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A look at the college basketball indictment — and questions about what KU does next

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Fortunately, my specialty on pickup basketball teams is reading the federal indictments. Indeed, I did spend time late Tuesday reading the federal indictment that brings the FBI investigation into college basketball to KU’s doorstep. Here are a few things to watch and wonder about in the coming weeks.

Are KU coaches and officials in the clear? Certainly, KU has fared better in this indictment than some other schools. Importantly, the indictment does not make any allegations against KU coaches or KU officials. That’s not the case with Louisville, Miami and North Carolina State, which also are listed in the indictment.

But many KU fans and some media outlets may be over generous in claiming the indictment sends a signal that KU is in the clear on this issue. An oft-quoted sentence from the indictment is: "The payments described herein were designed to be concealed, including from the NCAA and officials at the University of Kansas, in order for the scheme to succeed and for the student ­athletes to receive athletic scholarships from the University of Kansas.”

That sentence is not the federal prosecutors' way of communicating that they have determined no one at KU knew of this scheme. If you don’t believe me, read the portion of the indictments for Louisville, Miami and North Carolina State. The exact same sentence — except with their schools’ names — are used in the indictment. That’s despite the fact that prosecutors are alleging coaches at those schools knew of illegal payments.

I’m not a legal expert, but I believe that sentence is just boilerplate language to say the accused acted with nefarious intent, in a conspiratorial way and certainly wanted to keep the scheme concealed from some officials. That’s quite different from saying they’ve determined no one at KU had knowledge.

Of course, none of this is to say that KU officials did have knowledge, but events in Washington have taught us that federal investigations are an evolving beast.


Will KU launch its own investigation into recruiting practices at the university? That’s a question I have in to university officials. Some schools have launched an investigation. Notably USC did so earlier this year when media reports surfaced alleging that an agent was paying players at that school. Conceivably an investigation — or review, if that makes you feel better — could have value even if KU coaches and administrators did nothing wrong. It is probably better to know now rather than later whether there are other problems. Some potential topics an investigator could look at: Did other members on the team know or have reason to believe a teammate had been paid?; have any other KU players been associated with the AAU team that allegedly was used to funnel money to one of the players?; and is KU using best practices in vetting the amateur status of its potential recruits?


A University of Kansas basketball player wears an adidas practice jersey in this file photo from March 2016.

A University of Kansas basketball player wears an adidas practice jersey in this file photo from March 2016.

Will KU commit to not signing its multimillion dollar contract extension with Adidas until after the federal investigation is complete? I’ve also asked that question of university officials. The deal was announced in September but hasn’t been signed. I suppose you could look at this scandal as not involving Adidas itself but rather a rogue employee who was submitting false invoices to Adidas to pay the families of players. In that scenario, Adidas would be a victim. However, it is interesting to note that Adidas is not listed as a victim in the indictment. Why is that? Could it be that federal investigators haven’t yet determined what other Adidas executives knew about the scheme? I don’t know. But can KU sign its extension with Adidas — valued at $191 million over 14 years — if there is any question about whether Adidas was complicit in this scheme? For what it is worth, it didn’t stop the University of Washington. It announced a 10-year $119 million deal with Adidas yesterday.


What’s on the tapes? A careful reading of the indictment sends a message that federal officials have recorded phone conversations that involve discussions of a KU player. The indictment includes verbatim quotes from a phone conversation between an Adidas executive and an Adidas consultant talking about needing to make “another $20,000 payment” to the guardian of a player who later enrolled at KU. The indictment doesn’t go into detail about what else was said in that conversation, but you can bet the feds know. How many tapes are there? Are there other references to Kansas? No one knows but the feds. That’s the thing about indictments: They aren’t tell-alls. The feds will tell you what they want you to know, when they want you to know it. Until then, the rest of us are left to watch and wonder.

Comments

Pius Waldman 1 month, 1 week ago

Food for thought: The parents of DeSilivia live in Africa. They allowed their son to come to USA to play basketball. So a sponsor or caretaker was needed. Choosing a college to play was more than likely the so called guardian obligation to help select a school. Let me just say this. If you or I are offered money or products we can accept or reject without any violations of laws. Granted the NCAA has rules but how can a player be charged with violations if the guardian accepts benefits without the knowledge or approval by the player. Parents are not charged with violations by their children.

Aaron McGrogor 1 month, 1 week ago

"Parents are not charged with violations by their children."

That's not actually entirely true. In some cases, parents can be charged with the crimes of their children.

