An overview of KU's scholarship situation and why the Jayhawks are all right


Let me start by saying that I don’t know all of the details or exact plans that currently are in place for the Kansas men’s basketball team, which on Tuesday added another transfer — William & Mary forward Jack Whitman — and yet still appears to be open to adding Class of 2017 big man Jeremiah Tilmon or 5-star point guard Trevon Duval, should either player choose Kansas.

But you know who does know the ins and outs of everything going on?

Bill Self.

Yep. The same guy who so many of you put your complete and undying faith in to lead your favorite basketball program has all the answers, knows all the options and no doubt has a Plan A, Plan B and Plan C for every possible scenario you can think of and even a few you haven’t.

That does not mean any of it is going to be easy. Juggling a roster from year to year and managing recruiting for a team that hundreds, if not thousands, of young athletes want to play for never is. And it becomes especially tricky if Tilmon or Duval were to choose Kansas at the end of their recruitment.

But, you know what? Even if that were to happen Self would figure it out.

And there are a million ways for him to get it done.

A huge percentage of KU fans who made their thoughts known on Twitter on Tuesday jumped to the (very logical) conclusion that the addition of Whitman spells the end of Svi Mykhailiuk.

It doesn’t. In fact, I would not be surprised if the two situations are not related in any way, shape or form.

Svi, as you know, is testing the waters of the NBA Draft and has gone about it without hiring an agent, leaving open the possibility for his return to Kansas for his senior season.

Svi might very well stay in the draft. A killer showing at the combine (May 9-14 in Chicago) surely would help inspire him to do so and, if that were to happen, his departure would free up a scholarship and make things much, much easier.

But the thing about Svi and this Whitman news that doesn’t make sense to me is that absolutely nothing has changed on Svi’s end to make me think that he has made any kind of decision to leave. The combine hasn’t even started yet and we’ve heard all along that the whole point of Svi testing was to find out what NBA people think of him at the combine.

While we’re on that topic, I also found it funny how many people thought Svi merely being invited to the combine signified that he was gone. Everything I had heard was that everyone involved — Self, Svi, his teammates, his family — fully expected him to get that invitation and the news that it came was merely confirmation of something they already were planning for anyway. Remember, that was the whole reason he decided to test in the first place.

OK. So back to the situation at hand, where KU might be running out of scholarships.

If Svi returns for his senior season — which I still fully expect — then KU’s 13 scholarships are spoken for and Whitman, who told me tonight that he was coming on an athletic scholarship, would put KU one over the limit.

What happens then?

A bunch of things could and I’ll quickly outline them here. I haven’t heard anything concrete about any of the following scenarios being in the works or anything like that, but, having seen these types of things happen elsewhere throughout the years offers proof that they are possible solutions.

Beyond that, it all goes back to what we started with at the beginning of this blog. Bill Self knows his way around these situations like the ushers at Allen Fieldhouse. He’s not going to get into a situation where his back is against the wall and he doesn’t know what to do. He always knows what to do, often well before he ever needs to do it.

With that in mind, here are a few scenarios that could open up space for Whitman, if necessary, or Duval or Tilmon, should either (or both... Gasp!) pick Kansas.

• It’s rare, but one of the players currently on scholarship could offer or elect to pay his way for one year. Memphis transfer Dedric Lawson, who might soon be a millionaire anyway, could be a candidate to do it. So could Mitch Lightfoot, who so clearly loves KU and probably would both not mind and benefit from being around here as long as possible. Why would Lawson do it, you might ask? Good question. And I’m not saying he would. But he might. And it could be to help his younger brothers have a better path to a bluebood program like Kansas down the road. You scratch our back, we’ll scratch yours, you know? Long shot, maybe. But it has happened.

• There’s always a chance that Whitman himself could wind up paying his own way. I know he said he was coming on scholarship, but he’s not exactly the one with the best leverage here. Let’s say the Jayhawks learned they were getting Duval. (I still don’t see it happening, for what that’s worth). In an effort to make room for him, they could ask Whitman if he were interested in footing the bill for his time at KU. As a graduate transfer, I don’t think he has to be enrolled in a full 12 hours of graduate school to be eligible, so the financial burden might not be that bad. Plus, if it were to play out this way, he’d still be getting an opportunity to play at Kansas. Not many people are going to turn that down, especially competitors who want to test themselves at the highest level like Whitman does.

