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Wednesday, October 24, 2018

In wake of basketball corruption trial’s verdict, Self says his staff has done nothing wrong

Kansas head coach Bill Self addresses media members at the beginning of his segment during Big 12 Media Day on Wednesday, Oct. 24, 2018 at Sprint Center.

Kansas head coach Bill Self addresses media members at the beginning of his segment during Big 12 Media Day on Wednesday, Oct. 24, 2018 at Sprint Center.

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After declining to comment on the happenings in the federal trial on basketball corruption most of the day Wednesday, University of Kansas basketball coach Bill Self that evening denied that his staff had done anything wrong when recruiting players.

“When recruiting prospective student-athletes, my staff and I have not and do not offer improper inducements to them or their families to influence their college decisions, nor are we aware of any third-party involvement to do so,” he said, reading from a written statement. “As the leader of the Kansas men’s basketball program, I take pride in my role to operate with integrity and within the NCAA rules, which is a fundamental responsibility of being the head basketball coach.”

KU, which has won at least a share of the last 14 Big 12 Conference regular season championships, had become a focus of the trial in New York, specifically Self’s relationship with government witness and former Adidas consultant T.J. Gassnola. Gassnola testified that he paid the families of players to steer them to KU, including $90,000 to the mother of Billy Preston and $2,500 to Fenny Falmagne, the guardian of Silvio De Sousa. Gassnola testified that he never told Self about the payments.

The defense in the case argued that the coaches, including Self and KU assistant coach Kurtis Townsend, were aware of the payments to players.

“I have total confidence in all of my staff, including (Townsend),” Self said Wednesday evening. “I feel as strongly about that today as I did five, 10 and 15 years ago.”

Self previously said he would not comment on the trial until it concluded. While he was talking to reporters in a breakout session at the Big 12 media day Wednesday afternoon, the jury announced it found all three men facing charges — former Adidas executive James Gatto, business manager Christian Dawkins and amateur league director Merl Code — guilty of defrauding universities, including KU, by providing money to players’ families to steer them toward certain programs.

At his Wednesday evening press conference, Self read a statement in response to the end of the trial. He said that he would not comment on elements of the trial and that his comments were not a direct rebuke of testimony from the trial. He repeatedly declined to answer questions that he said were related to the trial.

In his statement, Self acknowledged that shoe companies have an influence at all levels of basketball, including the high school level.

“They work hard to develop brand loyalty with top high school prospects and they have some influence with them, which is totally permissible under NCAA guidelines, just like (a) high school coach could, an AAU coach, a trusted advisor and especially a parent,” he said.

While answering questions, Self said there are more third-party groups influencing players than just shoe companies, and that it would be impossible to track all of them.

“To say everyone should know everything that’s going on, I think that would be difficult to do,” he said. “I’m not shucking responsibility at all. I won’t run from this.”

• • •

Earlier Wednesday, Self declined to comment on the trial during the Big 12 media day at Sprint Center in Kansas City, Mo., noting he was given a “mandate” not to talk about it. Self did not elaborate on where that mandate came from.

Once notified that the trial had concluded during the breakout session, Self said he was still not prepared to comment at the time.

When asked whether he was frustrated he couldn’t respond to the allegations revealed in court, Self said it’s often better to be quiet.

“Anytime somebody punches you, I think your tendency is to fight back,” he said prior to the verdict coming down. “But sometimes the best thing to say is nothing.”

When asked whether he was worried that the allegations revealed in the trial might hurt his legacy, he said he would not “sit here and defend myself.”

“Based on perception from what’s come out and what’s been reported, certainly people can have their thoughts and opinions,” he said. “I’ve got to be mature enough to understand that and not be mad about it.”

Prior to his morning news conference, Self said on WHB 810 Sports Radio that it was “uncomfortable” to hear his name brought up in the trial.

In recent testimony, both the prosecution and the defense said families of KU players Preston and De Sousa received cash payments to attend KU. Text messages and phone calls revealed in court showed that Self and assistant coach Kurtis Townsend were aware of Adidas’ involvement in helping to recruit players.

