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Archive for Saturday, April 22, 2006

Keegan: Cloud hovering over KU

April 22, 2006

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Day two of the Kansas Relays was another sunny one without a single cloud hanging over Memorial Stadium on Friday afternoon.

If only the same could be said for the football program that plays its home games at the same stadium.

That cloud won't be gone until the NCAA investigation of what it ruled was "academic fraud" in the program in the summer of 2003 reaches the penalty phase, probably sometime in October.

The NCAA's investigation of KU's self-report didn't uncover anything new in the way of violations, but the language used to characterize them was stronger than anything KU had used. The Jayhawks were hit with a wicked combination by the NCAA: academic fraud and the vague "lack of institutional control."

Worst-case: KU gets off to a 4-0 start in football and the NCAA kills the buzz by announcing penalties that prohibit the Jayhawks from participating in a bowl game. Not likely.

Best case: The NCAA rules the penalties already imposed by KU were sufficient.

KU's recent diligence in self-reporting violations - some as minor as basketball coach Bill Self exceeding the allowed time to spend with his team one week when he showed them film while snowed in during a trip to Philadelphia - won't hurt KU's cause with the NCAA.

Filing such self-reports of "violations" isn't showboating. It's smart business. If you want to arouse the NCAA's suspicion, then don't file any secondary violations. The NCAA won't assume you're so clean you never make a mistake. The NCAA knows everyone missteps, and if the little stuff isn't reported to the NCAA, the rules enforcers begin to wonder what else is going unreported.

What won't help KU's cause is the serious nature of the football violations. The very first sentence of the NCAA notice of allegations says, in part, that a graduate assistant football coach "violated the principles of ethical conduct when he arranged academic fraud for a prospective football student-athlete involving the completion of the prospect's exam for a correspondence course offered by Brigham Young University." The report goes on to say the graduate assistant provided the exam to a recruit with the understanding the recruit would complete the exam on his own without the presence of a proctor.

Not good. Not new, but not good. What was new was the language (academic fraud) used by the NCAA.

Rick Evrard, a partner with the law firm of Bond, Schoeneck & King in Overland Park and a former NCAA enforcement official, investigated the violations initially after being contacted by KU athletic director Lew Perkins.

He was asked: Would it be a mistake to assume that because the NCAA language was stronger than KU's language, the NCAA penalty also will be stronger than KU's self-imposed one? He said such an assumption would be a mistake.

The cloud that hangs over the football program and the athletic program in general until October threatens to become a distraction, though KU coach Mark Mangino shouldn't have any trouble keeping his players' attention where it usually is: on trying to impress the coach enough to gain more playing time and trying to avoid making a mistake that will incur his considerable wrath.

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