Daniel Kennamore 1 month, 1 week ago

We should sue the player's families and (if not proven to be a victim, Adidas itself) if any damages are levied against us and nobody on KU's side other than the player did anything wrong.

Maybe after a few of these losers having their kids' entire NBA check garnished to pay off the schools they tried to use they'll rethink taking money a year before they'd get it legitimately.

Harlan Hobbs 1 month, 1 week ago

Excellent analysis, Chad. Perhaps not being a legal expert gives you additional credibility because you are asking questions that need to be answered. We can now expect that everyone will get "lawyered up" and that learning facts will become secondary to assessing the latest rumor.

In investigations at other schools like North Carolina and Arizona, I have taken the position that it is hard for me to believe that someone in the program didn't have an inkling of what was going on. Maybe it is just a rumor here or there or whatever. However, if the leaders take a blind eye and basically take the approach of "hear no evil, see no evil, speak no evil", then that is negligence in my book.

Now, I am as devoted a KU fan as anyone and would be heartbroken if the university is implicated. Also, I adore Coach Self and if he says he knew nothing and that his staff knew nothing, then I will take that to the bank until reliable evidence comes forward to change my mind. They deserve that.

Assuming that KU is innocent, which I pray is the case, the worst part is that now the feeding frenzy will begin, but I plan to ignore it until something beyond dispute comes forth.

Even if KU is totally innocent, they will be tarnished in the eyes of some people. Like many have said in the past, "how do you get your reputation back?"

Randall Allen 1 month, 1 week ago

It looks like programs like KU have a new game plan to "game" the system. Instead of having wealthy alums pay off the players, they have corporate stooges pay off players' families. If anybody out there thinks that Bill Self wasn't aware of this I have a bridge I'd like to sell you. A handful of programs seem to always recruit the best players in the country---now we know how. What's the difference as long as the money, wins and the player pipeline keeps rolling?

Daniel Kennamore 1 month, 1 week ago

And your proof of such extraordinary claims is, where exactly?

Nobody is pretending the entire sport is clean but going from a document the explicitly says the school didn't know to 'if you don't think they knew, then you're stupid' is quite the leap.

Randall Allen 1 month, 1 week ago

Poor KU. They are just a victim in all of this. They are crying all the way to the bank.

Daniel Kennamore 1 month, 1 week ago

Ah, so no proof. Just trolling.

Thought so.

Have a good one.

Randall Allen 1 month, 1 week ago

Yes, Daniel, since I have an opinion that is different than yours, that makes me a troll. BTW, I do have proof---but I'm not going to tell you.

Pius Waldman 1 month, 1 week ago

Now maybe Allen we have to consider whether you can pass a lie test. My guess (and it is a guess) the red light would show.

Randall Allen 1 month, 1 week ago

Me? Lie? In my role as special agent with the FBI, I am privy to all sorts of info, but alas, I am unable to speak publicly about it. I also work part-time for the CIA.

Pius Waldman 1 month, 1 week ago

Wise maybe not Allen looks like he wants to throw a dagger. Wonder what school he favors. Tell us Allen.

Randall Allen 1 month, 1 week ago

I am a proud alum of Washburn University. Go Bods!

Tracy Rogers 1 month, 1 week ago

So these AAU guys or Adidas guys are steering players to KU because they're Jayhawk fans?

Someone in KU athletics knows.....but I'm sure we'll never know.

John Brazelton 1 month, 1 week ago

In past years, you either paid the players directly to shave points or hired the player's father or high school coach to recruit the star player. Now the pay-offs have gotten bigger and the schemes more sophisticated.

David Reynolds 1 month, 1 week ago

i believe the implications that maybe KU officials knew something and, by extension, KU didn't do anything is not giving credit for what KU has done to ensure it's program is run with integrity.

A recent example is this past year and holding Billy Preston out of play, after some questions arose, during the regular season, when he could have played & made a significant contribution toward winning games & post season success.

By Bill Self holding Billy out he told the world, KU will not play anyone who possibly violated "any" rules and we know about it, at least until the situation is cleared by all. By doing so, Bill said he was willing to sacrifice a season to maintain integrity in his program. I believe this example shows the same would hold true for any staff member that violated any rules.

Those who wish to cast doubt on Bill, or the staff, are not giving Bill credit where credit is due, and instead are tarnishing the very reputation Bill has worked so hard at KU to build & maintain. Bill thru his actions, of sacrificing a player, this past year made it very clear..."NO ONE" is bigger than the KU basket ball program, and if your actions could negatively impact the program, your gone.

For those of you wishing continued success of the KU BB program, are not helping with negative connotations & casting doubt.

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