Wednesday, October 17, 2018

As college basketball corruption trial comes to a close, KU could be facing several NCAA code violations

In this March 22, 2010, file photo, basketballs are seen before Northern Iowa's NCAA college basketball practice, in Cedar Falls, Iowa. (AP Photo/Charlie Neibergall, File)

In this March 22, 2010, file photo, basketballs are seen before Northern Iowa's NCAA college basketball practice, in Cedar Falls, Iowa. (AP Photo/Charlie Neibergall, File)


Recruiting “help” from Adidas officials could turn into NCAA compliance problems for the University of Kansas, even if KU coaches didn’t know of any payments to players, a former top NCAA official said.

Although the federal government considers KU to be a victim in the college basketball corruption trial underway in New York, the NCAA could see the details of the case differently, a former chair of the NCAA committee on infractions told the Journal-World.

Josephine Potuto, a University of Nebraska College of Law professor and former chair of the infractions committee, said an outside organization, such as a shoe company in contract with a university, that helps to recruit an athlete could be considered a “booster” of the program, and the university would then be responsible for its actions.

“It’s possible Adidas could be considered a booster,” she said. “Beyond that, they have a contractual relationship with the school … there is some obligation on the school to assure that it is clear with corporate sponsors that they are expected to follow rules.”

In the text messages revealed in court, KU assistant coach Kurtis Townsend allegedly planned to help Fenny Falmagne, the guardian of current Kansas player Silvio De Sousa, meet with Adidas to build a relationship for the Angolan national team to purchase new gear. De Sousa played for the Angolan national team in 2017.

It’s not clear if the Angola team was actually looking for new gear through Adidas. Photos of the team on the website for FIBA, the governing body of international basketball, show Angola is sponsored by Nike.

Potuto said this type of situation could be seen as a program giving an impermissible benefit to an athlete, whether it was done directly or indirectly. However, she did not know any of the details of KU’s situation, but spoke about how the situation could affect a university generally.

Potuto previously spoke with the Journal-World about issues the university could be facing when information first started to trickle out of the trial. But many more issues have come up since.

Other than the aforementioned texts about helping Falmagne meet with Adidas, here are the possible NCAA code issues for KU that have come up through the trial:

• The mother of former KU player Billy Preston allegedly received $90,000 for him to play at KU. The university’s compliance officer allegedly failed to properly fill out two reports regarding Preston’s eligibility. However, testimony also showed that while Preston was sitting out from playing in official games, the university repeatedly tried to find out whether Preston or his family received payments. Preston chose to leave the program before the issue was settled and never played in an official game.

• De Sousa’s guardian, Falmagne, allegedly received $2,500 for college courses to send De Sousa to KU. He also allegedly received $60,000 from a Maryland booster. TJ Gassnola, a former Adidas consultant who made payments to the families of players, said he meant to pay $20,000 to get De Sousa out of the Maryland payment, but never did because the FBI investigation became public. De Sousa said last week that he expects to play this season, despite eligibility concerns.

• Text messages between KU coach Bill Self and Gassnola show Self is at least aware of the shoe company leading recruits to the university. Gassnola, who explained in court the many payments he made to families of recruits, also said he has a “very good” relationship with Self. Gassnola testified he never told Self or Townsend about the payments to recruits.

• An FBI recording of a phone call between Townsend and former amateur coach Merl Code, which was not allowed as evidence in the trial in which Code is a defendant, shows Townsend allegedly trying to find an “occupational opportunity” for a family member of Zion Williamson, a high-profile recruit who now plays at Duke. According to Code’s lawyer, Townsend said, “I’ve got to just try to work and figure out a way because if that’s what it takes to get him here for 10 months, we’re going to have to do it some way.”

In the trial, Code, business manager Christian Dawkins and former Adidas executive Jim Gatto have pleaded not guilty to defrauding various colleges by concealing the use of under-the-table payments of up to $100,000 by Adidas in exchange for commitments to programs that were seen as a path to big NBA paydays. Their lawyers haven’t disputed payments were arranged in violation of NCAA rules, but they argue the schools never suffered any harm.

Gassnola explained many of the details about KU’s recruitment methods, but said he never told the coaches about the payments.

The prosecutors and defendants began closing arguments on Wednesday and are expected to continue on Thursday.

Potuto said a university having two possible code issues rather than one, such as the families of two KU recruits receiving payments within a year, would likely make a difference in how the NCAA would consider the situation and possible sanctions.

“The scope of what might be (a) violation clearly makes a difference,” she said. “The amount of money would make a difference. A one-off is different from two (players receiving money). A pattern is different from two. All of that makes a difference.”

Potuto said that if a university was found to have a number of Level III infractions, which the NCAA manual describes as an “isolated or limited in nature” violation, the school might then be slapped with a Level II or Level I infraction.

