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Thursday, October 18, 2018

Chancellor won’t say whether he still has ‘complete confidence’ that KU follows recruiting rules

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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As a federal corruption trial has made new allegations regarding the recruiting practices of the University of Kansas, Chancellor Douglas Girod won't say whether he still has “complete confidence” in the university’s staff to follow recruiting rules.

The trial underway in New York also has brought forward new information that raises questions of what Girod knew about potential recruiting violations and when he knew it.

In April, Girod expressed “complete confidence” in the athletic department’s adherence to rules and also said the university had found no evidence of violations related to any KU recruit. But an attorney in the federal fraud trial this week said KU, months before Girod’s statement, had found evidence of questionable wire transfers to the mother of then-KU basketball player Billy Preston.

The Journal-World this week asked Girod’s office to clarify his April remarks given the new information presented at trial. Among other questions, the Journal-World specifically asked Girod via email whether he continued to have “complete confidence” in the athletic department’s adherence to rules.

Joe Monaco, a spokesman for the chancellor, said “it was not appropriate for the university to comment while legal proceedings are ongoing.” That seemingly is a change in position for the chancellor. Legal proceedings were underway in April when he expressed complete confidence. Legal proceedings have been publicly underway in the corruption case since at least Nov. 9 of last year, when indictments were handed down. Girod’s comments in April came just days after a second set of indictments were issued that specifically alleged a pair of KU players had received money to attend the school.

Girod’s comments this week are significantly different from the outlook he offered in an April 23 interview with the Journal-World. In that April interview, Girod did not let on that KU had found any recruiting matters that would raise any red flags.

“Retrospectively and certainly prospectively we do everything we can to ensure that no violations have occurred on a recruit we are recruiting. That doesn’t help anybody. That doesn’t help the athlete and it doesn’t help us,” Girod said in the April interview.

“Retrospectively, 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.”

But the federal trial for former Adidas employees Jim Gatto, Merl Code and business manager Christian Dawkins has shed new light on what KU allegedly discovered about payments made to KU basketball players.

In court last week, Michael Schachter, an attorney for Gatto, said that KU discovered wire payments from recruiting fixer and Adidas consultant T.J. Gassnola to the mother of Billy Preston, according to multiple reports from the trial. Schachter said KU made that discovery while it was investigating the finances surrounding Preston’s vehicle. KU previously has acknowledged the investigation of the vehicle took place between early November and late December of 2017.

Gassnola, who already has pleaded guilty to one wire fraud count in connection with the basketball scheme, testified under oath that he also had become aware KU had discovered the payments, according to multiple reports from the trial. Gassnola testified that in November 2017 he had his lawyer send a letter to KU stating that Preston’s mother was not paid as part of the recruiting process. Gassnola acknowledged in court that letter was a lie.

The Journal-World this week questioned Girod about what he meant in April when he said the school couldn’t find “any evidence” of violations related to KU recruits.

The Journal-World specifically asked whether Girod knew in April that KU had found, months earlier, evidence of wire transfers to Preston’s mother, and that Gassnola was tied to the recruitment of Preston. Already in April, Gassnola was being mentioned in media reports as a key figure in the alleged recruiting conspiracy.

Monaco also responded to those questions by saying it would be inappropriate for the university to comment while legal proceedings were ongoing.

Girod’s April comments came at a time when the university was defending its decision to not hire a third party to conduct a review of the athletic department following a new federal indictment that alleged the guardians or families of two KU basketball players had been paid to attend the school.

Instead, KU said it already had examined its athletic department after the federal basketball corruption investigation became public with the unsealing of a criminal complaint on Sept. 26, 2017. The NCAA mandated all Division I basketball programs to conduct a review of their compliance operations shortly after the federal case became public. KU hired an Overland Park law firm to assist with the technical details of that review. But upon further questioning by the Journal-World, KU acknowledged that the review did not produce any written report of its findings.

Girod, though, said he had received verbal briefings about the athletic department and expressed “complete confidence that our staff understands and follows the rules.”

Girod stood by that statement during the April 23 interview and made at least two other statements indicating that the university’s review had not turned up anything troubling.

“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.”

Later in the interview, Girod made another statement indicating the university hadn’t found anything to convince it that the allegations of payments made to players were true. “If what is alleged is true, then somebody was plainly misrepresenting. There is not a way for us to protect ourselves against that. That is the accusation. Whether that is true or not, we have not been able to ascertain whether that was true by all the data we have.”

