Damage control

Large KU delegation will ask NCAA to come down easy on alleged missteps

Saturday, August 12, 2006

Roy Williams waited and waited for his turn. Sitting outside closed doors at a Kansas City hotel, Kansas University's new men's basketball coach just wanted to let the NCAA Committee on Infractions know how it was going to be under his watch.

It was Sept. 30, 1988, and a cast of current and former KU officials - Gene Budig, Bob Frederick, Larry Brown, Ed Manning, Alvin Gentry, Del Brinkman - were inside trying to convince the NCAA that KU should be let off lightly. They were debating violations committed in the men's basketball program under Brown, including allegations of improper financial assistance to a Jayhawk recruit.

Williams, who succeeded Brown in 1988, wanted to make a plea to save a team he had yet to coach from violations he did not commit.

He never got his chance.

The hearing dragged on for hours and hours before Williams had to leave for a recruiting appointment. Whether Williams could've made much of a difference will always be unknown. But despite Williams' innocence in the entire matter, he would ultimately have to deal with the consequences. He just wanted a chance to give his perspective.

Such pleas are not uncommon, and that is why a full cast is expected at the Tremont Plaza Hotel in Baltimore on Sunday, including current men's basketball coach Bill Self, football coach Mark Mangino and women's basketball coach Bonnie Henrickson. KU is giving its side of the story as to why 11 alleged violations should stand with the self-imposed punishments, and time and time again, what's debated, argued and said to the committee has had a critical effect on how the NCAA rules.


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Kansas University's dustups with the NCAA date all the way back to when Wilt Chamberlain suited up for the Jayhawks in the 1950s. In 1960, the NCAA decided KU boosters were guilty of financing a car for Chamberlain and banned the Jayhawks from the 1961 and 1962 NCAA tournaments.

Just ask the 1988 crew. After getting punished harshly, the NCAA rubbed salt in the wound by accusing Kansas of hurting its position with the committee during the hearing.

"The committee also was troubled by statements by the university in its official response : during the hearing before the committee that clear and admitted violations of NCAA regulations somehow should not be considered violations," the NCAA wrote in its official response. "Such statements diminished the committee's sense of confidence that the university was prepared to take institutional action :"

The past can always help the future, and the 1988 hearing could be proof that what's said behind closed doors today really can make a difference.

Kansas has had five brushes with the NCAA for major violations before this one, dating back to coach Phog Allen in 1956. Here's a look at each one of them:


Somehow, the fuss behind violations unearthed in the mid 1980s had everything to do with a college basketball player that never played for the Jayhawks.

Former coach Larry Brown was found guilty of multiple violations, the most publicized being a $364 plane ticket Brown bought for Vincent Askew in 1986. Askew needed to return home to see his dying grandmother.


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Former Kansas University football player Bert Coan was a central figure in the NCAA's decision to slap the Jayhawks with penalties in 1960. KU had to forfeit its victory against Missouri that fall, which led to the ongoing dispute about standings in the all-time series between the two teams.

"I'd give it to anybody if they told me his grandmother was passing away," Brown would later say. "It was something I wasn't trying to hide."

Askew was a guard at Memphis State who considered transferring to Kansas. He actually moved to Lawrence in the summer of '86, and the NCAA later found Kansas guilty of "improper recruiting inducements totaling at least $1,244" while recruiting Askew.

However, Askew never played at KU, returning to Memphis in the fall of '86 and later playing several years in the NBA. Brown left Kansas after leading the Jayhawks to the 1988 NCAA championship, just seven months before the aggressive penalties were passed out. He went to the NBA's San Antonio Spurs, and hasn't returned to the college game since.

Among the penalties passed down, Kansas couldn't play in the 1989 NCAA Tournament, and new coach Roy Williams couldn't have official on-campus visits for recruits in the entire 1989 calendar year. One scholarship was taken away, as well.

The death penalty, which had just been handed to SMU football a few years earlier, was a concern, and an NCAA Infractions Committee member said Kansas was "on the bubble." Kansas was eligible to receive it because of 1983 violations with the football team that were related in substance.

Kansas was spared in that respect, though Williams found himself faced with a daunting task as a rookie head coach anyway.

"I've been trained under Dean Smith to run a program clean," Williams said at the time. "I'll put more pressure on us than they would, anyway."

Kansas basketball - fueled by steep tradition and an up-and-coming coach in Williams - survived without too much trouble. Just two years after being barred from defending its title, Kansas was back in the Final Four, and would make three more under Williams before he left for North Carolina in 2003.



¢ July, 2005: KU self-reports minor violations in basketball, more serious violations in football. ¢ April 2006: NCAA alleges KU demonstrated a lack of institutional control within its athletic department from 1997 to 2003. ¢ Sunday: Kansas responds to allegations in front of NCAA Committee on Infractions in Baltimore. ¢ Approx. early October: NCAA rules if KU's self-imposed sanctions are sufficient.