A Level II infraction is considered a significant violation that is not minimal but also not a substantial impermissible benefit, and a Level I infraction is a severe breach of conduct that undermines the NCAA model, according to the manual.

The manual lists several examples of Level I violations — lack of institutional control; academic misconduct; cash payment or other benefits provided by a coach, administrator or representative of the institution’s athletics interests; and third-party involvement in recruiting violations in which institutional officials knew or should have known about the involvement, among other issues.

Level II violations, the manual says, include multiple recruiting, financial aid, or eligibility violations that do not amount to a lack of institutional control.

Penalties for violations vary, according to the manual. A school that commits several Level I violations could be penalized with recruiting restrictions, loss of scholarships, fines, bans from competitions such as postseason play, and vacation of wins, among other penalties.

Whether KU will face any of these sanctions is not yet clear. Potuto previously told the Journal-World that the NCAA now has the authority to use information established in a third-party setting, such as a criminal trial.

The NCAA is paying attention to the trial, but has been criticized by many publications for not being present in the courtroom. Mark Emmert, NCAA president, said the organization is aware of the trial’s proceedings, according to a USA Today report.

“We’re tracking it very closely and obviously very, very interested in it,” Emmert said, according to the report. “Doing everything to cooperate with the federal investigators so that we don’t in any way hinder them and as the opportunity arises, as the trials move forward, we’ll begin our work. But for now we’re watching and staying in close contact.

“We know fully what’s going on in the courtroom at all times.”

But when the NCAA will begin its own investigation is not yet known because of the ongoing FBI case, Emmert said. Although the trial this month is wrapping up, the FBI has two more trials scheduled for the spring.

“The timeline is up to the federal government and their investigation,” Emmert said. “We’re mostly in the mode of watching right now and collecting information as it’s appropriate and as they give us permission to, but it’s going to take a long time.”

But some like Dave Ridpath, a sports law expert, are skeptical of how — or whether — the NCAA will move forward with the case. Ridpath is the past president and a current board member for the Drake Group, a legal organization pushing for academic integrity in college sports.

He told the Journal-World on Wednesday that the evidence that came out in the trial shows at least some sort of NCAA violations by KU.

“Whether Bill Self knew directly or indirectly, ultimately it doesn’t matter,” he said. “If payment was made to get a player to Kansas, that’s an NCAA violation.”

But Ridpath thinks too many big programs, including KU, have been caught up in the scandal for the NCAA to take real action. He said the main reason the NCAA would be hesitant to punish those schools is because the NCAA basketball tournament makes a lot of money.

“We have to be honest here,” he said. “Does the NCAA have the stomach to dish out major sanctions to 15 or 20 basketball schools, which are all major players in what is their biggest cash cow?”

He believes Louisville could have received the NCAA’s “death penalty,” which would ban a team from participating in a sport, for its recruiting scandal prior to the FBI investigation but instead received a fine and a vacation of wins, including the 2013 National Championship title.

Ridpath doesn’t think the NCAA will ever dole out the death penalty again. When it comes to KU’s current situation, he doesn’t see much punishment on the way, either.

“I have doubts, despite all of this, the NCAA is truly going to punish these schools,” he said. “I might be cynical about it, but I don’t think it’s going to happen.”


Brett McCabe 1 year, 1 month ago

It's not a question of legality, or NCAA interpretation. It's a question of going about things in the wrong way.

Now would be a good time to clean house. I'm tired of the Selby's and the Alexander's and the Diallo's and the De Souza's and the Preston's and all the rest. Most of all, I'm tired of hearing about it.

Gut it. Start over. Be the better for it. Quit clinging to the past and, instead, grab onto a clearer and cleaner vision of the future.

Dave Miller 1 year, 1 month ago

On one hand, I feel exactly like that. Clean house, starting with the NCAA, and start over completely. On the other hand, the NCAA won't go away quietly because there is too much money at stake.

If the ACC, Big 10, and the Big 12 would leave the NCAA to form their own organization, how long do you think it would take other leagues or schools to follow?

Jesse Johnson 1 year, 1 month ago

The solution is to just do away with the amateurism rule. If a player has talents, let him sign with agents, sign endorsements, collect money and the whole shebang and still play college ball. It's really a stupid rule and this whole situation proves that it's impossible to enforce anyways. When you have talent that is capable of generating millions in revenue and rules prevent you from capitalizing on that revenue, then underground crap like this will always exist, until the rules change and allow it to be legal.

Marius Rowlanski 1 year, 1 month ago

No. I prefer the way the NBA just cut the NCAA's power hold on college basketball.

