A few thoughts on what the Bill Self, Kurtis Townsend suspensions and other self-imposed sanctions might mean for Kansas
As the years have passed and the schools involved with the NCAA’s Independent Accountability Resolutions Process have waited — and waited — for their cases to be resolved, the landscape of the penalties that are levied in infractions cases has shifted.
For years, it was a given that the schools and teams were the ones that paid the price for any misdoings by anyone associated with a given program. And while that indirectly impacted the head coaches, most penalties remained a collective punishment. Postseason bans, significant loss of scholarships and the like were all how the NCAA got justice.
Fast-forward to Wednesday, when Kansas men’s basketball coach Bill Self and longtime assistant Kurtis Townsend received self-imposed four-game suspensions to open the upcoming season, and it’s clear that the goal in today’s world is to protect the players from paying the price for something many, if not all, of them had nothing to do with in the first place.
So Self and Townsend serve the suspensions and now we wait to see what comes next. Regardless of what that may be, this move seems like the most fair thing to the Dajuan Harrises, Gradey Dicks, KJ Adamses and Jalen Wilsons of the world.
Being without their Hall of Fame head coach for a few games — or longer if it ever comes to that — will certainly feel a little weird, but it’s not as if the Jayhawks can’t power through it. There are capable coaches on the bench who will run the show with Self and Townsend sidelined, and, if we’re being honest, the players themselves do a fair amount of that out on the court anyway.
IARP officials have even said that they would prefer to not punish the current players, a stance put into practice earlier this year when Memphis received probation, a public reprimand and a fine but no postseason ban in its IARP case.
The Memphis case differed in many ways from the rest of the cases of the schools on the IARP track, but if that goes down as the start of a trend to protect the current players it’s significant all the same.
A couple of hours after KU announced it was self-imposing sanctions, news broke that a ruling in Louisville’s IARP case is expected Thursday.
If it comes, Louisville will be the third school to receive a final ruling from the IARP, joining Memphis and NC State.
It will be interesting to see what that includes and if anything about what might come of KU’s case can be learned from the Louisville ruling.
Even with Wednesday’s news, a ruling for Kansas still seems pretty far in the distance, and it’s still anybody’s guess how severe or light it will be.
Here are a few more quick thoughts on what Wednesday’s self-imposed sanctions mean for the future of the Kansas men’s basketball program:
• As of today, it’s hard to know exactly how KU’s move to self-impose sanctions will be received by the IARP. Both points of view make sense.
It’s logical to think that these penalties could lessen whatever penalties may or may not be a part of the IARP’s final ruling in KU’s case. And it’s also logical to think that the IARP, as an independent body, would make its ruling based on its findings and nothing else.
Beyond that, there’s also the point of view that says the long, drawn-out case in and of itself has been a punishment of sorts for Kansas, which has seen recruiting impacted and had to operate on a daily basis with the dark cloud of the investigation hanging around the program.
Regardless of how it’s perceived, I’m not sure KU even cares at this point. As stated in the release announcing the self-imposed sanctions, KU did this in an effort to move the case forward.
For years, those involved with this case have just wanted to put it behind them once and for all. There’s no doubt that KU still believes strongly that what was in the notice of allegations originally sent by the NCAA was over the top and full of, what Self once called, “half-truths.” Self, KU’s administration and the leaders of the university itself have made it clear that they’ll defend that position to the end of time.
Maintaining that stance does not mean that KU is not interested in doing whatever it can to bring this case to a close. And that’s what Wednesday’s announcement was all about.
KU controls the narrative at this point. Not only does it continue to defend and support Self and the way the men’s basketball program is run, but it also now has created a reality where, no matter what the IARP ruling is, KU will have been punished in some capacity. That’s not nothing.
I wouldn’t exactly call KU a sympathetic figure here. All one needs to do is hop on Twitter to see that’s not the case.
But the way this has all played out, with Kansas aggressively defending itself early in the process and now giving some ground in an effort to get it all over with, has probably made the Kansas program pretty relatable to college basketball fans across the country who are equally tired of hearing about all of this stuff and seeing nothing happen.
• Here’s one I’m not sure anybody has mentioned, and I think it’s fairly significant.
By docking the program three total scholarships over the next three years — presumably one per year — I think KU is all but guaranteeing that Self will be around for at least that long.
We know he has a lifetime contract at KU and probably will be the head coach of the Jayhawks for as long as he wants to be. But I can’t see him leaving while his replacement would have the deck stacked against him by operating with one less scholarship.
Self has said repeatedly that he will not run from KU’s infractions case, and, after initially signaling that he might be thinking about getting out of the game shortly before the FBI investigation surfaced, Self’s resolve and a couple of the teams and success he has enjoyed recently seem to have him more energized than ever.
I’m sure he’ll leave someday. But if you’re KU, the longer you can put that day off the better off you’ll be.
• Speaking of the scholarship ding, this is a big deal because it limits the talent KU can bring it, but it’s also very manageable.
Consider this: In each of the past seven seasons, Kansas has had at least one scholarship player who did not play and never really sniffed the court for any regular playing time. Cam Martin (redshirt) and Kyle Cuffe Jr. last season; Tyon Grant-Foster, Latrell Jossell and Gethro Muscadin in 2020-21; Dajuan Harris Jr. (redshirt) in 2019-20; Silvio De Sousa (NCAA trouble) in 2018-19; Charlie Moore (redshirt) and Billy Preston (NCAA trouble) in 2017-18; Sam Cunliffe and Malik Newman (transfers) in 2016-17 and Dwight Coleby Jr. (transfer) in 2015-16.
You have to go back to the 2014-15 season to find a Kansas roster that used all of its scholarship players semi-regularly. And, even then, guys like Hunter Mickelson and freshman guard Svi Mykhailiuk probably wished they had played more.
The point is, Self has never been one to use a 12- or 13-man rotation on a regular basis. So, while operating with 12 scholarships instead of 13 for the next few years will limit the talent that Kansas can bring in, it’s not like it will cripple the Jayhawks on game days.