“It has been uncomfortable, but I also am confident in how we conduct our business,” Self said during the broadcast. “(Hearing their names) brings discomfort, but it would also bring discomfort if neither of our names were brought up and a player’s name was.

“It’s unsettling to see those reports through the media and testimony,” he added. “(But) we’re big boys. We know we have to deal with that. It goes with the territory.”

Although Self declined to comment about the trial when he began talking to reporters in the afternoon, he again spoke about eligibility questions surrounding De Sousa. Self said that De Sousa was aware of the possibility of being held out, but Self said he did not tell De Sousa until Tuesday.

“He certainly now feels sad because he’s had something taken away from him that he obviously did not anticipate would be taken from him,” Self said. “He’s a big boy too … Eligibility issues are very commonplace in college athletics, and guys have to deal with them.”

Although Townsend’s name also came up in the trial, Self said his responsibilities in recruitment have not changed.

“Not at all,” he said.

KU player Dedric Lawson told the Journal-World that Townsend has been at practices and team meetings as he normally would.

• • •

When asked if he had any concerns about continuing a partnership with Adidas, Self deferred questions to the KU Athletic Director Jeff Long, who was not available for interviews at the event.

In a statement released after the verdict came down, Long and Chancellor Douglas Girod said the university will evaluate whether it wants to continue a partnership with the athletic apparel company.

Girod and Long said the university did not have a timeline for making a decision on whether to sign a multiyear, multimillion-dollar contract extension with Adidas. KU and Adidas announced the pending extension days before allegations of the recruiting scheme were made public in September 2017.

“Finally, while we have made no decision regarding a long-term contract extension with our apparel partner, Adidas, we continue to evaluate our options,” the two said in the statement. “There is no timetable for a decision. A strong apparel partnership is important and beneficial to all our student-athletes and our institution, and we will take great care in making the right decision for KU.”

Even though Self, his assistant coach and players on his team became centerpieces of the trial, Self said he was upbeat about his program.

“As a leader of our program, why should I let things that are going on somewhere else affect how I am around my players or how I coach my team?” he said. “You’re not much of a leader if that’s the case. I should be able to handle both, and certainly I will.”

Self said he doesn’t think the trial has had any effect on his current team, but he does think it may have affected the program’s recruiting of future players.

“I would say it hasn’t helped,” he said. “It’s been hard because we haven’t been able to explain.”

• • •

During their news conferences, Kansas State coach Bruce Weber and West Virginia coach Bob Huggins both answered questions about alleged recruiting violations revealed in the trial.

Weber said he believed it was a nationwide problem and hoped it would get fixed, but he doesn’t worry about what other institutions are doing.

“I can’t worry about what other people do,” he said. “I just worry about what we do. We try to do it right and I think we got good players. We’ve got good kids. So we’ve got an opportunity to be successful and that’s what we’re really focused on.”

“At the same time,” he continued, “the game is important to me and I want things corrected if it can be and hopefully it will be in the future.”

Huggins said he didn’t think it had been proven just yet that basketball programs were involved in the recruiting scandal but that, if it did happen, it was just a small number of schools involved.

“We’re talking, what, four or five schools at most?” he said, noting there are 361 teams in Division I basketball. “I think the state of our game is fine. If things happened, we all know they shouldn’t have happened, but that doesn’t affect that state of our game and the way people go about doing their business.”

— Journal-World reporter Matt Tait contributed to this story.

Comments

Bill Pitcher 1 year ago

The jury didn't accept the defense's argument. Seems the LJW is more reluctant to do so.

Andy Godwin 1 year ago

I think the LJW reports are focused on the transcripts with potentially damning (but can be difficult to interpret) text messages, emails, and recorded phone messages that include Self and Townsend. As additional trials proceed, more information across other programs will likely surface with similar evidence. Time to allow kids who have no interest in a college education to skip the process. College basketball with survive without them and potentially increase the competition, since many go to Blue Blood programs.

