NCAA source confirms request for KU's allegations case to be heard by independent panel

The NCAA headquarters in Indianapolis is pictured, Thursday, March 12, 2020. (AP Photo/Michael Conroy)

The NCAA headquarters in Indianapolis is pictured, Thursday, March 12, 2020. (AP Photo/Michael Conroy)

Wednesday, May 20, 2020

The fate of KU’s men’s basketball program — embroiled in serious pay-for-play allegations by the NCAA’s enforcement staff — may be heading for an all-or-nothing moment.

The Journal-World has learned from an NCAA source that the NCAA’s Committee on Infractions wants the University of Kansas’ case to be heard by a new panel, the Independent Accountability Resolutions Process, designed to tackle the most complex cases in college athletics.

But there is a big difference between this new process and the more traditional one: Decisions made by the IARP are final and cannot be appealed.

That could be a big deal for KU and its basketball program because the NCAA has alleged that KU’s violations are so serious that penalties could include postseason bans, vacating wins and conference championships, as well as a long-term suspension of head coach Bill Self.

But the process also may be viewed favorably by KU officials. As its name suggests, the panel is made up of people with no direct ties to the NCAA. That is in contrast to the traditional process that uses an infractions committee that could include athletic directors, university presidents, former coaches and other administrators who are from fellow NCAA schools and conferences.

The new panel draws more heavily from the legal world, including lawyers and former judges.

Whether KU leaders at this point view one process more favorably than the other is unclear. The Journal-World wasn’t able to determine whether KU plans to support or oppose the Committee on Infractions’ request that the case be transferred to the new body.

KU has 20 days from the submission of the referral request to file a response to the request for the case to be transferred to the IARP. After that period, a subpanel of the IARP will make the decision on whether to accept the case.

There is no timeline for when the IARP may make that decision, the Journal-World was told. Once a case is accepted into the IARP, the NCAA no longer has any role in it and will not comment until a ruling has been handed down.

Naima Stevenson Starks, the vice president of hearing operations for the NCAA, told the Journal-World that, in the interest of transparency, the NCAA would announce “a limited public disclosure when a case is accepted into the IARP.”

Such an announcement was made earlier this week regarding the NCAA’s notice of allegations case against North Carolina State University in the fallout from the federal investigation into recruiting corruption in college basketball.

NC State, which received its notice of allegations a few months before Kansas, and Memphis, which is on the IARP track because of a complex matter involving former No. 1 recruit James Wiseman, were the first two schools to enter the IARP path.

According to reports, Memphis requested the IARP path, and NC State agreed to having its case referred there.

Who Serves on the IARP?

The IARP is a new track for infractions cases created in response to recommendations by the Commission on College Basketball. That commission, chaired by former Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice, was formed after the sport was rocked by federal fraud charges filed against then-current Adidas representatives who ultimately were convicted of fraud related to a pay-for-play scheme.

KU officials faced no charges in the criminal matter, but the NCAA’s enforcement staff has alleged KU violated multiple NCAA rules because the school either knew or should have known of the pay-for-play scheme or other NCAA violations.

KU has vigorously denied that it had any knowledge or should have known of the actions by employees of Adidas, which KU has a multimillion dollar marketing partnership with.

The 15-member IARP panel consists mostly of lawyers and former judges who work at independent firms and have no direct ties to the NCAA.

All 15 members applied for a spot on the panel and were selected and recommended by the Independent Accountability Oversight Committee, Stevenson Starks said.

The IAOC includes three independent members of the NCAA’s Board of Governors — former Duke and NBA star Grant Hill; Vivek Murthy, the 19th surgeon general of the United States; and Denis McDonough, of the Markle Foundation.

The NCAA Division I board of directors ultimately approved the recommendations of the 15 current panel members: Jodi Balsam, Brooklyn Law School; David Benck, American Arbitration Association; Jeffrey Benz, with the mediation firm JAMS Inc.; Mary Braza, Foley and Lardner LLP; Bernetta Bush, JAMS Inc.; Joan Cronan, University of Tennessee, Knoxville (retired); Javier Flores, Dinsmore and Shohl LLP; Hugh Fraser, JAMS Inc.; Patricia Timmons Goodson, justice, Supreme Court of North Carolina (retired); Corey Jackson, University of California San Francisco; Bruce Meyerson, Bruce Meyerson PLLC; Tracy Porter, Premiere Solutions; Michelle Pujals, Tauterno Consulting LLC; Christina Guerola Sarchio, Dechert LLP; and Dana Welch, Welch ADR.

If a case moves forward, five of those 15 members eventually will be assigned to each IARP case as members of the Independent Resolution Panel.

Stevenson Starks told the Journal-World that, like a sitting judge, a panel member could be assigned to more than one case at a time, meaning it will be difficult to predict which panel members may hear KU’s case.

What’s next for KU?

The next step in KU’s case depends on whether the IARP’s Infractions Referral Committee accepts the request for KU’s case.

If it does, the case is passed along to the IARP’s Complex Case Unit. That unit is a two-part body that includes both an independent investigator and an independent advocate, who work in tandem to gather the facts of the case.

Stevenson Starks told the Journal-World that there were no specific parameters for how long cases could go on before a ruling was made.

Because Memphis and NC State are both at the outset of their IARP endeavors, there also is no precedent to provide even a best guess as to how long the IARP process might last.

A lot of the timeline depends on how much more work the Complex Case Unit believes needs to be done. That work could include further investigation and amendments to the notice of allegations.

In the final step, the IARP then conducts a hearing, decides whether violations occurred and prescribes penalties.

Under the agreed-upon process, KU would have no further NCAA appeals if it disagreed with the findings or the penalties.

The other possibility is that IARP officials decide they don’t want to hear the KU case. In that instance, the KU case would be heard by the traditional NCAA process involving the Committee on Infractions and its members from fellow NCAA schools and conferences.