Shortly after shaking hands with his new boss for the first time and watching a 45-minute news conference introducing Jeff Long as KU’s 11th athletic director, Kansas basketball coach Bill Self on Wednesday found himself in a hallway of the Lied Center answering questions about sophomore forward Silvio De Sousa.
The questions, most stemming from Tuesday’s news that KU had received a subpoena from the federal government for information regarding the ongoing investigation into corruption in college basketball, had a familiar ring and allowed Self to demonstrate his belief that De Sousa, as of today, will be eligible for the 2018-19 college basketball season.
“Absolutely,” said Self when asked if he would be comfortable playing De Sousa if the season began today. “You’ve got to understand something: Silvio was declared eligible. There was a process that the NCAA went through with Silvio to declare him eligible, which there is with a lot of kids. Because there were questions about Silvio’s amateurism — not that there was anything wrong with it, but when a kid transfers schools, when he’s an international kid — there’s a lot of things that trigger certain things. That stuff was all talked about, vetted, all that stuff. The NCAA is the one who declared him eligible, not Kansas.”
While Self’s words Wednesday were consistent with what he has said throughout the investigation, dating back to last September when it first surfaced and April when a superseding indictment brought KU fully into the fold, the setting for Wednesday’s update offered Self an opportunity to share how the whole ordeal allowed him to see a side of Long that impressed him right away.
“He asked me (about the FBI investigation) in our first conversation,” said Self, recalling the 44-minute phone discussion he had with Long during the search for KU’s next AD. “And I said, ‘I’m actually glad you asked me, because how could anybody be serious about a job that wouldn’t ask that question?’ To me, that was a sign of experience or whatnot, knowing what potential obstacles could be out there. I thought it was great that he asked the question and I went into as much detail as I could with it.”
While Self’s input helped Long sort out what was what regarding the job he was about to take, Self said he always encouraged Long to seek greater clarity on the matter from KU chancellor Douglas Girod.
“He’s the one that would be able to give you more assurance,” Self recalled saying.
Not only did Girod also answer whatever questions Long had about the investigation, he also included a clause in Long’s five-year contract that automatically extends the contract if KU’s men’s basketball program is put on probation stemming from the investigation. That, Girod clarified on Wednesday, was something KU offered, not a safety net that Long requested.
When asked for a reaction to Tuesday’s Yahoo report that KU had been subpoenaed by investigators, Self said he was not surprised because it was “not new news.”
“That was something that was part of our statement months ago,” Self explained. “And it’s part of the statement still today. And I have been told this is still the statement. We are not going to comment on anything that is potentially ongoing.”
Self said the language in the Yahoo report and other accounts that KU officials were “cooperating with the government inquiry” should have been a clear indication that KU had been contacted by federal investigators. The fact that Yahoo requested the subpoenas in mid-April further strengthened Self’s claim that KU officials had known about the subpoena for several weeks.
“Without saying it, that told you that there were questions being asked,” he said. “I really don’t have a comment on it other than the fact that that’s not new news. And I would be very surprised if, in this situation, questions weren’t asked of a lot of things that came out in those particular documents. Not a surprise at all. It’s something that we’ve known, but our stance as a university was that we’re not going to comment on stuff that’s ongoing.”
Regardless of Long’s knowledge and understanding of the matter, Self and the Jayhawks continue to move forward with the 6-foot-9, 245-pound Angola native as a full part of their plans for the upcoming season.
“The NCAA is the one who declared him eligible, not Kansas,” Self said of De Sousa. “With that being said, there’s been nothing that I’ve heard to take away from that whatsoever. But, like I said before, that doesn’t mean that if something comes out new in the future, that that could be questioned. But I’m confident at this point in time.”
Asked another time to express whether he was worried about De Sousa’s eligibility, Self said, “I’m not at this stage. Nobody, at this stage — and I can add ‘at this stage’ — has given us any information that would lead us to believe that he could be in jeopardy in that way. That’s also with us not knowing all the information. Or do we know all the information? If we know it, then I feel very comfortable. But the bottom line is, that’s something that’s got to play out. And as much as I would like to say he’s positively this or that, I can’t do that. But I will tell you, there has been no indication at this time that we will have a serious problem with that.”