• It’s also possible someone else could transfer out, opening up another spot with the scholarship they would leave behind. If I were to make a guess about a leading candidate for this option, I’d have to say it’s senior-to-be Dwight Coleby. I don’t know where he’s at in terms of graduation, but if he’s close, maybe he could knock out his remaining hours this summer and go the grad transfer route himself. Instead of being one of five — or possibly even six — big men on a roster, he surely could find another good program that would make him one of three or four. I like Coleby. He’s a great dude, a terrific teammate and I think a bunch of people would love to see what he could do if fully healthy. But he also wants to play and if he thinks his chances of doing that are better elsewhere it could wind up being mutually beneficial for him and the program.

• Another rarity here, but what about academic scholarships? I’m not knowledgeable enough about Whitman, Duval or Tilmon’s academic standing to know whether either player would be a candidate for that — and therefore could essentially walk on while having school paid for via academics — but, unless there's a rule against it, it’s something that surely has been done. I'll have to look into it at the Div. I level. I know for sure that it happens at lower levels of college athletics all the time.

Those are just a handful of possibilities that could — again, could — make it all work and those are just the ones I can think of. As mentioned twice above, there’s no doubt that Self and his associates at KU know of at least a few other avenues that were not outlined here.

Regardless of how it all plays out, know this: Self’s got it 100 percent under control. And there is no scenario possible in which he’s going to head into summer workouts or the first practice of the season with one or two too many guys and have to ask for a show of hands of those willing to volunteer to give up their scholarship.

Self’s way too good of a general manager to let that happen. So you know if he took Charlie Moore and if he took Jack Whitman, he’s got a plan at the ready for a way to move forward in case he needs to take someone else in the coming days or weeks.

So sit tight, breathe easy and let’s see how this thing plays out. Fascinating stuff.


Gavin Fritton 1 year ago


Thanks for clarifying the situation. This helps a lot.

I will wait for the results of your research, but I have a feeling that the academic scholarship route is a non-starter. If it were a viable possibility, it would be possible for schools all across the country to a̶b̶u̶s̶e̶ use over and over again as a way to skirt the limit. While I know that high-end academic schools like Stanford, Duke, Northwestern and Georgetown can find "wiggle room" in their admission standards for great athletes, just imagine how many more great players they could pack onto their squads if they had the ability to go over the scholarship limit by supplementing with academic scholarships. And then think of how easily less academically-oriented (cough cough Mizzou koff koff K-State koffkoff) could do the same thing by awarding even lower-level students with academic scholarships just to get them on the team. I think that not only the NCAA but the conference would both have a conniption fit in such an instance.

Also, if KU could give a player an academic scholarship to a player who deserves one but would otherwise have to be a walk-on, wouldn't KU have given one to Matt Kleinmann? If anyone would have qualified, it would have been him. (I could be mis-remembering, but I think his choices were to play for Harvard or to walk on at KU and he chose his childhood dream of playing for the Jayhawks even though it meant that he had to pay for the privilege out of his own pocket.)

Gavin Fritton 1 year ago

OK. So I actually called the NCAA and I was surprised at how helpful they were. Nothing they told me was official and I did not tell them I was asking about any specific school or athlete. However, the answer I came away with as to whether Whitman could use an academic scholarship to play at KU is “almost certainly not, but maybe.” The concern, of course, is whether such an academic scholarship would count as “athletically related financial aid,” which is restricted by the NCAA and is defined by NCAA Bylaw You can find the rulebook yourself at ncaapublications(dot)com and I won’t print it all here because I am character-limited. But the rule basically defines an athletic scholarship as what we would all reasonably think it is. As we know, schools are limited as to how many of those they can grant.

