Wednesday, April 11, 2018


Tom Keegan: Adidas cloud hovers where all college basketball roads lead

Kansas University's new white "Made in March" uniform, by adidas.

Kansas University's new white "Made in March" uniform, by adidas.


All roads in college basketball, many so often are fond of saying, lead to Lawrence.

Wilt Chamberlain, Jo Jo White, Danny Manning, Paul Pierce and Joel Embiid played here. So did legendary coaches Adolph Rupp and Dean Smith.

Basketball inventor James Naismith is buried here and he, Phog Allen, Larry Brown and Roy Williams sat in the coach’s chair occupied the past 15 years by Bill Self.

This is where John McLendon, father of the modern fastbreak, learned from Naismith the basics of a game he would go on to coach so well he won eight CIAA championships at traditionally black colleges in the days of segregation.

This is where Basketball Hall of Fame biographies are built.

All roads lead to Lawrence, all right, and less flattering things have been known to travel by sky.

Finally, the ominous, sneaker-shaped cloud that has hovered over college basketball for nearly six months settled over Lawrence in an under-the-chin way on Tuesday, and it doesn’t seem as if it’s in any hurry to move on down the road.

Federal indictments don’t follow any basketball program’s calendar. This cloud arrived not only when the team’s annual basketball banquet was about to get underway, but on the cusp of hot-shot recruit Romeo Langford choosing his destination from among three schools.

Nothing in a new federal indictment that formally alleges the guardians of two basketball prospects who signed with Kansas were paid by Adidas executive Jim Gatto accuses Kansas of any wrongdoing.

So if Kansas coaches do not become linked to the scandal, then they can’t be penalized. But if the NCAA ruled that Kansas used an ineligible player in contests, then those games would be forfeited as would any achievements, such as a 14th consecutive Big 12 title and this season’s Final Four appearance.

It’s not difficult to connect the dots to try to determine which players’ guardians allegedly received payments.

The mother of one player, “who was considered one of the top recruits in his class,” allegedly was paid $90,000 in payments that started around October 2016, and concluded in November 2017. Billy Preston visited Late Night in the Phog in October 2016, didn’t officially commit until Nov. 18, 2016. He was prevented from playing in November of 2017, when the school said it was looking into the source of money used to pay for the vehicle he drove in a one-car accident.

Tired of waiting for his eligibility to be ruled on favorably, Preston left Kansas in mid-January and signed a professional contract to play in Bosnia. He never played in a game for KU, so no victories to surrender there.

The other player, also not named, referenced in the indictment apparently had a change of heart, which necessitated a change of bookkeeping for not one, but two shoe companies.

(If only all these athletic departments would use the same shoe company, it would be so much easier to keep track of the bribes.)

Anyway, from reading the indictment, it’s apparent the guardian of the second KU player had found himself in quite a pickle. You see, the player wanted to attend Kansas, but the guardian already, according to the indictment, “had received illicit payments in return for a commitment to steer the student-athlete to a university sponsored by a rival athletic apparel company.”

So Gatto, according to the indictment, was told he had to make “another $20,000 payment,” to balance the books for the first group looking to beat the system. Honor among thieves. I love it!

The Journal-World reported on Nov. 13 that Silvio De Sousa’s letter of intent had arrived that day. The indictment states the player in question signed Nov. 13.

At one point, Maryland, which has Bruno Fernando, De Sousa’s best friend from Angola and IMG Academy, was considered the favorite to land De Sousa. Maryland has a contract with Under Armour.

So does this mean that if De Sousa is indeed the player in question he won’t play with Kansas next season? Maybe, which is another way of saying maybe not.

For one thing, nobody seems to know if the FBI is sharing its findings with the NCAA.

And then there is the case of Auburn quarterback Cam Newton. In that case, in an alleged play-for-pay scheme, a third party, allegedly working with the quarterback’s father, solicited six-figure payments in exchange for the quarterback’s signature on a letter of intent.

Auburn ruled him ineligible and sought and received eligibility reinstatement from the NCAA in time for him to play later that week.

Kevin Lennon, NCAA vice president for academic and membership affairs at the time, explained the reinstatement at the time.

