A month after KU coach caught on wiretapped phone call discussing recruit and money, chancellor has not talked to coach

photo by: Carter Gaskins

University of Kansas Chancellor Douglas Girod speaks during a KU forum about budget cuts at Eaton Hall in this Monday, Aug. 27, 2018, file photo.

On Oct. 16 federal court proceedings revealed a University of Kansas basketball coach discussed on a wiretapped phone conversation a high-profile recruit and potential cash payments that could get him to come to KU.

A month later, KU Chancellor Douglas Girod still hasn’t talked to assistant basketball coach Kurtis Townsend about the matter or received an explanation from him.

“We are waiting for direction from the NCAA, and we are officially in stand-down mode until they engage, and they have indicated they are going to engage. So, no, I have not,” Girod told the Journal-World Thursday evening when asked whether he had talked to Townsend or gotten an explanation about what he meant when talking about a recruit and cash payments.

Furthermore, Girod said he is uncertain whether the public ever will receive an explanation about what Townsend meant when he said “if that’s what it takes to get him here for 10 months, we are going to have to do it some way.” Townsend made the comment after being told the recruit allegedly expressed interest in cash payments and other inducements that would be prohibited under NCAA rules.

On Thursday, when the Journal-World asked Girod whether the public should expect an explanation about those comments at some point in the future, Girod said: “It is a fair question, and I don’t know the answer to it. Again, we are following everybody else’s directions at this point. I don’t know if the NCAA plans on putting out a report. I don’t know what they plan on doing.”

When pressed further on whether a lack of an explanation would be troubling, given that one interpretation of Townsend’s comments are that Townsend was open to violating a fundamental NCAA rule, Girod said: “My assumption is the NCAA will want to look into it.”

Meanwhile, Townsend remains on staff and has not been placed on any leave or other such status while the matter is being reviewed. KU head coach Bill Self previously has said that none of Townsend’s recruiting duties have been curtailed as a result of the allegations. Athletic Director Jeff Long has declined to comment on whether he has talked with Townsend about the matter.

The Journal-World briefly interviewed Girod on Thursday evening as the chancellor was leaving an event at the Lied Center on the KU campus. The Journal-World last month submitted a more detailed list of questions to the chancellor’s spokesman, but his office for more than two weeks has not returned an email or phone calls seeking a meeting to answer those questions.

The wiretapped phone conversation was brought up as part of a federal trial that ultimately led to fraud convictions of three college basketball insiders who were found to have orchestrated a pay-for-play college basketball recruiting scheme. Two of the three convicted men had direct links to the KU basketball program through their employment with Adidas, which has a multimillion-dollar apparel partnership with KU. A third Adidas employee who has pleaded guilty to fraud in a related case also had a direct connection to the KU basketball program.

On the phone conversation, Townsend was discussing with Adidas consultant Merl Code — one of the three men found guilty in the trial — prized recruit Zion Williamson. Code told Townsend that Williamson had expressed interest in inducements to come to KU. According to a transcript of the call read in court, the inducements included “cash in the pocket” and housing for him and his family.

At that point, according to the transcript, Townsend responded: “I’ve got to just try to work and figure out a way because if that’s what it takes to get him here for 10 months, we’re going to have to do it some way.”

More details about the phone conversation are not known. The recording was not played in court, and the full transcript of the call has not been released.

Williamson, the recruit, ultimately did not come to Kansas. He currently is playing for Duke University.

In Thursday’s brief interview, Girod did not make any statements about what he believes the NCAA will find when it begins looking into the matter. In April, when an unsealed federal indictment alleged that the family or guardian of two players — now identified as current player Silvio De Sousa and former player Billy Preston — had been paid to attend KU, Girod expressed “complete confidence that our staff understand and follow the rules.”

In a joint written statement with new athletic director Jeff Long that was issued after the conclusion of the federal trial, Girod did not repeat that assertion of complete confidence. Instead, the duo acknowledged the trial had revealed some information that KU leaders were not previously aware of. Instead of issuing a statement of complete confidence that its staff had followed the rules, Girod and Long offered a more qualified statement.

“By limiting our comments, we are able to protect the integrity of the federal matters and the work of the NCAA,” the pair said in the joint statement. “While that work continues, we remain fully supportive of our student athletes, our coaches and our men’s basketball program.”