Barry Weiss 1 year, 1 month ago

well, with Preston gone, KU can't do much to mitigate any violations there. As for Silvio, I think KU may sit him all year until the NCAA, probably sometime next year, decides anything. As loaded as we are, now is the time to sit him.

Steve Zimmerman 1 year, 1 month ago

Jonathan Allison 1 year, 1 month ago

allegedly, Zion Williamson's dad wanted a job so that he could move his family to be near his son and also get paid of course. I'm not saying that it's ethical or even NCAA legal to hire a recruit's father as part of a transaction to gain a commitment. But we have obviously seen this before. Michael Porter Jr. at mizzou and of course who can forget Mario Chalmers and Danny Manning. Just to name a few. So, hiring a family member of a recruit is likely only illegal if it can be proven that the hiring was part of a transactional agreement to sign the recruit (which is usually pretty obvious, but apparently not a hill worth dying on for the NCAA in regards to the ensuing legal battle).

So why now, would the NCAA decide to bring down the hammer on KU for potentially considering employing a recruits father, even after the recruit decided to stay closer to home and attend Duke?

Mike Hart 1 year, 1 month ago

Uh... it wasn't just "considering employing a recruits father"... there was housing and cash associated with it as well... to which Townsend said "We will have to find a way to make it happen"... or something along those lines. Stop sterilizing and minimizing what certainly smells rotten.

Jonathan Allison 1 year, 1 month ago

If there's evidence that Coach T attempted to negotiate a deal to get Zion's father a job, comp him for housing, and give him cash benefits, in direct exchange for getting Zion to sign an LOI, then I'd say that Coach T and KU are in trouble. Until yet, all we have is a few lines from a transcript of a phone call suggesting that Coach T may be willing to talk about some kind of arrangements for what may or may not include impermissible benefits.

What Coach T didn't say was this. "We'll do whatever he wants."

Jonathan Allison 1 year, 1 month ago

I would add, that I am still concerned about the De Sousa/Fenny Falmagne payments and discussions and think KU would be wise to sit De Sousa indefinitely. Also am concerned to a lesser extent about the Billy Preston payments, but since BP never played an official minute at KU that would seem to be a strong defense against sanctions, unless other evidence turns up that KU was already involved or aware of the $90,000 to Billy before the car incident.

Shannon Gustafson 1 year, 1 month ago

The Preston stuff does not matter at all. There could be video of Self handing BP and briefcase full of money and from an NCAA standpoint, it's perfectly fine since he never played a minute for KU.

Steve Zimmerman 1 year, 1 month ago

The NCAA is paying attention to the trial, but has been criticized by many publications for not being present in the courtroom. Mark Emmert, NCAA president, said the organization is aware of the trial’s proceedings, according to a USA Today report.


That's because they're the real bad guys.

Jeff Coffman 1 year, 1 month ago

There are a lot of "could be"s in this article, which means there might not be an issue with any infractions.

By this article you would find the defendants not-guilty...I assume that is what you are saying as well.

And isn't Nebraska dead to us...I thought they kind of sold out a few years back, so we don't care about some law professor from that location that use to be part of the institution that is looking poor. However if you want to talk about a program that has gone south...they were once the king of football, probably in the red bloods of football (AL, OU, NU, OSU, and USC).

Armen Kurdian 1 year, 1 month ago

So a $90K payment ruined Preston's KU career, and now he's not doing anything. If that isn't one of the worst things I've ever heard...and what, is the mom going to sue Adidas for giving her a $90K she accepted? How screwed up is this?

Feds need to throw the book at Adidas, and KU needs to re-evaluate their relationship with them, in a big way.

Phil Leister 1 year, 1 month ago

It's extremely naive to think that Adidas is the only shoe company behaving this way.

Mike Hart 1 year, 1 month ago

Not sure what you mean by Preston "not doing anything". He's on a 2 year, two-way contract that allows him to be shuttled back and forth between NBA's Cleveland Cavaliers.. and G league's Canton Charge.

Curtis Blankenship 1 year, 1 month ago

Compare that to being a lottery pick after 1 year at KU, was it worth it?

Marius Rowlanski 1 year, 1 month ago

Thank you for knowing the facts before posting.

Brian Skelly 1 year, 1 month ago

 Are you kidding?    The Fed's aren't going to throw anything at anyone.     This is the most victimless crime in the history of many kind.

