An examination of KU’s athletic department last year gave Chancellor Douglas Girod confidence that an independent review of the department isn’t needed in the wake of a widening college basketball scandal, Girod said recently.
But now questions are emerging about how comprehensive that examination was as KU officials have confirmed that the examination that took place last fall produced no written findings or report.
Girod confirmed in an interview with the Journal-World on Monday that he received verbal briefings about the examination but that he did not receive a written report or other detailed written findings.
“We didn’t really ask them for a written report,” Girod said. “We didn’t feel the need to release an external report. What we needed to be sure of is that we are comfortable and confident in the way our team operates and in meeting any and every requirement necessary.”
Girod, in a statement on April 13, said he had “complete confidence” in the athletic department’s adherence to rules. Girod cited an “examination” — he never called it a report — conducted last fall as a primary reason why he was confident an independent review wasn’t necessary. Girod was responding to a question about whether an independent review would have any value, given that the most recent federal indictment in the college basketball scandal alleges a mother and a guardian of two KU basketball players were paid at least $130,000 as part of a pay-to-play scheme. The indictment does not implicate any KU officials, but rather alleges that the scheme was orchestrated by an executive of Adidas, which has a multimillion-dollar partnership with Kansas Athletics Inc.
After Girod’s statement, the Journal-World filed a Kansas Open Records Act request seeking all written reports related to the review referenced by Girod. KU officials responded recently that there are no such records.
Without a written report, it is difficult to ascertain what was examined and what methods were used to review the athletic department’s policies and practices. The review was prompted by an Oct. 11 memo from the NCAA Board of Governors and Board of Directors to schools with NCAA Division I basketball programs. That memo said schools with Division I basketball programs were “required” to examine their men’s basketball programs "for possible NCAA rules violations, including violations related to offers, inducements, agents, extra benefits, and other similar issues.”
The memo also said the NCAA was “mandating” that schools “look at the conduct of their men’s basketball coaching staff and administrators to ensure their compliance with the NCAA rules.”
KU did hire the Overland Park law firm of Bond, Schoeneck and King to assist with the review. But at the time, KU Athletics officials noted the law firm would not be conducting the actual review but rather would be providing assistance on technical matters. On Monday, Girod said much the same. He said the outside assistance was used to help the university understand the questions at play. Girod said the examination did look at multiple records to determine whether there is anything the university should be concerned about.
“To date, we have not discovered anything,” Girod said before pausing. “From our perspective. I can’t control the world. All I can try to do is understand our team, our practices and our behaviors.”
A significant difference between last fall when the examination was conducted and today is that last fall, KU had not been connected to the college basketball scandal. Also, fewer details about the alleged scheme were known to KU or the public. The latest federal indictment now lists KU as a "victim" in the case and alleges KU was defrauded as part of the scheme by the Adidas executive to pay the family of players in exchange for the players attending KU.
The legal theory is that KU was defrauded because it gave financial aid to students who weren’t eligible for it, and potentially KU could be damaged by penalties from the NCAA for playing athletes who were not eligible.
Girod confirmed that the examination last fall uncovered no evidence related to the alleged scheme.
“We have gone back to look at anything we have access to, and we can’t find any evidence of that,” Girod said. “But we don’t have access to everything. That is all we really can do — make sure that on our side of the house we are doing everything appropriately and properly.”
When asked what KU was doing to help ensure that KU wouldn’t be defrauded in the future, Girod said:
“If what is alleged is true, then somebody was plainly misrepresenting. There is not a way for us to protect ourselves against that.”