Coverage: College basketball corruption trial

Oct. 24 — How deeply will NCAA dig into KU’s recruiting? That question and others still loom after trial

Oct. 24 — In wake of basketball corruption trial’s verdict, Self says his staff has done nothing wrong

Oct. 24 — 3 convicted of fraud in college basketball corruption trial

Oct. 23 — Jury deliberates 2nd day with no verdict in college basketball corruption trial

Oct. 18 — Defense attorney argues Bill Self knew about payments to families of KU players

Oct. 16 — ‘If that’s what it takes’: KU assistant coach taped by feds discussing recruit’s demand for cash

Oct. 15 — ‘We good?’ ‘Always’: Texts between Self, fixer presented in college basketball corruption trial

Oct. 11 — Latest testimony in college basketball corruption trial goes into further details on KU’s involvement

Oct. 10 — Self declines to comment on testimony of former Adidas consultant; questions surface about KU compliance

Oct. 9 — Basketball player’s father: Louisville assistant gave cash

Oct. 4 — Father testifies on pay for play at college hoops programs

Oct. 3 — Witness details secret payments in college hoops recruiting

Oct. 2 — As college basketball corruption trial opens, attorney admits client paid $20K to get De Sousa to come to KU

More coverage: KU and the college basketball scandal

Nov. 8, 2018 — Board of Regents member wants KU explanation on issues related to college basketball corruption case

Nov. 7, 2018 — Report: FBI gives NCAA clearance to begin investigating some basketball programs in corruption scandal

Nov. 1, 2018 — Wiretapped phone call of KU coach may become part of NCAA inquiry; AD confirms NCAA hasn’t started on De Sousa review

Oct. 30, 2018 — KU now refuses to share info with public on $1.5M in Adidas payments; last week it said lack of personnel was reason for delay

Oct. 24, 2018 — KU says it’s evaluating options on Adidas contract, doesn’t answer whether it will conduct independent investigation of recruiting practices

Oct. 24, 2018 — KU cites lack of personnel for delay in providing records related to unexplained $1.5M in Adidas payments

Oct. 19, 2018 — Devoted KU basketball fans stand by their team; psychologists not at all surprised

Oct. 18, 2018 — Chancellor won’t say whether he still has ‘complete confidence’ that KU follows recruiting rules

Oct. 17, 2018 — As college basketball corruption trial comes to a close, KU could be facing several NCAA code violations

Oct. 12, 2018 — As allegations mount, KU mum about Adidas ties and extra $1.5M it has received from the company

Oct. 3, 2018 — KU’s De Sousa could be ruled ineligible, NCAA rules experts say; chances of vacating Final Four appearance less clear

Oct. 1, 2018 — Girod, other KU leaders listed as potential witnesses in college basketball corruption trial

July 24, 2018 — KU releases federal subpoenas in college basketball investigation

July 11, 2018 — KU coach Bill Self, new AD Jeff Long discussed ongoing FBI investigation during interview process

July 10, 2018 — KU acknowledges having received federal subpoena in ongoing FBI investigation into college basketball

July 6, 2018 — Report: Feds seeking more information regarding KU forward Silvio De Sousa

April 27, 2018 — Reports: AAU director linked to NCAA bribery case, KU families pleads guilty

April 23, 2018 — KU didn’t produce written report of recent examination of athletic department; chancellor saw no need for external report

April 13, 2018 — Former prosecutor: KU not in clear yet, but one past case provides hope

April 13, 2018 — Chancellor sees no need for independent investigation of KU Athletics in wake of indictment

April 10, 2018 — Employee of apparel company illegally paid 2 KU basketball players’ guardians, federal indictment alleges

Feb. 23, 2018 — Kansas linked to college basketball scandal in Yahoo Sports report

Nov. 28, 2017 — Multimillion-dollar KU-Adidas deal remains unsigned as investigation into Adidas executive continues

Oct. 20, 2017 — KU provides more details of NCAA-mandated basketball review, enlists law firm to help

Oct. 17, 2017 — Analysis: Understanding the legal case building against the college basketball world

Oct. 16, 2017 — Zenger: KU will comply with NCAA requirement of all schools to review basketball program

Sept. 26, 2017 — NCAA basketball coaches, Adidas executive among 10 charged in bribe scheme


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