“Based on the information available to the reinstatement staff at this time, we do not have sufficient evidence that Cam Newton or anyone from Auburn was aware of this activity, which led to his reinstatement,” Lennon said.

So even it can be proven that the shoe company paid a guardian of the player —for argument’s sake, we’ll say De Sousa’s — and nobody could prove that either De Sousa or anyone at Kansas knew about it, it’s conceivable De Sousa could be eligible to play his sophomore season at Kansas, based on the Cam Newton precedent.

If the FBI doesn’t share information with the NCAA and next season arrives without any action being taken by the governing body of college athletics, Kansas would have a decision to make: Play another season with De Sousa, if he indeed is the player, and hope that he doesn’t later become ruled ineligible, or don’t take that chance.

What a fascinating roll of the dice that would make. Most assume this will be sorted out by then. How can we assume anything when we don’t even know if the FBI and NCAA have decided to or will at any point in the future decide to work together on this?

That hovering cloud doesn’t signal Armageddon for Kansas just yet. After all, Miami (along with Louisville and North Carolina State) was one of the four schools mentioned in the indictment. And Hurricanes coach Jim Larranaga received a contract extension through 2023 on Tuesday, not six months after he read at a press conference a prepared statement about the FBI’s probe into his program and made it clear he wouldn’t be answering any questions on the matter.

As for Mark Gottfried, North Carolina State’s head coach when all the activity landed that school’s basketball program in the FBI probe, he was just hired by Cal State Northridge. Jim Harrick, the former national-title coach at UCLA who long ago ran afoul of the NCAA, just might be joining him.

Not much ever seems to stick to coaches.

For Kansas, Tuesday’s indictment was embarrassing, potentially could even cost the school a conference championship or Final Four.

But no need to panic that Bill Self will get sick of it all and head out of town on the next train for a simpler basketball coaching job where the players are paid over the table and he knows who’s paying them.

Self’s job did become a little harder Tuesday. Fair or otherwise, in instances such as these, many will wonder who knew what when, how much did they know and how much did they go to great lengths not to know.


Barry Weiss 4 years, 7 months ago

agreed, we could be 100% innocent and we still get hammered.

Robert Brock 4 years, 7 months ago

I would like it if De Sousa’s “guardian” goes to prison. Same with the adidas knucklehead.

Michael Maris 4 years, 7 months ago

When will the FBI investigation focus on NIKE and Under Armour? I'm sure there's dirty dealings happening over there as well.

Eric J. Baker 4 years, 7 months ago

Exactly, there clearly is. Maryland is an Under Armour school, and it looks like the only reason (maybe) De Sousa's guardian took money from the Adidas rep is because he had already taken money from an Under Armour rep and would have to pay it back.

Phil Leister 4 years, 7 months ago

Funny isn't it? Not like Under Armour could have exactly demanded that money be paid back to them. What, were they gonna sue?

Chris Carpenter 4 years, 7 months ago

Nike and UA, were smart and instead of upping their payment to the players they paid the FBI!

Suzi Marshall 4 years, 7 months ago

The details will all come out in Discovery for the court trial, which is not scheduled until Oct. 1. It seems the NCAA and Kansas won't have much time to make a decision until the first game.

Brian Wilson 4 years, 7 months ago

And, if I am not mistaken, this article verifies there are more to be indicted. From this article, apparently the guardian needed the 20K to pay back some other shoe company,
Under Armour?
Up until this moment I had not heard that any other shoe companies had been indicted. So, has Under Armour been indicted for the initial 20K? Just becaue you get paid back does not mean a crime was not committed.

Phil Leister 4 years, 7 months ago

The articles on Deadspin and the UDK are claiming Player 1 isn't Billy Preston, but rather Marcus Garrett. Does that even make sense?

Barry Weiss 4 years, 7 months ago

I think Deadspin is dead wrong. This is the problem with these things. They only give the public a little info, then we all have to speculate and innocent peeps get thrown under the bus. I read they won't have the court case til October? good grief.

Marius Rowlanski 4 years, 7 months ago

Maybe it would be worth checking into but since they've already published the indictment which named Billy Preston and Silvio. Deadspin is either making up fake news or has been guilty of not researching their articles.