Among the pieces of evidence and details presented at trial are several that involve KU connections. Those include:

• A recorded phone conversation between KU assistant Coach Kurtis Townsend and Code, a former Adidas employee who is now on trial. In the conversation, the two men discuss basketball recruit Zion Williamson’s apparent demands to be paid. Townsend makes statements that could be interpreted as supportive of the idea.

• Phone records indicating at least one phone call between KU head coach Bill Self and Gatto.

• Phone records indicating at least one phone call between Self and Gassnola.

• Multiple text messages between Self and Gassnola, including some where Self is asking about the conversations Gassnola had with the guardian of then-recruit Silvio De Sousa.

• Multiple text messages between Townsend and Gassnola, including some where Townsend asks Gassnola to reach out to De Sousa’s guardian.

The Journal-World this week asked the chancellor’s office whether KU’s review of the athletic department included looking at the phones of the coaching staff and others to determine contacts they had made with Adidas officials.

Again, KU’s spokesman declined to comment.

Comments

Barry Weiss 3 weeks, 3 days ago

I think the title to this story infers something that is simply not stated in the article. Maybe I missed it.

Mike Hart 3 weeks, 3 days ago

They were asked to re-state that they had complete confidence that no recruiting practices were inappropriate. They deflected the question... on the basis of legal proceedings. Chad's point... was that this is not consistent with April... when legal proceedings were already underway. Truth is.. .basis Townsend's comments.. .it is clear that at least Townsend was willing to find a way to accommodate a recruit's demands.. .which were clearly inappropriate. There should be... no sweeping under the rug Townsend's poor judgement... as this casts doubt on the sterility of KU's recruiting practices. I still go back to the Self text exchange... where Self was asked to call him when Self had 5 minutes... AND was alone. Shouldn't make a difference if Self was alone or not if everything was on the level.

Jim Stauffer 3 weeks, 2 days ago

I agree Barry. A waste of my time to hear someone express his opinion while claiming it to be based on some new statements and then zero. Empty promise by writer.

William Daniels 3 weeks, 3 days ago

Misleading click bait headline. Stating it is improper to comment at this time is not “seemingly” a change in position of the chancellor. Articles are so frustrating these days.

Chad Lawhorn 3 weeks, 3 days ago

Hi William:

We certainly can disagree on the headline. It was a difficult article to report. I will share that when I got the statement from the chancellor’s office at about 3 p.m. on Thursday, I responded back to the chancellor’s office within a few minutes. In that response, I notified the office that I was viewing this statement as a change in position on the part of the chancellor. My main reason for viewing it as such is that the chancellor’s office said it was inappropriate to comment while legal proceedings are ongoing. However, legal proceedings were ongoing in April when the chancellor made his comments of having complete confidence. To me, that begged the question of why then but not now? My email to the chancellor’s office was designed to seek clarification. For example, if the chancellor’s office actually meant that it was inappropriate to comment while a jury trial was underway, I would have accepted that clarification and it very well may have changed the article. I waited for approximately three hours from the time that I sent my email to the time of publication of the article, but I did not receive any communication back from the chancellor’s office. As for the reason that all of this is newsworthy, I think that is fairly straightforward: I believe the public has a desire to know what the Chancellor’s views are in relation to the number of allegations made against the basketball program. The article reports that the Chancellor is not offering those views at this time, and also reports why he is not offering the views at this time. The article does not make any judgements about whether that is an appropriate or inappropriate stance for the chancellor to take. Thanks, Chad

William Daniels 3 weeks, 3 days ago

Thank you for the response Mr. Lawhorn. I do agree the public has the right to know the chancellors views, as well as AD Long and Coach Self, among others. I interpreted "legal proceedings" to mean the trial, and not commenting during the trial is absolutely appropriate. Near the beginning of the article, it is stated "The trial underway in New York also has brought forward new information that raises questions of what Girod knew about potential recruiting violations and when he knew it. " This is also a bombastic implication that is overcharged. Thank goodness it wasn't used to craft an even more sinister looking click bait headline! Like so many articles these days, "seemingly" reporters cannot help themselves but to write articles that draw conclusions before the facts are fully known, prey on fear, anxiety, or anger to get clicks. See what I did there? Get my point? Anyways, I appreciate that you are trying to get us answers and facts, which we are anxious for.

