KU chancellor has not considered suspending coach as NCAA investigates; Regents chairman also weighs in

photo by: Nick Krug

Kansas assistant coach Kurtis Townsend walks around the court during a shoot around on Wednesday, March 20, 2019, at Vivint Smart Home Arena in Salt Lake City, Utah. Teams practiced and gave interviews to media members before Thursday's opening round games.

Although FBI wiretaps in federal court revealed University of Kansas assistant basketball coach Kurtis Townsend said KU would do “what it takes” to land a highly touted recruit, KU Chancellor Douglas Girod said Wednesday that he has not considered suspending any KU coaches, including Townsend.

The Journal-World asked about possible suspensions after Louisiana State University suspended its head men’s basketball coach earlier this month after he was caught on tape making comments that were similar in nature to those made by Townsend. The recordings showed both coaches to be involved in discussions involving inducements to get recruits to sign at their respective schools.

Girod, who spoke to the Journal-World briefly before the Kansas Board of Regents meeting on Wednesday in Topeka, said the university was working with the NCAA as it investigated the KU program for its part in a college basketball corruption trial in October that found three men guilty of fraud. Girod said a KU investigation and possible action would not begin until the NCAA investigation had concluded.

“We’re still cooperating with the NCAA on that, and they are coming back to conduct that part of the investigation, but we’re on their timeline for that, at their request,” he said.

It is not clear why LSU would be able to suspend its coach while an investigation is underway but the NCAA would ask KU to not take any such action. It also is unclear how the NCAA actually made a request of KU to hold off on an internal investigation. Girod previously has said KU was in “stand-down” mode on the matter at the request of the NCAA. However, the Journal-World in December filed a Kansas Open Records request seeking any records that directed KU to refrain from launching its own investigation. The university responded that neither the university nor the athletic department had any such records from the NCAA.

LSU suspended head men’s basketball coach Will Wade after the LSU chancellor said it was necessary to do so in order to “protect the integrity” of the university. LSU athletic department spokesman Michael Bonnette said the suspension came after Wade would not speak with the LSU athletic department or cooperate with the NCAA once the wiretaps were revealed. Recently, Wade was subpoenaed to testify in federal court about his involvement in the scandal, according to a Yahoo Sports report.

Wiretaps obtained by the FBI reveal Wade discussing an “offer” he made to a recruit for a commitment to attend LSU. While Wade has not been charged in the case, LSU indefinitely suspended him from coaching the team, which is in the midst of one of its most successful seasons. The university said Wade would be suspended until it could confirm the program did not commit any NCAA violations, according to the report.

While Wade’s comments about offers to a recruit sound similar to Townsend’s conversations with Merl Code, an amateur basketball league director who was recently sentenced to six months in prison for a fraud conviction related to the scandal, KU has not suspended Townsend.

When discussing recruit Zion Williamson — who now attends Duke University and is widely regarded as the best player in college basketball and will likely be the No. 1 pick in the NBA draft this summer — Townsend said, “Hey, but between me and you, you know, he asked about some stuff. You know? And I said, ‘Well, we’ll talk about that, you decide.'”

Code said, “I know what he’s asking for. He’s asking for opportunities from an occupational perspective, he’s asking for cash in the pocket and he’s asking for housing for him and his family.”

In reply, Townsend said, “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.”

Whether the “opportunities” were for Williamson or a family member is not clear.

When asked if he considered suspending any KU coaches, Girod said Wednesday that he had not considered it because the NCAA wanted KU to hold off on taking action until the organization finished its investigation.

“There was discussion with the NCAA about how to approach it, but they asked us to hold off and do it with them,” Girod said. “(The NCAA) said they wanted to be part of that, and we said we would comply.”

Girod said he did not know when the investigation would conclude, noting that it kept “getting pushed back.”

“They’ve got their hands full,” Girod said. “We get it; they have a lot going on.”

But Girod said he was confident that Townsend was not expressing an openness to committing a violation to recruit Williamson in the wiretapped phone call. Girod did not elaborate on why he was confident Townsend’s comments weren’t an expression of willingness to commit an NCAA violation. Girod did not directly respond to a question of whether he had spoken to Townsend about his comments. Rather Girod simply said that the university was cooperating with the NCAA.

Although Girod said he didn’t have any concerns with the basketball program’s recruiting practices at the moment, he said the university “needs to do the work” to confirm that violations have not occurred.

“I have confidence in our guys,” he said. “We need to do a thorough investigation and deal with the findings.”

Dennis Mullin, chairman of the Board of Regents, said he was not worried about one of the Regents institutions being caught up in the corruption case. He said that he thought the universities’ compliance offices were working hard to protect their programs from illicit activities and that he wasn’t sure how they could possibly stop activities that were happening outside of the universities’ purview, referring to Adidas consultants paying players’ families.

He said he didn’t believe any KU coaches had been revealed to be part of any wrongdoing.

“If I had a coach involved, that would be a whole different story, but that doesn’t seem to be the case,” Mullin said.

Additionally, Mullin said he thought it was unfair that the NCAA suspended KU’s Silvio De Sousa from participating in games until the 2020-21 season just because the court proceedings revealed that his guardian, Fenny Falmagne, accepted $2,500 to send him to KU.

“Two years for something his guardian did?” Mullin said. “I don’t know how you manage it, but it does bother me that, I think, (the NCAA) overreacted in some cases.”

Contact Dylan Lysen

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More coverage: KU and the college basketball scandal

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Feb. 27, 2019 — KU wants $1 million in restitution from convicted men in college basketball corruption trial

Feb. 27, 2019 — Report: NCAA seeking more FBI information in college basketball corruption scandal for its own investigation

Feb. 16, 2019 — To avoid sanctions, KU basketball may need to convince NCAA Gassnola is not a booster

Feb. 14, 2019 — Gatto, others in NCAA basketball scandal seek probation; they argue scheme was designed to help KU, other universities

Feb. 2, 2019 — NCAA’s De Sousa ruling raises new questions about whether KU coaches committed violations

Jan. 18, 2019 — KU claims it has $1.5 million in new Adidas money, but when asked to point to it on financial statements, it won’t

Dec. 14, 2018 — KU struggling to explain why it went into ‘stand-down’ mode in investigating basketball recruiting allegations

Dec. 5, 2018 — Report: NCAA won’t punish programs caught in Adidas fraud trial until after 2019 Final Four

Nov. 19, 2018 — New Adidas lawsuit emerges as KU reviews its options with apparel company; civil suit alleges KU coaches knew of payments

Nov. 16, 2018 — A month after KU coach caught on wiretapped phone call discussing recruit and money, chancellor has not talked to coach

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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