared to sign the agreement, Marchiony referred back to his original statement.

When asked whether KU Athletics was disappointed that Adidas has employed someone with Gassnola’s background and NCAA compliance problems to interact with the families of potential KU recruits, Marchiony said that because the matter is part of an active investigation it would be inappropriate to comment.

He also gave that same response to a question related to whether there is any disappointment that KU’s relationship with Adidas has played a role in the program being included in a federal indictment, which conceivably could result in NCAA penalties against the basketball program.

On the matter of whether the athletic department could benefit from a public, third-party review, Marchiony was asked several questions about whether KU was confident it was following best practices in vetting the amateur status of potential recruits and their families. Marchiony indicated that an independent, public review was not needed on that matter.

“We constantly review our practices and regularly use a third party to ensure we are following the spirit and the letter of NCAA rules,” Marchiony said.

Marchiony also was asked about whether those vetting practices had failed in the case of Billy Preston and his vehicle. Preston ultimately left KU before participating in an official game because of questions related to the finances of a vehicle he was driving. However, based on previous statements, it appears KU did not become aware of any potential financial problems with the car until it was involved in an accident. Reportedly, KU has a system in place where student-athletes are required to register their vehicles with the athletic department. It is unclear, however, whether that registration system is designed to spot any potential financial problems related to vehicles. When asked whether the system had worked properly in the case of Preston’s car, Marchiony declined to provide details.

“We’ve said all we are going to say about the Billy Preston issue,” Marchiony said.

Comments

Suzi Marshall 6 months, 1 week ago

KU should establish its own brand. The KUAC can find subcontractors just as easily as Adidas or Nike. Actually, the NCAA should establish its own brand for member institutions and tell the vogue shoe companies where to go. The NCAA should take dramatic steps to protect their institutions and collegiate athletics.

Allan Eckelman 6 months, 1 week ago

Do we have an athletic director? Where is he? Where's the leadership? Why isn't either Dr. Zenger or Girod speaking out and stating our position? The only one to speak if Coach Self. Why would we want to continue a relationship with Adidas? Let's find a uniform company with integrity.

Danny Hernandez 6 months, 1 week ago

IF I as a parent want to circumvent the law and systems in place, there is nothing you, the school or the NCAA is going to do to stop me. I believe Kansas did everything it could do short of giving polygraphs to parents and the student athletes.

IT's the fault of the shoe companies that the NCAA doesn't regulate properly. how about getting rid of the aau teams too while we're at it. bottom line, it will never go away. I don't doubt duke with bagley's parent's relationship with NIKE wasn't clean. I hope Kansas sue's Addidas for over 500 million

Bryce Landon 6 months ago

Let's also find a chancellor and and athletic director with backbones.

Barry Weiss 6 months, 1 week ago

sounds like Girod was being grilled. My concern about an article like this is that it almost makes the assumption we do have a deficient compliance program. Then, in addition, the article includes some reference to a mob dude. This type of stuff just makes some people think we are guilty or looking the other way. I would not even print this type of trash.

Dirk Medema 6 months, 1 week ago

Printing this trash gets people clicking. Glad it's not my job.

Are there laws against telling people that for $$$ you can get a recruit to commit? Probably racketeering?

It seems to me that all we really have at this point is the word of a convicted felon against the word of a law abiding citizen. Hmmm, who should we believe?

Joe Ross 6 months, 1 week ago

To me this is not about anything Kansas needs to do differently. I mean, yes and no. "No" in the sense that there doesn't appear to be any wrongdoing on the part of the University. We haven't made any back deals with players or arranged payments and the like. A school can't be faulted for entering into a contract in good faith, while hoping to remain profitable. But "yes" in the sense that Adidas (or people associated with them) has shown a great deal of moral turpitude. But who's to say if we sign a contract with Nike or Under Armor that something similar wouldn't happen down the road. We'd enter a new situation with the very same expectations of a new outfitter that we did with Adidas. So in my view Kansas is blameless.

The real problem is the structure under which these players work and play within. They generate all this money, can't get a proportional piece of it, and then that makes it tempting when a third party comes promising money. If you're a poor family facing the decision of how to remain housed and clothed, you might make a similar poor decision if you thought you could get away with it. The bottom line is that the structure needs to change. The players in revenue generating sports need to be paid by some fair formula, and a lot of this mess will disappear.

Dirk Medema 6 months ago

There is never enough $.

Never

Does "fair metric" include compensating families of players?

There is never enough $. (John D. Rockefeller)

Joe Ross 6 months ago

Sure, it includes compensating families. Either directly or indirectly. Look at it this way: if a player is compensated "x" number of dollars to play, what is there to prevent him from sharing the money with his family? It's his money at that point, and he can do what he wants to with it. So you have to be prepared for the eventuality that the money will be shared with family. No big deal.

The quote from Rockefeller doesn't get us down toward a solution. It's not a question of there being enough money. Human desire will always be there for that. The REAL question is whether there is ENOUGH MONEY to ward off that desire in the face of other, negative consequences that would result from accepting it from nefarious sources.

Dane Pratt 6 months ago

I'm okay with paying athletes but if we do, doesn't that mean we have to pay all of them including the golfers, wrestlers and swim team to avoid a Title IX violation? And wouldn't they all have to be paid an equal amount? In any event I think compensating student athletes is a solution worth serious consideration.

Dane Pratt 6 months ago

The structure is the problem but I don’t see how the schools can fix it. They can only operate under the rules of the current system to the best of their ability. However, now that everyone is aware of the dangers we can no longer claim innocence if this happens again. If we choose to swim in shark infested waters we can’t complain if our leg gets bitten off. Bill has to decide if recruiting high profile players is worth the risk if having a season vacated.