Mike Hart 1 year ago

The jury did not see all the text exchanges involving Townsend.. as they were deemed inadmissible. The NCAA.. that is another completely different story.

Dane Pratt 1 year ago

I want to believe Bill but this sounds like it falls under the category of willful negligence and I think that's how the NCAA will view it.

Mike Hart 1 year ago

If a shoe company is going to make payments to recruits.. a coach would be foolish to be involved in the details. Hence, "willful negligence" as you called it. It certainly appears that Self was waiting to get an update on Adidas' ability to steer DeSousa to Kansas and he would be an idiot to take an active posture... versus the simple "WE good?" cryptic text. Keep in mind, it came out clearly in the internal Adidas messages between themselves, that Kansas getting DeSousa and a "few good players" was key to getting KU to sign the Adidas extension

Dustin Peterson 1 year ago

None of those texts means "pay players or we walk." It is irrelevant how it looks, or how it feels. Shoe companies need the best players wearing their brand, and it's not illegal for them to establish a relationship with a player. It's not illegal for them to even give that player money. The only part that is now shown to be illegal is that the shoe rep cannot pay a player and market him to a public institution at which that player will receive scholarship, for doing so would be exploiting the institution's ability to broadcast the shoe brand in exchange for a high level recruit that would damage the school financially if it were known that the player otherwise would not be allowed to compete. That is fraud.

Willful negligence would only be possible if you could prove that Bill Self knew about this going on. Negligence must show there is a duty of care, a breach of that duty, causation, and actual damage. In other words, it must be shown that Bill Self either did something a reasonably prudent person would not have done, or did not do something a reasonably prudent person should have done. So the options would be something like proving that Bill Self either directed payments when he should not have, or did not report such payments were happening behind the scenes when he knew about them. Not only did a federal judge and jury not find convincing proof that Bill Self knew anything, but they couldn't even find enough credibility in what little evidence the defense presented to find a reasonable doubt as to the guilt of the defendants actually on trial.

Is it possible that more information is out there to be found? Absolutely. But a bunch of high-powered defense lawyers, with access to the FBI phone taps and confiscated text messages, were not able to produce a convincing story, and with far more resources than possessed by the NCAA. It would be an extraordinary waste of time and money for the NCAA to be digging for the proverbial needle.

Joe Baker 1 year ago

The sky is falling. .1. KU only program in question 2. Only coach involved 3. KU several players 4. KU only school that imposes Self-punishment 5. This is crap 6. All this proves is Self and company did nothing much 7. Other programs hide it better 8. KU only actual open and honest program...scapegoat program...ask Mellinger who outed Self to "lead the way"! Why should Self be the poster boy? Get Cal and K...Cal is a choir boy and K is untouchable!
9. Biggest joke of BBALL 10. DeSousa sits out

Keith Gellar 1 year ago

i've said it tons of time before and will say it again, bill self = calipari 2.0.

this is just the beginning. we don't even know about all the other stuff that goes on. its a bad day to be a jayhawk.

Craig Carson 1 year ago

Self is nothing like Calipari..for Christ sake, allegations dont =guilt

Edward Daub 1 year ago

Out here in West Virginia, Dollar Bills are being printed with Billy Eugene's Face on the Front and "In Self We Trust" on the Back (Just Kidding). Let the Games Begin!

Craig Carson 1 year ago

i wouldnt be shocked if you're halfway correct lol...those road games in Manhattan, Aemes and Lexington are gonna be brutal

Steven Haag 1 year ago

This is exactly what the NCAA didn’t want to happen (I’m talking about the whole trial). The NCAA knows this stuff goes on, they put in polices/laws to minimize it as much as they can. It goes on even in mid-majors in basketball. Wait till they dig into the BIG cash cow.......football. The NCAA would go bankrupt if they shut it all down. As far as KU goes, the perception sucks. The only thing that I can see that can actually bite us is the $2,500 for Silvio. If he claims he didn’t know about it...... it sure how he can claim that. He obviously knows that some person or some business paid for his college, then the NCAA can use their “known, or should have known” clause to punish KU. What is the punishment for $2,500? It’s not just show companies people. Boosters, alumni, other big companies, etc. The NCAA knows that when they turn over that rock, there may be HUNDREDS of rats that scurry and scamper away.

