The University of Kansas’ response thus far to a federal indictment alleging that families of top recruits received illegal payments from Adidas to play basketball for KU is woefully lacking.
“The recent indictment names KU as a victim and asserts that unlawful activities were deliberately concealed from KU officials,” KU Chancellor Douglas Girod said Friday in rejecting calls for further investigations into the athletic department. “The indictment does not suggest any wrongdoing by the university, its coaches or its staff.”
So, just so we are clear, the FBI has indictable evidence that families and guardians of two top recruits — who aren’t named in the indictment, but based on dates cited are Billy Preston and Silvio De Sousa — were paid between $20,000 and $90,000 by Adidas executive James Gatto to sign with Kansas, and KU’s response is, “hey, we’re the victim here.”
That’s quite the public relations strategy. It’s also incredibly risky.
The indictments should prompt the university to undertake an intensive review of its historic basketball program to ensure, as Girod has already asserted, that the scandal does not go deeper.
Is it possible that the Adidas executive acted independently and only in the two times the FBI cited? Yes.
But is it likely? Common sense says not.
This is the second round of indictments in the past year involving shoe company executives, assistant coaches and college basketball teams. The safe assumption is there will be more to come. And of the schools implicated in the two rounds of indictments, Kansas is easily the highest profile and has the biggest relationship with Adidas, though the university has yet to officially sign its 12-year, $191 million contract extension.
Last fall, when this college basketball scandal broke with the first round of indictments, all schools were asked to conduct reviews of their basketball programs, specifically their recruiting policies. Girod said Friday that based on that review, he has complete confidence “that our staff understand and follow the rules.”
Yet, last fall’s review didn’t uncover the payments in the FBI indictments. It didn’t uncover the financial issues with Preston’s car that kept him from ever playing a game for KU. Such revelations would seem to raise questions about — rather than reinforce confidence in — the thoroughness of that review.
There may be no more storied program in all of college athletics than KU basketball and no more revered figure by a college fan base than head coach Bill Self. This is not an issue any chancellor would want to tackle, especially one in his first year on the job.
KU has always prided itself not only on winning, but winning the right way. The recent indictments threaten that legacy and compel a stronger response from the chancellor.
Girod should show Adidas the door for embarrassing KU with its recruiting shenanigans. And he should commit to taking the steps necessary to ensure those shenanigans don’t extend to anyone associated with the university and its basketball program.