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Friday, October 25, 2019

KU officials can’t say whether KU officially told NCAA it doesn’t see Adidas’ Gassnola as a booster

A University of Kansas-branded Adidas basketball is pictured in March 2018.

A University of Kansas-branded Adidas basketball is pictured in March 2018.

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University of Kansas officials either can’t or will not say whether KU communicated to the NCAA that it only considered former Adidas employee and recruiting fixer T.J. Gassnola a "booster" to the program for an eligibility case.

That could be an important distinction as KU tries to argue in an NCAA infractions case against several alleged recruiting violations tied to Gassnola’s relationship to the program.

On Thursday, neither KU Chancellor Douglas Girod nor KU Athletics spokesman Dan Beckler could confirm the university provided official communication to the NCAA that it only viewed Gassnola as a booster to the program in the eligibility case of basketball player Silvio De Sousa.

Additionally, the university denied a Journal-World request through the Kansas Open Records Act for a copy of any communication with the NCAA on the matter.

On Feb. 2, KU Athletic Director Jeff Long said the NCAA forced KU to consider Gassnola a booster to the program when KU asked the NCAA to rule on the eligibility of De Sousa. De Sousa was sitting out from participating with the basketball team amid allegations revealed in a college basketball corruption trial in October 2018 that his guardian, Fenny Falmagne, accepted a $2,500 payment from Gassnola for De Sousa to attend KU.

After KU’s request, the NCAA ruled De Sousa ineligible for two seasons. It later reduced the suspension to one season after a successful appeal from KU. De Sousa is currently eligible to play for the team and is expected to be an important contributor this season.

When Long announced that KU planned to appeal De Sousa’s suspension during the Feb. 2 press conference, he said the university considered Gassnola a booster “only as a hypothetical for the purposes of reinstatement," and KU disagrees with NCAA staff on how to “define Gassnola’s role in all of this.”

But whether that was officially communicated to the NCAA is unclear.

When the Journal-World asked Girod Thursday about any possible communication outlining the university’s view on Gassnola, he said he could not remember if it had done so because it was months in the past. Beckler, when asked the same question, did not directly answer but said the university planned to publicly release its response to the NCAA’s allegations.

“As we said September 23 when we shared the Notice of Allegations, the university will continue to cooperate with the NCAA enforcement process and looks forward to submitting its Response to the Notice of Allegations, and we will make that response public when it is submitted,” Beckler said in an email.

The NCAA charged the KU program with lack of institutional control, three Level 1 violations in the men’s basketball program and coach Bill Self with a “responsibility charge." Level 1 violations are deemed the most serious and can include penalties such as scholarship reductions and postseason bans.

As the Journal-World reported in February, the university's case against sanctions likely hinges on whether it can convince the NCAA that Gassnola is not a booster to the basketball program.

Josephine Potuto, a University of Nebraska College of Law professor and former chair of the NCAA committee on infractions, said at the time that an employee for an apparel company could be considered a booster. Potuto pointed to the NCAA handbook, which shows under its guidelines for “Institutional Control” that universities can be held responsible for the actions of corporate entities and their employees that are working on their behalf, whether the universities are aware of their actions or not.

“If (a university) asks for help from someone outside, that clearly triggers booster status,” Potuto said via email. “But someone who is ‘assisting,’ even if the (university) says it did not know, also could trigger booster status.”

Additionally, KU Athletics regularly sends guidelines to members of the Lawrence chamber of commerce about how they can interact with the program. Those guidelines, which are dated October 2017, were shared again this week. Under a section called “Booster Defined,” the guidelines show an apparel company can be considered a booster to the program, seemingly in contradiction to the university’s stance on Gassnola.

When asked about the guideline and how it contradicts the university’s stance, Girod said KU was obligated by the NCAA to publish that information and declined any further comment.

Comments

Phil Leister 3 months ago

This "investigative journalism" from the LJW is such a sham. Granted, I clicked the article and wrote a comment which helps pay the bills, so I guess that's probably the goal of all this.

But don't pretend for a second that you're doing the work of the people or that anyone thinks you're doing a great job. This article had no substance whatsoever.

Richard Wright 3 months ago

As I recall, during the time that Silvio's eligibility hearing was ongoing, the LJW published an article that either paraphrased or contained KU response to the NCAA regarding Gassnola's booster status. LJW, look in your archives for the article and I think you will find the answer to this article.

Joe Black 3 months ago

Dylan Lysen once again trying to make a name for him/herself as a top notch investigative journalist. My 10 year old nephew could get the same investigative information by using a "new" internet tool called Google.

Jeff Coffman 3 months ago

The first sentence of the article contradicts the headline.

You wonder why Les Miles and Bill Self stop talking to the local media, with publishing this unsubstantiated garbage.

Why don't you write that this is over 2500 payment that was already served a punishment. Why don't you write how this is a witch hunt, or is that not PC to say.

Craig Carson 3 months ago

The NCAA forced KU to label him a booster just so they would even consider a ruling on DeSousa..that's entrapment and that's illegal...that's basically having a judge/lawyer force you to accept a plea deal for a crime you know you didn't commit just to even have a chance for a trial...by this definition every shoe company is a booster since most of the kids who are in the Nike AAU circuit end up going to Nike schools..same for Adidas...the universities only have so much control over what their sponsors do..if an employee does what Gassnola did and conceals to a point where it takes the FBI coming in to uncover it, then the universities shouldn't pay a price for that..by that logic the parent of every killer or criminal should be in prison

Mike Hart 3 months ago

You can't look at ALL of this through rose-colored glasses. KU can't have it both ways: (1) We'll call Gassnola a booster just so we can get DeSousa to play. (2) Gassnola is not a booster, because now we are levied infractions by the NCAA. If he's not a booster, and that's part of why DeSousa is allowed to play, then if you want to avoid sanctions, then it would only make sense that DeSousa should be ineligible. You can't just label Gassnola to whatever fits your purpose.

KU has not been forthcoming with ANYTHING related to the basketball program. Even claiming 10 months after all of this went down, the University was still lying to the public saying that the Athletic Chair and Chancellor had yet to have a conversation with KU Coach Townsend, a key figure in the allegations. This is just ludicrous. Stop defending KU at EVERY step of this investigation. They haven't been forthcoming.. and they certainly haven't been consistent. It's been CYA every step of the way.

Craig Carson 3 months ago

Wrong on all accounts...the NCAA left DeSousa in limbo for months..all they had to do was give a ruling..yet they ignored him while he sat on the bench not knowing what was going on...it wasn't KU that offered the NCAA a carrot by choosing to label him a booster in exchange for a ruling...it was the NCAA demanding they do that just to even consider a ruling...that's entrapment or least close to it...I chose to look at it logical while you chose gloom and doom..if we listened to your apocalyptic conclusions we'd all demand Self fired,the program shut down and AFH burned to the ground....you keep predicting destruction while the rest of us display a little faith...class dismissed

Robert Brock 3 months ago

Are these guys boosters for all the schools in the NCAA? Interesting take.

Brett McCabe 3 months ago

Thanks Dollar Bill. I was hoping to have to read about your dirty program every day for the next six months. It was the only thing missing in my life.

Please do the honorable thing, give yourself up the NCAA, spare us from paying the penalty for your misdeeds and get the hell out of town. I’ll pay the bus fare.

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