Max Kandinsky 1 year ago

I've read so many comments the last few weeks that suggest or imply that kids need to either be allowed to go directly to the pros if they choose, or stay in college and earn a "legitimate" degree for their future. My question is why can athletics not be a major in and of itself? A graphic design major, for example, can earn money with side graphic design jobs, while receiving a scholarship, while earning a degree. Just because sports are not considered "academic or intellectual" students are automatically dismissed or discredited if their motive for attending a university is purely for athletics. Yet, for those who have those skills, it has a much higher income potential than many other careers. Athletes should be allowed to go to college in order to develop and prepare themselves for a career in athletics, and if a company wants to sponsor them... fine. Why do we insist that a person must either be thrown directly to the Pros right after high school, or go to college to earn a "real" degree? An athletic degree might be risky, but many majors are. Maybe if a student receives a sponsorship, they may be ineligible for state or federal scholarships if that helps, but shouldn't have to forfeit the right to learn and develop skills needed for a viable career option. Why assume D leagues are the best place to educate a developing athlete when Universities are more set up for handle the education of the whole athlete. Time to stop delegitimizing students for pursuing a career that they are gifted and talented in. If it doesn't work out, they are free to pursue other career options just like anyone else.

Joe Black 1 year ago

That is one of the most asinine ideas I have ever heard. Yikes!

Max Kandinsky 1 year ago

Because the current system is working so well? Care to elaborate? If a student would major in athletics, they would be required to take business classes to help manage their money and non profit organizations, communication classes to learn how to be a public figure, courses to develop their trade skills, psychology courses to help give them and edge and to deal with public pressures. Sure seems like a better model than what we have. How are all the Psychology degrees treating everyone out there? Come on Joe Black, think outside the box...

Joe Joseph 1 year ago

Bill Self is a smart person and is incredibly media savvy. He never says things that he knows could come back to bite him. For him to publicly say that he had no knowledge of payments, when he could have just remained mum, or worded it in a more vague way... is promising.

I'm guessing Self was as knowledgeable as any coach about the underbelly of college athletics and MAYBE even complicit.

However, his statement makes me believe he is very confident that there is no concrete evidence that will implicate him. No way Bill Self releases that statement if he is even the least bit worried that it will come back to bite him.

Unless he's planning on retiring/leaving for the NBA after this season. lol

Brian Leiker 1 year ago

Love hearing Huggin's take on this. Nobody broke more recruiting rules while at Cincinnati.

Larry McGlinn 1 year ago

In a lot of comments now I hear this implication: "Self is OK because they can't prove anything on him." Is that good enough for you? Is it because you think everyone else is having their players paid for? Is it because you just want to win b-ball games, and nothing else matters? If so, that is really pathetic.

Craig Carson 1 year ago

if Self were guilty then it needs to be proven..maybe you might be ready to drag him from his office at AFH and burn him at the stake for people making unproven allegations against him but real fans arent..Self has carried himself with integrity during his time at KU..he at least has earned the courtesy of not placing guilt upon him until its proven

Steven Haag 1 year ago

Larry, let’s go a little deeper...since you are on the whole “wins” kick. I happen to agree with you. But, it’s more than just the shady paying of players. In football and basketball, less than 5% actually go pro. The majority will go get a job like you in me. So, developing character, being a father figure, etc. play into this as well. It’s not about wins........or is it? Everybody wants Beaty gone because of him being a terrible person, right. Nope, it’s about wins, all about wins

Mike Greer 1 year ago

Just because Coach, like the majority of us, "knows" there is "stuff" goring on, doesn't mean he's involved. All the major programs are recruiting the same kids, you get some, the other guys get some, who knows why? Young went to OU because he knew he was "the man" at OU and at KU he was just another cog in the wheel. Other players go for other reasons, not always for money.

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