Kansas City, Mo. Kansas University basketball coach Bill Self, who emerged as the unofficial face of the KU athletic department through a turbulent 2009-10 school year and again into the start of 2010-11, conveyed an optimistic outlook to top business leaders in the metro area at Wednesday’s Boots, Barbecue and Business Luncheon in Kemper Arena.
“I’m kind of proud the way our university has handled a lot of negative things that have taken place,” said Self, featured speaker at the eighth-annual event that benefits the American Royal.
“I see this as a time of opportunity,” added Self, speaking a day after athletic director Lew Perkins retired a year ahead of schedule. “I really believe our job now in the department is so much better than it was before, and somebody is basically going to fall into a gold mine, to be honest with you — whoever is going to be the new athletic director.”
A lunchroom audience that included fans of KU, Kansas State, Missouri and assorted other schools seemed to enjoy Self’s 10-minute opening speech and 20-minute question-and-answer session.
During one of the most serious moments of the Q and A, he was asked about agents’ and runners’ growing influence on high school prospects.
“That’s probably the biggest problem we have in college athletics today — third parties who try to get their claws into kids at a pretty young age,” Self said.
“Our sport is more unique than football, where you don’t have summer environments outside the school where other people are around your kids all the time. Players don’t go to AAU football camps so the coaches and parents still control what is going on.
“In basketball, you have third parties outside of the scholastic life that are living with your children. They are traveling with your children. They are paying the way for all these kids across America to do things, so naturally they gain influence, which is not all bad, because a lot of people need direction.
“You can get influence that is negative because they see these kids as being ways to benefit themselves later. The ones who are in it for the wrong reasons, which is a small percentage of them, are making them (kids and parents) feel maybe the families owe them something.
“The biggest thing we can do ... the NCAA is trying to crack down big-time. They are trying to get their arms around it, but it’s a cloud. It’s hard to get your arms around a cloud.”
Self continued on the issue.
“The parts are ever changing. The biggest thing is education,” he said. “Unfortunately, somebody is going to get dinged in a big way — somebody that was fairly innocent in going through the process that is an example for people down the road.
“I do feel it’s coming, and I do feel that is unfortunate. The kids and their families are pawns. (Let’s say) somebody is cutting their lights on in a single-parent’s home in the ghetto. They (prospect and parent(s) see that as, ‘We don’t have electricity. That person is helping me,’ when in all honesty they may be helping but also digging in a little bit. It is a hard thing to manage. The NCAA is doing its best to do that.”
It should be noted this discussion had nothing to do with the possible case of KU freshman Josh Selby, who has had his eligibility questioned by the NCAA.
A fan much earlier did request information on Selby’s eligibility case.
“There’s no update. You can get the update by following it on the Internet, and three-fourths of the stuff you follow on the Internet is totally inaccurate,” Self said. “I will tell you he has been cleared (to attend class) and is on scholarship and is attending class. He has not been cleared to participate.
“We hope something will happen soon, but we also know at times past it hasn’t happened soon. This is not unusual for some kids who go to multiple high schools. A lot of different things are going on around the country (occupying NCAA’s time). We don’t anticipate major problems, but to tell you that it’s in the clear? It’s not. It has not happened yet. We hope it’ll be sooner rather than later.”
Recruiting: Today is the first day coaches can make in-home visits in recruiting. KU’s staff is expected to visit Ben McLemore, a 6-5 guard from Oak Hill Academy in Mouth of Wilson, Va., and also the home of McLemore’s mom in St. Louis the same day.