Ted Adams 4 years, 7 months ago

I would bet good money that KU will be in contact with the NCAA about DeSousa right away. Why wait for the FBI to get far enough down the road to reveal who is who in these findings? Michigan State did exactly that and got Bridges potential issues cleared up prior to NCAA being able to dive in 6 months or 2 years from now. The NCAA wants better rules and guidelines for college basketball recruiting more than they want to punish good kids and programs right now. The NCAA is on a thin thread with the Power 5 conferences, who could leave and start their own association any time. (Double standards brought to light with the UNC fake classes scandal come to mind.) IF KU wants to clear this up quickly, they would be best to do so with the NCAA now. Come up with an "acceptable to the NCAA" absolution for DeSousa (ie payment to charity or suspension for some number of games or both), and deal with it now just as Michigan State did. If KU isn't proactive now, it may look like there is more to the story on the KU side as far as who knew what. Just my opinion. I could be wrong.

Gerry Butler 4 years, 7 months ago

That would be a good idea. - -just going off what some other people have said they are thinking maybe Silvio gets suspension of maybe the semester or some where in those sorts. I'm just hoping he hasn't lost his amateur status -and we haven't seen the last of Silvio as a Jayhawk

Jason Venable 4 years, 7 months ago

Only problem is that Bridges money was chump change compared to what went down with DeSousa.

Craig Carson 4 years, 7 months ago

@Ted..there might be more to the story but it seems like the part that involves Silvio seems pretty clear..the other money might deal with Preston..if it does then it wont have any effect on KU because he never played

Douglas L. Boehr 4 years, 7 months ago

Is it time to recruit athletes that have no chance of making it in the NBA?

Joe Joseph 4 years, 7 months ago

No. It's time for the NCAA to get with the times and stop barring these athletes from earning what they deserve from their own popularity/image.

Titus Canby 4 years, 7 months ago

It's time for the NBA to get rid of the minimum age rule, so the OAD sham goes away.

Having kids go to college, (whether paid or not) when they have no desire to do so, is an insult to the kids, to my alma mater, and to everyone's tax dollars that support the school.

Marius Rowlanski 4 years, 7 months ago

No. What purpose would that solve? Maybe FILA, K-Swiss, Sketchers, or Vivarte will jump in to keep a once highest level college program that no longer wins.

Gerry Butler 4 years, 7 months ago

This thing is just one huge cluster F- - - , - - If the FBI is so intent on uncovering and charging people in this then they best be looking into some of these football schools. Way more players in the football system - these companies are so dirty ALL of them. - Maybe we need to have to wear " THE BIG BALLER BRAN " - - no just kidding could you imagine. - -I'm afraid that we have lost Silvio dam shame if that's what turns out. - Also this is probably just enough to where we can kiss Romeo goodbye. - -That kind of bites - -but we will be fine as long as any of our other commits don't get scared and ask for release of their LOI'S. - -Could be years before we hear the end of this

Craig Carson 4 years, 7 months ago

none of the commits are gonna opt out..KU is in no danger of having any type of bans or could be years before the NCAA even gets around to addressing any of of right now, this is an FBI issue not an NCAA long as KU isnt directly involved then they will be fine...DeSousa might either leave or be held out until KU knows something..but considering the NCAA cleared him to play it would be hard for them to go back on that

Bryce Landon 4 years, 7 months ago

After all the trouble we went to to get the Final Four, and after a six-year absence from the event, the prospect of having to vacate a Final Four appearance is gut-wrenching to me.

Kent Richardson 4 years, 7 months ago

Funny, but not suspect, that sponsors like Adidas, Nike and Under Armor have had "employees" get slapped but still hold sway over college teams. Even with the threat of sanctions looming I don't hear a coach or AD saying we no longer will accept money and merchandise from this or these suppliers. KU or any program getting nuked will not stop or probably even slow down the illegal payments. Shoe/apparel company agents cheat because they are paid on the basis of signing players. Huge amounts of money are involved and when that is the case then it is inevitable the payoffs/bribes and selling to the highest bidders will occur. It is corrupt but not any more than the rest of the sport.

I don't think it can be stopped because the dynamics of avarice will not stop. If you want to impact it then fines equal to monies received are in order.