Football didn't have the same success persevering. On Dec. 1, 1983, the NCAA made its ruling on several violations committed within the football program. The biggest penalties? A television and postseason ban for the football team in 1984.

Kansas didn't end up being bowl-eligible in 1984 anyway, but the lingering NCAA situation might have had something to do with it. Coach Mike Gottfried, who's staff was not responsible for the violations, said that recruiting became tougher even before the penalties were passed out, because other schools were using the situation against Kansas when talking to recruits.

The NCAA concluded that a Kansas football assistant "made reference to a large amount of money and other benefits" while recruiting a player, a big no-no. Another instance, after a player committed elsewhere, showed two KU assistants asking the player "if a certain amount of money would change his mind." Thirteen other less-significant violations were detailed.

Besides the TV and bowl ban, KU was instructed to disassociate with one assistant for three years. That assistant already was gone, though.

Gottfried, with linebacker Willie Pless anchoring his defense, led KU to a .500 mark in 1985 before leaving for Pittsburgh. Kansas didn't sniff a winning season again until 1991, when Glen Mason led the Jayhawks to a 6-5 mark.


Perhaps the most devastating department-wide punishments were passed out Aug. 17, 1972, when football, men's basketball and track and field all were given postseason bans simultaneously.

All were for mostly unrelated violations that occurred around the same time. Football had the most serious broken rule - that former assistant coach Dick Tomey (currently head coach at San Jose State) erroneously certified two players as academically eligible based on fraudulent high school rankings. Another certification problem stemmed from basketball recruit Logan Gray, who ended up playing at Long Beach State.

The two players Tomey was involved with, Curtis Thompson and Mike Bossard, never played varsity sports for the Jayhawks.

Another violation was found when it was revealed that Kansas gave discount passes for movies to football and basketball players. Since the general student body had no opportunity to receive them, it was considered a no-no.

Track, meanwhile, was punished after former decathlete Sam Goldberg was given $10 for a pair of shoes, and his wife was given a ride from Kansas City to Lawrence.

In all, Kansas was postseason-free in all three sports - KU's three most prestigious at the time - for the 1972-73 school year. Football also was denied the opportunity to play on television. Basketball. as usual, recovered quickly and went to the Final Four in 1974. KU's football team, meanwhile, went 7-4-1 the season after the ban and went to the Liberty Bowl.


Perhaps KU's most well-known brush with the NCAA involved KU's most well-known athlete of all time.

The NCAA found KU's boosters guilty of financing a car for KU basketball great Wilt Chamberlain, worth $1,564. In addition, the NCAA also found KU football guilty of its boosters indulging in illegal recruiting practices toward potential transfers. As a result, Kansas could not play in the NCAA basketball tournament in 1961 or '62, and the football Jayhawks couldn't go to a bowl game in 1960.

At the time, Chamberlain accused the NCAA of "trying to get something on me since I was playing in high school." It was believed that because Wilt was such a tremendous talent, whatever school that landed him would be under an intense microscope.

The NCAA learned that three boosters bought Chamberlain a 1956 Oldsmobile convertible while he was at KU, using Chamberlain's older car as a down payment.

The car dealer, Karl Reber, shied away from publicity initially. Chamberlain, in the NBA by 1960, criticized the NCAA for the ruling and said he showed up to Lawrence in a car "that was worth more than ($1,564)."

The punishment proved huge for football, which was rapped for, among other things, the infamous plane trip that benefactor Bud Adams treated KU player-to-be Bert Coan to in 1959. That incident eventually forced Kansas to forfeit a 1960 victory over Missouri, the root of a disagreement between the two schools as to the real winner of the game - and the subsequent standing in the all-time series. That argument is heated to this day.

Kansas had earned an Orange Bowl trip with the 23-7 victory over No. 1 Missouri, but it couldn't go.

The Jayhawks' basketball team, meanwhile, took a hit - dropping well below .500 in 1961-62, and failing to get back in the postseason until 1966.


One of the mildest punishments for a major violation on record occurred May 1, 1956, when KU was given probation stemming from an allegation of aid offered by a KU booster until a player became eligible for a scholarship. Kansas coach Phog Allen also admitted to providing the same player a ride from Kansas City to Lawrence to take an entrance exam, also an NCAA violation.

KU officials denied having any knowledge of the Kansas City-area doctor offering assistance to Kent Bryan, a 6-foot-8 center out of Kansas City. Allen, though, did say he gave Bryan a ride to Lawrence after Bryan's car broke down. Allen took him back to K.C. after the test was taken, which Bryan later learned he failed. Bryan ended up going to St. Louis University, and that school got in trouble with the NCAA for violations that circled around Bryan, as well.

KU lost no postseason privileges in any sport, and was merely watched closer by the governing body. Good thing - the next year, Wilt Chamberlain led the Jayhawks to the NCAA championship game, where a classic battle with North Carolina would go down as one of college basketball's all-time great contests.