If the NCAA sends allegations of major recruiting violations to the University of Kansas athletics program this summer, it may take at least a year before the case is resolved, an NCAA rules expert recently told the Journal-World.
KU basketball fans began bracing for possible allegations after NCAA official Stan Wilcox recently said the organization will deliver Notices of Allegations — the NCAA’s equivalent of indictments — to at least six college basketball programs this summer. The allegations will be for Level 1 violations, which are deemed the most serious and can include penalties such as scholarship reductions and postseason bans.
Although no programs have been named, Wilcox said two “high profile” programs would receive notices of allegations by early July. The other four programs should expect notices by the end of the summer, and the NCAA official said other cases are still in the works.
The NCAA began investigating KU and other programs after an October trial revealed corruption in college basketball recruiting. The trial also revealed coach Bill Self’s relationship with Thomas “T.J.” Gassnola, a former Adidas consultant. Gassnola testified that he paid the families of players to steer them to KU, including $90,000 to the mother of former KU player Billy Preston and $2,500 to the guardian of current KU player Silvio De Sousa.
While De Sousa has already served a season-long suspension for the student-athlete side of the scandal, KU Athletics could still be facing institutional sanctions.
It’s not clear if KU will be one of the six programs to receive allegations. But what happens if it does?
William H. Brooks, an Alabama attorney who has represented universities facing NCAA infractions, said the process could be a drawn-out affair.
“If they issued a notice next week, for example, you’d be hard pressed to get a hearing before the end of the year,” he said.
The NCAA process
The Notice of Allegations is a document that the NCAA will send to a university that outlines alleged violations of NCAA rules that its enforcement staff found through investigation. Brooks said the document will number each specific allegation with the level of seriousness.
Additionally, the document will include “mitigating factors,” circumstances that call for lower penalties, or “aggravating factors,” circumstances that call for harsher penalties, which help determine which penalties an institution might face if it is found to have committed the violations after the process is complete, Brooks said.
Once the NCAA issues the Notice of Allegations — which is normally not made public, unless the university makes it public or it is made public through open records requests — the university has 90 days to respond to the allegations in writing. Brooks said the university response is somewhat similar to when a person charged with a crime pleads guilty or not guilty.
“You either have to admit it, deny it and contest it, or a little bit of both,” he said of the university responses. “Then you put on some context, like an explanation as to why.”
The university can also argue certain mitigating or aggravating factors should or should not apply for each violation. Brooks said this often comes with a university self-imposing penalties, such as a self-imposed postseason ban, in hopes that the NCAA will be more lenient while it reviews its case.
Although the university has 90 days to respond, Brooks said it's not uncommon for the NCAA to give the university an extension. The response is then sent to the NCAA enforcement staff, which has 60 days to file a reply and a “statement of the case,” which outlines the overall summary of the case.
The NCAA Committee on Infractions, which is made up of attorneys and current and former university officials from across the country, will then schedule a hearing date, which gives the university and the enforcement staff a chance to make their cases. The committee will then issue a ruling, which often comes several months later, Brooks said.
When the Committee on Infractions makes its ruling, the university will for the first time see which penalties it is facing. If a university self-imposes penalties, Brooks said the university will be hoping the NCAA does not add any more penalties on top of those.
“You’re hoping they don’t add anything to it,” he said. “That’s what you’re shooting for.”
If penalties are sanctioned, the university then has the opportunity to appeal the decision and the penalties. A ruling on an appeal does not have any specific timeline, Brooks.
Brooks said he believes the cases Wilcox mentioned earlier this week won’t be resolved until sometime in 2020.
“It’ll be next year,” he said.
NCAA's public comments
Although the NCAA’s public announcement of coming allegations — which is against NCAA protocol, according to the CBS Sports report that broke the news — was “unusual,” Brooks said he didn’t have any problem with it.
Brooks said it “would be fair” to say the NCAA is likely making the statements to publicly show it is moving on a case that had become highly publicized after the FBI got involved and filed charges that eventually led to several convictions of fraud and bribery.
But not everyone is happy about the early notice.
Shortly after CBS Sports reported Wilcox’s comments, Dan Wolken, a sports columnist for USA Today, said in a tweet that he found Wilcox's statements “totally inappropriate” and “almost prejudicial.”
When asked why he thought so, Wolken said Wilcox should not be speaking with “any specificity” about current enforcement cases.
Wolken said he also thought Wilcox shouldn’t have commented on how universities could fare in a new NCAA infractions system, which sends up to five of the most serious cases to be decided by the infractions committee that will now include members outside of the NCAA.
Wilcox said the new system could be more restrictive or less restrictive, but he “wouldn't want to be the first institution to go through that process,” according to the report.
“It comes off as very unfair,” Wolken said of Wilcox’s comments. "I mean, if you want this to have any semblance of being a fair process, the No. 2 guy at the NCAA can’t be out there talking about outcomes or alluding to how hard schools are going to get hit before they are able to make their case."
Brooks said he understood Wolken’s point, but he personally did not have a problem with it because none of the universities or cases were named.
“I get it, but without being in the room I don’t really know how to take it,” he said. “If he had named schools, that would have been different.”