Amid allegations that the University of Kansas basketball program committed recruiting violations, the university has cited a report to argue that its record of compliance with NCAA rules was on par with “the industry standard.”
However, when the Journal-World requested a copy of the report, KU officials declined to provide it.
When asked on Thursday why the public should take the university’s word that it’s being truthful about the report when it won’t release it to the public, KU Chancellor Douglas Girod said “it’s your job if you want to believe it or not.”
The university’s decision to withhold the report didn’t sit well with Max Kautsch, a transparency advocate and Lawrence-based attorney who specializes in open-government issues.
“How can the public believe what the university says about the compliance report if it refuses to disclose it?” Kautsch said. “There is nothing preventing disclosure in this instance.”
In September, 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.
The NCAA’s allegations stem from information that was revealed during an October 2018 trial on corruption in college basketball.
During his testimony, former Adidas employee and recruiting fixer T.J. Gassnola said he paid 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.
In its initial response to the allegations, the university said Girod and Athletic Director Jeff Long brought in an outside compliance expert to review KU Athletics’ compliance program.
“The report found that our compliance program meets or exceeds industry standard in all facets,” the university said in September.
With the university publicly citing the report, the Journal-World requested a copy of it through the Kansas Open Records Act to verify its findings. The university denied the KORA request, citing a provision that allows public agencies to deny requests for “records of agencies involved in administrative adjudication or civil litigation.”
The recent denial is the second time the university cited the report publicly and then refused to share its findings publicly. In April 2018, Girod told the Journal-World he had received verbal briefings about the examination but that he did not receive a written report or other detailed written findings.
“We didn’t really ask them for a written report,” Girod said at the time. “We didn’t feel the need to release an external report. What we needed to be sure of is that we are comfortable and confident in the way our team operates and in meeting any and every requirement necessary.”
But the university later referred to the findings as a report in its recent communication. Kautsch said the Kansas Open Records Act allows public agencies to deny requests from the public for records under certain circumstances, but the law generally does not prohibit those agencies from releasing the records.
“In this instance, there is nothing that mandates the university to withhold the requested documents,” he said. “It’s strictly the university’s choice to do so, which makes it difficult for the public to challenge or verify the circumstances surrounding (the NCAA’s) investigation.”
Girod told the Journal-World on Thursday that the university would not release the report to the public. He said it would be used in the university’s official response to the NCAA’s Notice of Allegations.
“We’re focused on the NCAA and our response to them,” Girod said. “We don’t want to confuse the two.”