This is not really an NCAA issue but they will step in to stay relevant and damage a few pesky/out of favor programs. KU will not get a pass like some other teams have. Doing away with the NCAA as a disciplinary body will allow some progress to be made without their self protecting interference.

The FBI only acts under the direction of the DOJ who determine if an investigation has merit and if any federal laws are being possibly violated. I'm not sure what laws are in play here. Then the DOJ is impacted by political influences and does our state have any influental/credible players there?

Now we are talking real money in legal costs and criminal charges.

The system has been corrupted forever and, with the (i'm saying most) players and their families being from economic backgrounds that relative small amounts of cash are virtually impossible to ignore, it will continue.

We will gnash our teeth and have a hissy fit but in the end we will have to live with hits to our program.

Chandler Accipiter 4 years, 7 months ago

I thought of this same article and was going to link to it as well. This is a good read for folks interested in how connected the shoe companies are with recruits.

Daniel Kennamore 4 years, 7 months ago

I've said it on previous articles on this story and I'll say it again:

KU should seriously consider suing these player's families for restitution for any and all penalties the school gets due to this.

Assuming current reporting is true and our coaches had nothing to do with the payments nor knowledge of their's ludicrous that we could have banners stripped over something outside of our control.

Until the rules change, there is literally zero incentive for these players and their families to from doing shady things that cause devastating penalties to why should the schools just quietly take their lumps in these cases?

The ending of the 'The Streak' alone should be worth millions in punitive damages.

Len Shaffer 4 years, 7 months ago

Yeah, suing a recruit and his family would really help our recruiting in the future ...

Daniel Kennamore 4 years, 7 months ago

If they are willing to throw our school under the bus for 20K, we want them playing for us...because?

Dane Pratt 4 years, 7 months ago

The optics from suing the athletes would be quite damaging to KU. Sue Adidas. They have deep pockets and are far more deserving.

Daniel Kennamore 4 years, 7 months ago

You don't think the person who ACCEPTED the money is deserving of repercussions?

Marius Rowlanski 4 years, 7 months ago

Suing a player whose family is from Angola? Silvio was a victim as were his guardians. They were sought out by certain Adidas representatives who were looking for the next great player from Kansas and possible shoe deal/endorsements while targeting relatively poor/low income for possible soft spots.

$40,000 is quite a lot of money in Angola, a country that has undergone civil war, proxy war, a former Portuguese colony who very likely did not fully understand the possible implications.

So to answer your question, I'd say it's at least a case-by-case decision. This isn't a one-size-fits-all solution and certainly poor optics for Kansas.

Michael Sillman 4 years, 7 months ago

Let’s be honest. When the athletic programs agreed to accept big money from the apparel companies, this cheating and illegal activity became an inevitable outcome. As long as dollars continue to flow to the schools, this stuff will continue to take place in the future. It will just be better hidden.

James Mathews 4 years, 7 months ago

I say” boycott adidas” for the PR damage and hit them where it hurts Below the CASH belt.

Jonathan Allison 4 years, 7 months ago

Not that I disagree that we should terminate our deal with Adidas, but who should we go to for a new apparel contract?

Squeaky clean Nike? Under Armour, who apparently was paying for De Sousa to Maryland? Reebok? Converse? Champion? Li-Ning?

Bryce Landon 4 years, 7 months ago

I've seen what our uniforms looked like when Champion was our outfitter, and they were among the best uniforms KU has ever worn.

If you look closely at this photo of Rex Walters, his shorts have a Champion logo on them:

These pictures of Paul Pierce and Terry Nooner also show them in Champion-made Kansas uniforms.

Chris Carpenter 4 years, 7 months ago

The only way this stops is if the FBI comes down on the shoe companies hard and ceo's do jail time, there's too much money at stake in all of this. Or the NCAA needs to let the players sign contracts and be able to profit off themselves.

Lex Valdez 4 years, 7 months ago

Would love to see New Balance take over!

Jonathan Andrews 4 years, 7 months ago

This was an informative and appealing read. Tom, you have gone from a tepid writer that I avoided, to a columnist who I believe is leading the way at the LJW.

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