Andy Godwin 1 year, 1 month ago

KU and other major basketball programs have, what most smaller programs would consider, an unfair advantage towards recruiting elite players, based on these huge contracts with sports apparel companies. Clearly KU and other schools have people working behind the scenes to help steer a player and his family to a given school. Whether Adidas, Nike, etc., they are paying these elite talents well before they decide where to play and “attend” classes at a University for 10 months. The NCAA will have to address this disparity, since the vast majority NCAA Division I schools do not have 100 million-dollar contracts and should band together to complain. Many of these family are banking on having their sons make a living play basketball and college is currently for many just a place to park their bags until they are eligible enter the NBA draft. The NCAA will have to make a ruling, but as the article indicates, KU is not the only elite program “playing this game”. That does not vindicate KU and their coaches, but clearly this could be the tip of the iceberg for “pay for play” for some college basketball players. The NBA and NCAA need to work together and allow these players, who have no interest in being a student-athlete to bypass college and make a living based on their natural talents. Colleges and Universities primary role is to educate, not to field an elite basketball or football program. Athletics clearly add to the college experience, but should not be the primary reason for attending a school of higher learning. If an athletics department would contribute to the University’s primary mission, then that would be great, but as discussed in a recent forum, athletics is doing little to help cover KU’s 20-million-dollar shortfall to educate. Time will tell, but this stink is not going away anytime soon.

Mike Barnhart 1 year, 1 month ago

Andy's right. About ten years ago the shoe companies decided to take control of the elite recruits. If you examine the OAD circus since then, it sure seems like Kentucky, Duke, KU and any program associated with Larry Brown are key players in that game. I'm starting to think Roy, Izzo and Jay Wright might not be.

It seems like there are just some recruits MSU, NC, and Nova won't touch. For instance, Carolina didn't sign a top 10 recruit between 2012 and 2017. Not One! Once the feds shined a light on the ShoeCo mess, Carolina's right back in the top 10 recruiting business.

I too want the elite recruits to go pro. LeBron never played a minute of college ball and the college game did just fine without him.

David Klamm 1 year, 1 month ago

UNC struggled with recruiting because they were under investigation for academic fraud. This has been going on well back into the Myron Piggie days when he was funneling money from Nike, it's just that shoe companies got smarter about it. Calipari is the one that mastered the method of removing himself directly from connection with recruits by using World Wide Wes. The rest of the coaches learned from him because they learned the NCAA didn't care. And the money hasn't been limited to top 10 recruits by a long shot. UNC signed Nassir Little for this season knowing that he was a big part of the FBI investigation. Jay Wright signed Jahvon Quinerly who was also part of the investigation. All the coaches know what is happening but have been wisely insulating themselves from having first hand knowledge. It doesn't make me feel any better about KU because while I always suspected money exchanged hands I would have never guessed these amounts. Every single school that has signed a top 40-50 recruit in the last decade should be nervous about someone spilling everything they know.

David Howell 1 year, 1 month ago

I lost track, but did North Carolina receive anything but a severe scolding for it better of a decade long academic fraud ?! That has to have some type of precedent for leniency from the NCAA ................

Shannon Gustafson 1 year, 1 month ago

No, the NCAA decided it was outside of their control so they did nothing.

Mike Barnhart 1 year, 1 month ago

So here's a crummy silver lining: Today the spotlight is on us; KY, NC, Nova, AZ and Duke ...your day is coming.

Robert Brock 1 year, 1 month ago

Have the big shoe companies been considered “boosters” previously or is this being cut out of whole cloth?

David Klamm 1 year, 1 month ago

I think that's a good question. It seems like a stretch to equate a business deal with being on par to donating money to a university. Business deals are done with the idea of benefiting both while donations don't come with an expected financial return. But hey, I'm no lawyer.

Dane Pratt 1 year, 1 month ago

The NBA could easily mitigate some of these issues. First, do away with the age restriction and secondly, ban agents, financial advisors and any other third party entities from conducting business in the NBA if they violate college rules. I had hopes they would try to look at the college ranks as their partners after David Stern left, but I’m still waiting.

Curtis Hedrick 1 year, 1 month ago

Kind of puts a whole other light on Darrell Arthur's "dream".

Dale Rogers 1 year, 1 month ago

I wonder how this ranks compared to UNC's non-existent classes for student athletes?

Randy Bombardier 1 year, 1 month ago

I think interpreting business relationships as boosters is a stretch which then becomes a witch hunt which then makes the whole investigation smell to high heaven, but these are the times we live in. Law enforcement and the justice system seem increasingly to be tools of someone, some interest. Of course this will eventually lead to the powerful getting more powerful, the weaker, less relevant. Our reputation and history alone will not save us.

Grady Millikan 1 year, 1 month ago

In one aspect, Townsend was just saying what he needed to say to stay in the running for Zion. Ignorant to think that KU would not have offered whatever any other school would have offered Zion. But this could be a saving grace for Townsend, while no money was paid for Zion, he could argue he was just saying whatever he needed to say in order to compete on the recruiting trail.

Marius Rowlanski 1 year, 1 month ago

Didn't Arizona play Ayton even though his name had surfaced in one of the FBI's investigation?

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