Harlan Hobbs 6 months, 1 week ago

Thank you, Barry and Dirk, for telling it like it is. I know that questions need to be asked, but if I am the university or its spokesman right now, I would be tight-lipped as well. You simply can't get into more trouble if you say nothing until more details are known..

I'll use Arizona as an example. Approximately 3 months ago, there was breaking news on ESPN that Coach Sean Miller was picked up on an FBI wiretap discussing a $100,000 payment to recruit Deandre Ayton.

The talking heads here in Arizona and elsewhere immediately said that Miller should be suspended or fired and that Ayton should be declared ineligible. Miller denied the charges, but other than that, he kept his mouth shut, probably at the assistance of his lawyers.

Now three months later, no corroborating evidence has been publicly produced, and articles on Yahoo and elsewhere are suggesting that Coach Miller has "weathered the storm." That remains to be seen, but it illustrates how the media is the fickle purveyors of the latest blog or rumor with little behind it as actual evidence. Kind of like "fake news."

In Miller's case, my only question is "Was he picked up on a wiretap or not?" If so, then the evidence will eventually come out. If not, who does Miller sue to try to get his reputation back.

The media is great at wanting to investigate everyone else, but when it comes to themselves, they want to hide behind "freedom of the press" and their "holier than thou" attitude to remove themselves from scrutiny.

In short, I don't believe much of what the media says these days, and if the polling is accurate, neither do 90% of the people in the country. True or not, that is the perception, and at some point perception becomes reality.

Tony Bandle 6 months ago

Harlan, one thing I have learned in almost my seventy years on this planet is that no matter how stupid, how silly, how reprehensible the act, sooner or later someone will do something stupider, sillier or more reprehensible and your act will fade away.

[''] 6 months ago

I am starting to think that Bill Self is the only Alpha dog at KU. He should probably be the AD & chancellor, too.

Dane Pratt 6 months ago

On the service it would appear a third party review is unwarranted. Didn't we sit Billy Preston and Cliff Alexander purely for precautionary reasons? That seems like institutional control to me. When the NCAA levies its penalties that has to be worth something.

Jonathan Allison 6 months ago

I agree. KU Basketball has proven that they will take appropriate action when a situation warrants a further look into the players eligibility. Not saying that KU has caught and prevented every player from taking impermissible benefits. But when they have found out about something, then they have taken steps to stay compliant with NCAA rules.

Dirk Medema 6 months ago

Joe - With all due respect, real question or fake question, the answer is still the same- there's never enough $. Some will be content as they are now. For some it will take more.

Xandor Okaqui 6 months ago

Greg Gurley seems to be integrating his way in the athletics office, further and further annually. Maybe he's a darkhorse for AD in 6-8 years (not this go-round after Zenger, but perhaps the next). Hmmm.

Mike Greer 6 months ago

This is a serious issue, but what outfitter, that can contract for all the school sports, hasn't already been at least implicated in this mess? So do you dance with the devil you know or the one you don't know?

There is too much money on the table to just walk away from the current list of outfitters, Adidas, Nike, and UA. I doubt other shoe companies can supply all of the schools needs for athletic footwear and uniform, otherwise they would already be in the mix. Coming up with your own brand is just plain silly. It would cost the university millions to design and manufacture what is needed for all sports. If you copy someone else's products, you're worse than they are on a moral basis.

Paying college athletes is not the solution to the problem. All that does is take us right back to where we are now, all athletes are not worth the same money, but you're not going to be able to pay them differently, so under the table payments will be rampant throughout the sport. Shoe companies will still want the best athletes wearing stuff, and will pay for that to happen. Not to mention the increadabe cost to the university. It's not going to be just a couple of basketball players, as was mentioned earlier. It's going to be all sports, all genders.

The solution is to take the money out of college sports. The NCAA could ban universities across the board from contracting with outside companies, i.e. no corporate sponsors, like Adidas, Nike, or Under Armor. An across the board ban would keep the playing field level, and keep outside money out of the sports. The other issue that is specific to basketball, the NCAA needs to address with the NBA, and that's NBA eligibility. The one year removed from HS is for the NBAs protection, not the young players, it's a BS requirement and part of the problem.

I know everyone wants the Jayhawks to win, I'm just not sure how you expect that to happen if Coach doesn't recruit the best players. At what point do you declare a player is beyond approach? How poor of a player do you have to sign to know for sure his family isn't on the take? The whole idea is just folly. The first year he didn't make the tournament, people would be calling for his head.

Harlan Hobbs 6 months ago

Interesting point, Tony. I assume you are saying that the life of a particular story is as long as it is the top story and that eventually something else we come forth to topple it. If that is your position, I wholeheartedly agree.

News always seems to have a life cycle that is often fleeting. What remains are the facts, and the lessons of history.

Human nature seems to be to "slow down to see a car wreck" and then move on. My first hope is that this isn't a car wreck so that we can move on to the next breaking news of the day.

By the way, we must have been born on about the same day in the same year. I turn 70 in two weeks. I'll be sure to celebrate, if you will do the same on your special day.

Edward Daub 6 months ago

An Impromptu Interview? Shame on Chad Lawhorn for asking Jim Marchiony to answer difficult questions "off the cuff"!

Conversely (no pun intended), I have to chuckle at the Analogy of "Foghorn Leghorn" Demanding Answers from "Seargent Schultz"!

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