KU argues with NCAA that Adidas isn’t a booster, but sends out flyer to local businesses suggesting otherwise

Kansas head coach Bill Self talks with media members during Big 12 Media Day on Wednesday, Oct. 23, 2019 at Sprint Center in Kansas City.

Whether former Adidas consultants — and now convicted felons — were boosters of KU Athletics is a big question in the NCAA’s case against the university.

The NCAA argues Adidas officials were boosters, making their many contacts with KU coaches about recruits impermissible. KU leaders, though, have said they’ll forcefully argue otherwise when they present their case to the NCAA.

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But KU leaders this week sent out a flyer to thousands of local businesses that may create some confusion about that argument. The Kansas Athletics Compliance Office this week sent an electronic copy of its “Guide for Jayhawk Supporters” to many businesses in the Lawrence area.

The guide aims to help businesses understand how to interact with student-athletes in a way that complies with NCAA regulations. The guide provides a definition of a booster. It states:

“A booster is an individual, independent agency, corporate entity (e.g. apparel or equipment manufacturer) or other organization that is known to:

• Hold, or have ever held, season tickets for any sport with Kansas Athletics;

• Have participated in or to be a member of an agency or organization promoting any Kansas Athletics program (e.g. University of Kansas Alumni Association, K Club, sport booster groups, etc.);

• Have made financial contributions to the athletics department or to an athletics booster organization of that institution (e.g. Hardwood Club, booster groups, etc.);

• Be assisting or to have assisted in providing benefits to enrolled student-athletes or their families, which would trigger booster status under NCAA rules. These benefits include, but are not limited to, financial assistance, use of a car, use of a cell phone, etc.;

• Provide allowable benefits (e.g. summer jobs, occasional meals, etc.) to enrolled student-athletes; or

• Promote Kansas Athletics in any way.”

KU chose to specifically highlight apparel companies as an example of a corporate entity that qualifies as a booster. Adidas is an apparel company. Through a multimillion dollar contract with KU Athletics, it also seemingly meets the other requirements in the definition. The company, for instance, receives season tickets to various KU sports, and frequently promotes Kansas Athletics.

However, in its Sept. 23 press release announcing the NCAA’s case against the university, KU leaders specifically said they do not believe Adidas or its employees are boosters. “First and foremost, the university emphasizes that it emphatically rejects the assertion that Adidas and Adidas employees and associates were boosters and agents of the university (as defined by NCAA legislation) during the period of the alleged violations . . .” KU said in its release.

It wasn’t clear Wednesday why KU chose to send out a compliance guide listing apparel companies as a prime example of boosters, or what distinctions KU officials were making about Adidas in this particular case. KU previously has said it is not yet commenting on the specifics of its response to the NCAA, which is still being crafted.

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