Editorial: KU can’t quit Adidas

photo by: Journal-World Photo Illustration

Lawrence Journal-World Editorial

The University of Kansas has made crystal clear that money comes first when it comes to its athletics programs. How else to explain the university’s desire to continue taking millions from Adidas while refusing to make public basic information regarding its deal with the shoe company?

Last month, three men were convicted of fraud for working on behalf of Adidas to funnel money to the families of some of the nation’s top basketball recruits to get the recruits to sign with Kansas and other schools with which Adidas has relationships.

The convictions mean the jury found that Adidas was to blame for the illegal payments without involvement from KU, though the judge didn’t allow into evidence text messages and call transcripts indicating KU coaches might have known more than the jury was made aware of. According to the trial, Adidas orchestrated this malfeasance on its own and victims like KU were defrauded, embarrassed, shamed, bamboozled and hoodwinked by the apparel company’s chicanery.

Because of Adidas, Billy Preston, whose family allegedly took money from Adidas to sign with KU, never played college basketball. Because of Adidas, Silvio De Sousa, whose guardian allegedly took money from Adidas to get De Sousa to sign with KU, is now being withheld from games until questions about his eligibility can be answered. It is Adidas money man T.J. Gassnola who exchanged texts with KU basketball coach Bill Self about taking care of De Sousa’s family, and Adidas consultant Merl Code who talked with KU assistant coach Kurtis Townsend in a phone call about the money and arrangements it would take to get the nation’s top recruit to KU.

So, why would KU’s leaders, who have known about the allegations against Adidas for more than a year, continue to be open to a partnership with Adidas? Why would KU still be accepting money from Adidas — at least $1.5 million in an extra payment, according to a statement by Kansas Athletics chief financial officer at a September board meeting?

The Journal-World filed a Kansas Open Records Act request seeking more information about the Adidas payments, but Kansas Athletics has refused to answer, twice saying personnel weren’t available to help with the open records request before coming clean Monday and simply denying the request. An attorney for KU cited a provision of the open records act that gives public entities the option to withhold the release of notes, preliminary drafts, research data in the process of analysis, unfunded grant proposals, memoranda, recommendations or “other records in which opinions are expressed or policies or actions are proposed.”

So, anyone who thought the leadership at KU — specifically Chancellor Douglas Girod and Athletic Director Jeff Long — might stand up to the shoe company that put such a negative spotlight on its basketball program should think again. Given how bad the optics of taking the Adidas money are, the only conclusion is that KU must really need it.

The fraud trial exposed a money-driven cesspool into which many college basketball programs, including KU, willingly dived. Sadly, it appears KU has decided its best bet is to just keep swimming.


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