KU men’s basketball must vacate 15 wins and a Final Four appearance following NCAA infractions ruling; it will no longer be all-time wins leader

Kansas coach Bill Self reacts to a play during the first half of the team's NCAA college basketball game against Kentucky in Lexington, Ky., Saturday, Jan. 28, 2023. (AP Photo/James Crisp)

Story updated at 5:48 p.m. Wednesday, Oct. 11, 2023:

The University of Kansas men’s basketball program will have to vacate 15 wins from the second half of the 2017-2018 season in which Silvio De Sousa participated, after the Independent Accountability Resolution Process rendered its ruling on KU’s four-year-old infractions case on Wednesday.

The vacation of those victories will erase from the record books KU’s participation in the NCAA Final Four that season and require the school to remove the Final Four banner from Allen Fieldhouse. Additionally, with the 15 wins from the 2017-2018 season erased, KU is no longer the all-time wins leader in NCAA men’s basketball history.

However, KU did not receive other major penalties that could impact the upcoming season. The Jayhawks don’t have to forgo a postseason appearance.

“The panel was intentional in not prescribing penalties that would have a negative impact on current student-athletes,” said Christina Guerola Sarchio, the chair of the IARP panel, in a press conference Wednesday.

In addition, head coach Bill Self and assistant coach Kurtis Townsend did not receive any suspensions from the NCAA, although both coaches were found to have committed violations related to the recruitment of De Sousa.

The program will also go on probation for a three-year period.

“While this has been a very long process, I’m appreciative that it has ended and where it has ended, and I am eager to move forward without this cloud hovering above our program,” Self said in a news conference Wednesday.

In a joint statement, KU Chancellor Douglas Girod and Athletic Director Travis Goff said KU is not objecting to the penalties the NCAA is imposing on the program, and that the new penalties are in addition to self-imposed penalties that KU announced last fall.

“Regarding the additional penalties announced in today’s decision, we accept them and will move forward,” the two said in the statement, a sentiment Goff reiterated at the news conference Wednesday afternoon.

Both said that the ruling showed that KU had not committed the most serious Level I violations the school had previously been accused of by the NCAA’s enforcement staff.

“Today’s decision by the Independent Resolution Panel confirms what we’ve said since the beginning: the major infractions of which we were accused were unfounded,” Girod and Goff said in the statement. “Most importantly, the Panel decision unequivocally confirms our coaches were not involved in – or had knowledge of – payments to student-athletes.”

The two leaders also expressed strong support for Self and his staff.

“We fully support Coach Self and his staff, and we look forward to him finishing his career at KU many years from now,” Girod and Goff said in the statement. “Most importantly, we are pleased that our coaches and student-athletes can now move forward with their Jayhawk careers unfettered by the uncertainty this case has brought.”

The ruling states that KU “shall vacate all regular season and conference tournament wins, records and participation in which men’s basketball student athlete No. 1 competed while ineligible in the 2017-2018 academic year,” as well as all NCAA Tournament wins where the athlete was ineligible but competed. While the document released by the NCAA does not identify “student-athlete No. 1,” the description provided of the athlete matches De Sousa, who was the subject of an eligibility dispute that season.

De Sousa played in 15 games that KU won in the 2017-2018 season, and Sarchio confirmed in the press conference that the athlete referred to in the ruling was ineligible for the entire season, and thus all 15 games would be vacated. The ruling has no retroactive effect on the athlete’s eligibility for any other season, Sarchio said.

“I actually did feel like it was fair, and I actually felt like it should have been done,” Self said. “By the rule, we had a player participate while ineligible due to an illicit payment that we knew nothing about, but he was still ineligible while participating. So the 15 wins that occurred while Silvio participated in 2018 … I believe are warranted to be taken away, because that is the rule.”

The ruling does make it clear that KU will have no choice but to remove any vacated wins from the record books, as well as removing the Final Four banner and any indication of the 2018 Big 12 Conference championship. Specifically, the ruling states: “Any public references to the vacated records shall be removed from the athletics department stationery and banners displayed in public arenas.” The ruling also says any trophies awarded by the NCAA must be returned.