Barry Weiss 3 weeks, 3 days ago

I agree. Unless Girod, when asked this question, said "I won't say", then I think this title infers something there is no proof of. For all we know Girod or anyone for that matter, did not know the exact words used six months prior, or KU attorneys advised of a certain way to respond to questions different from the past even though nothing has changed in Girod's view.

John Strayer 3 weeks, 3 days ago

I agree...unless the trial is underway...there is no legal proceedings. Before the trial its still an investigation.

Titus Canby 3 weeks, 3 days ago

While this article is factually accurate, there are ways to present the facts to sway the context in one direction or another. The line, "The trial underway in New York also has brought forward new information that raises questions of what Girod knew about potential recruiting violations and when he knew it. " is a perfect example of this.

When I was in Journalism school here at KU, we learned about muckraking.

Phil Leister 3 weeks, 3 days ago

Chad, you know full well that while the headline is in fact, well, a factual statement, it is designed to be click bait. It implies the chancellor said something specifically, aside from a "no comment". It's entirely logical to assume that they meant they can't comment while a jury trial is ongoing. And the fact that you needed them to specifically clarify that and them doing so would have changed your article is irresponsible reporting.

We all know that clicks are what matters, so don't deny that your headline is intentionally misleading to get more clicks.

Aaron Paisley 3 weeks, 3 days ago

Headlines are supposed to be click bait. That's how you get people to read an article is by having a headline that catches people's attention. The content of this article may not explicitly state the chancellor has changed his position, but the fact that he's changed his answer and is no longer a definitive statement certainly backs up the headline.

Mike Hart 3 weeks, 3 days ago

B.S. ... They can't make the same claim that they made back in April.. because the specifics (Townsend's taped conversation)... and Self's texts... are now discovered and are public knowledge. Would be laughable to maintain that there was nothing inappropriate .... Townsend's conversation showed a willingness to buy a recruit. There was no outrage on Townsend's part to say "We are not going to do that".. Rather, he said the opposite.

Steve Corder 3 weeks, 3 days ago

https://gleague.nba.com/news/nba-g-league-introduces-professional-path-select-contracts-elite-basketball-prospects

Mark Cuban suggested this idea several years ago. Long over due.

But under-the-table inducements will continue in big time football and basketball college programs.

John Strayer 3 weeks, 3 days ago

That is my question...if this is going on in the world of basketball...what the heck is going on in football where the money is supposedly so much more and winning so much more important. I guess in football you don't have the AAU teams?

Aaron Paisley 3 weeks, 3 days ago

The money in football comes from agents and boosters, not shoe companies.

Steve Ramsey 3 weeks, 3 days ago

For me, the two most important words in college athletics are "plausible deniability." Did the KU coaching staff suspect that money was being funneled to the families of recruits? It's hard for me to imagine a world where people that smart would honestly not have a clue. But, can anyone prove that the staff had any direct knowledge of it in any way? Doubtful. I would be very very very surprised if there was a smoking gun out there. Not saying there isn't - but I'd be very surprised. Likewise the NCAA as a whole: Do they know the role played by shoe companies etc in big time programs? Well, how could they not? But until the evidence smacks them in the face, they're not inclined to do a whole lot, because the "system" as it stands makes them a lot of money too. In the end, de Sousa does not play this year, some scholarships are lost, maybe a banner vacated, and we put up with a lot of smack talk from fans of other programs. The end.

Doug Horn 3 weeks, 3 days ago

No matter what side of the coin you fall on, I think we all might need to get comfortable with being viewed as a dirty program. In the court of public opinion we are guilty. There are 7 more people that will brought to trial, but the first 3 really made KU look bad. The facts are that Bill would have been recorded if there had not been an equipment failure. We are not alone in this mess as many other players and programs have been named. Including the always clean Duke. My only hope is that we do not play De Sousa until this has been cleared up and the NCAA has given us a thumbs up for him to play.

Joe Ross 3 weeks, 3 days ago

What an awkward position that would put the coaching staff in...if they arranged for payment to Fenny Falmagne. Think of it. You helped to arrange payment, and now you have to bench the guy you helped purchase.

Again. "IF".