The NCAA person I spoke with told me that you CAN give an academic scholarship and not have it count against the total scholarship limit imposed by the NCAA on the basketball team. However, it would be incumbent on KU to show that the scholarship is an established honorary award at the school and given for outstanding academic achievement achievement. KU would also have to show that the award is a “standing” scholarship/grant, that the basis for the award is the player’s ACADEMIC record and, and this is most important, the award has to be given based on a competitive evaluation of the student in comparison to other students in a particular class or college at the school. I know he isn’t going to go to law school, but I do know that the KU Law School has the Rice Scholarship, which is very competitive, which would be an example of a scholarship that I think would apply under this rule. The person I spoke with at the NCAA told me that it is exceedingly rare in her experience for any school in Div. I, especially high DI, to have athletes playing on an academic scholarship.

Bottom line: It is technically possible to have Whitman play on an academic scholarship. But to do so KU would have to have a competitive scholarship program already in existence and be able to show that he beat out other candidates based on his academics (and, possibly, other non-athletic factors). Unless KU can do this, he is either paying his own tuition or someone else is leaving.

Pius Waldman 1 year ago

Well we do have walk-on that do not count for the total of 13. So wouldn't another player have the option to be a walk-on. The recent Teahan will be part of the team. If he has earned financial aid why couldn't he accept it and still play. I believe walk-on live in the same building as the scholie guys.

Tom Keegan 1 year ago

Teahan does not count toward the 13. They have 13 without him. As for another player having the option of walking on, every scholarship player, I suppose has that option, but why would anyone choose to be a walk-on and pay his way instead of taking a scholarship and not paying? If I went to buy a car and they gave me the option of having it for free, I would take it for free and so would anybody else.

Jonathan Allison 1 year ago

"Off The Court Full name is Jaffrey Allen Hawkins... Born Nov. 9, 1982 in Kansas City, Kan... Will take masters courses next season... Parents are Floyd and Addye Hawkins... Nickname is J-Hawk... Earned an academic scholarship his freshman season... Related to former North Carolina All-American Joe Forte and former New Jersey Nets head coach Byron Scott... Was just the second Jayhawk to wear No. 1, joining Mario Kinsey."

Gavin Fritton 1 year ago


Your answer and excellent research got me thinking. So I did some research and even got in touch with the NCAA, I posted a fuller response above as an answer to my own post above. But the short answer is that J-Hawk did so but he probably had access to more scholarships that Whitman won't as a grad student. Hawkins was a Kansas kid and came in as a freshman, meaning there were scholarship programs at KU that would qualify and had already been vetted (such as the Chancellor's Scholarship). I don't think Whitman has those options as he is neither coming in as a freshman nor from Kansas.

Still, you did some great work. I was glad to read this.

Tony Bandle 1 year ago

i have every confidence that any Hall of Fame Coach at any Blue Blood Elite University can manipulate the rules within the framework of the intended spirit of those rules to accomplish whatever roster/scholarship/transfer issues arise in order to best service his roster.

I do not mean to imply in any way said Hall of Fame Coaches are doing anything illegal, under handed or non-ethical. It simply means knowing when and how to work the system within the bounds set forth to arrive at the desired result.

In other words, HCBS has his #### together and will make it happen!!

Suzi Marshall 1 year ago

So I again ask...Why has Bill Self not been tagged with the nickname of "The Wizard of Oz." I get the thing about the Wizard thing previously went to Wooden but this is Kansas, the land of Dorothy, Toto, etc. I say if the shoe fits, wear it.

Alan Dickey 1 year ago

I would be disappointed if Coleby transferred. He is the third-most productive per-minute producer among the returning Jayhawks, and adds much needed size and depth to the front court, especially if Azibuke goes down or Preston goes down or sputters at times as a freshman. I think Coleby has almost as good of chance to have a breakout year as any other KU big man next year. If you extrapolate his 5.6 minutes out to 27 minutes, Coleby would have 8.2 points, 8.7 rebounds, and 2.4 blocks per game. Not all-star numbers (except for the blocks), but pretty solid for what he was asked to do as a sub, and I think he would be more healthy and improved next year.

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