Thomas Green 3 weeks, 3 days ago

“The first to go will be Coach Beaty, of course.”

Goodness gracious I hope so!

Joe Ross 3 weeks, 2 days ago

Only the Homerest of Homers can have "complete confidence" that there have been no recruiting violations.

...and I'm one of the ones who hopes the most that there haven't been.

This is a mess.

Edward Warren 3 weeks, 2 days ago

I live for KU basketball. I don't live for dirty KU basketball.

Why in the ever-loving hell is anyone involved with KU basketball associating with scum-bag shoe people? These idiots have sold the KU name down the s****er for mediocre players like deSousa? Tell me they are smarter than that.

KU is now dirty in the eyes of the basketball world whether they really are or not. For what? If this does not clear up satisfactorily in a hurry, it is time to start thinking about firing coaches, including the Hall of Fame one, athletic directors, janitors, whatever it takes. It will take decades to get the smell off a program.

Will my little granddaughter get to proudly wear her Jayhawk shirt in the future or not and happily tell me "Rock Chalk Jayhawk Grandpa" when she sees me? I am afraid for all of us.

Steve Quatrocky 3 weeks, 2 days ago

Everybody calm down, all KU needs to do is further investigate the $2500 paid for DeSousa's online classes and if it is true, self report it to the NCAA, resulting in a few games suspension while we need the minutes to sort thru such a deep frontcourt anyway. The $20,000 was never paid and $2500 isnt enough to go over the top about, especially given the NCAA had just cleared him as eligible which is the gold standard for any program.

As far as Preston, who was also declared eligible by the NCAA, as soon as the program started sniffing improper benefits, they investigated it and held him out of games, so no harm, no foul, he never played. The only liability for him would be if they made a willful misrepresentation in what they sent to the NCAA last Christmas, and the testimony pretty clearly covered the fact they gave KU a cover story to keep them in the dark.

Possession is 9/10's of the law, if they didnt ever play for us, no worries about probation or vacating wins or titles. Preston never played for us in a regulation game, Zion is now Duke and Nike's issue, and DeAndre's recruitment including the wiretaps is Arizona's, so lets stay focused on DeSousa for now.

Going forward, if the NCAA really wants to open up this ugly can of worms, KU could be a great "states witness" to testify about everything they know about the shoe company's influence as those other cases are much much stronger, especially given Preston never played for us and DeSousa was small change.

The pending sponsorship deal is a whole different issue and if the lawyers see nothing improper in the document itself, they should go ahead and sign it given that they are already performing under the contract terms.

Chad Leslie 3 weeks, 2 days ago

Didn't they allege in court De Souza had also very privately signed a pro contract in Spain? Also, what about the money he received from a Maryland booster? I'm afraid when (not if) De Souza is declared ineligible he & Fenny will have an axe to grind & start detailing his recruitment...

https://kuhoops.com/ku-basketball-news/219820675/

Shannon Gustafson 3 weeks, 1 day ago

The pro contract stuff is old news. He was cleared by the NCAA regarding that last year. They couldn't prove the signature was his.

There is also no proof that the Maryland payment was real/actually happened. It's just second hand testimony that someone said it happened.

Only thing that for sure happened was the $2500 for summer classes.

Steven Haag 3 weeks, 2 days ago

Most of us, if we are honest, believe “deep down in” that coaches know this is going on....but turn their heads and plug their ears. Then they can say they didn’t know. It’s sad and pathetic. Now, the BIG programs that go after BIG recruits are in the spotlight because there are large sums of money (6 figures in some cases), but don’t think it goes on at mid levels. The “second tier” programs are doing the same, it’s just less expensive cars, $1,000 dollar iPhones, etc. The NCAA also knows this is going on. If they try and just make an example out of one or two schools, you will see lawsuits from here to the moon. I could easily conceive 75% of NCAA teams that have 12 scholarship players have at least one minor infraction. Next to impossible to monitor EVERYBODY all the time. Not sure what the answer is.

Barry Weiss 3 weeks, 2 days ago

I seem to recall one of the articles indicated that KU's staff filled out some form incorrectly. Was that dealing with Preston or Silvio? Anyone know what the form was? Thanks.

Chad Leslie 3 weeks, 2 days ago

The wheels are falling off... the Jayhawk brand will never be the same.

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