Self said that “if you take away the wins, you naturally take away a banner, because the banner wouldn’t have existed without the wins.”

NCAA managing director for infraction appeals Wendy Walters also said during the press conference that vacated participation in an NCAA Tournament does not count as a tournament appearance. As a result, KU’s streak of NCAA Tournament appearances, which had been ongoing at 33, will now be officially limited to 28 (1990-2017) and is no longer active. That is still the longest in the country, although Michigan State and Gonzaga have ongoing streaks approaching that number.

Self will also need more victories to overtake Phog Allen for the highest win total in KU history (he now sits 25 wins away, instead of 10, from Allen’s 590).

The NCAA’s case against the men’s basketball program ended up hinging on four incidents involving the recruitment of De Sousa and a second student-athlete who is not named but matches the description of Billy Preston, a member of the 2017-2018 team who left the program before ever playing in an official game.

The panel ruled that KU committed violations in all four instances; however, the panel deemed the violations to be less serious than Level I violations. The NCAA’s enforcement staff had previously issued charges stating, in a Notice of Allegations dating back to September 2019 and originating from the 2017 federal investigation into corruption in college basketball, that KU had committed five Level I violations.

The panel’s decision to reduce the severity level of the violations played a role in KU’s avoidance of other penalties that the panel could have imposed.

The four instances where violations occurred were:

• An outside consultant for an apparel company — not named, but previously reported as Adidas — arranged in September 2017 to provide $4,000 to the mother of a KU men’s basketball prospective student-athlete, who is not named but presumed to be Preston. (Level II)

• The same apparel company consultant in September of 2017 provided $2,500 to the guardian of a student-athlete who was considering attending KU. That student-athlete isn’t named but is presumed to be De Sousa. (Level II)

• The apparel company consultant had “impermissible recruiting contact” with the guardian of De Sousa when the consultant discussed providing used athletic gear to one of the guardian’s junior basketball teams. (Level III)

• A separate employee of the apparel company in 2016 provided $200 in cash to a student-athlete while both the employee and the athlete were at Self’s home for a barbecue. The player is only identified as student-athlete No. 4, meaning it is someone other than De Sousa or Preston. (Level III)

The panel found that the men’s basketball program as a whole had committed violations in those four instances. The panel ruled that the two individuals with the athletic apparel company were acting in a capacity as representatives of Kansas’ athletics programs, and thus KU erred in not taking actions to prevent the incidents. However, a key ruling in the case is that the panel did not find KU’s lack of action toward the Adidas officials to be a sign that KU “lacked institutional control,” which is one of the more serious violations an athletic program can be found responsible for.

The panel also found that coaches Self and Townsend committed violations related to contact they had with Adidas officials. Those were:

• Between Aug 9. and Aug. 27, 2017, both Self and Townsend exchanged text messages and telephone calls with the Adidas consultant related to De Sousa’s guardian. The conversations revolved around providing used athletics gear to a basketball team managed by De Sousa’s guardian. This offer of free gear came at a time when KU was trying to convince De Sousa to attend KU. (Level III)

The panel ruled the offer of the equipment was an impermissible recruiting contact. As such, the panel determined that Self and Townsend “encouraged, approved and had knowledge of impermissible telephone recruiting calls” made by the Adidas consultant to De Sousa’s guardian. In addition to knowing of the contact, the panel concluded Townsend shared contact information to facilitate the call between the Adidas consultant and the guardian.

The panel found Self and Townsend committed an NCAA recruiting violation by failing to report to KU Athletics’ compliance office that Townsend helped set up the phone call and knew the phone call involved an impermissible recruiting contact.

• On Sept. 13, Townsend participated in a call with an Adidas employee, where the employee suggested a high-profile recruit had requested impermissible benefits in order to attend KU. Townsend failed to report the phone call to KU’s compliance office. By not reporting the phone call, Townsend committed an NCAA violation, the panel found. However, the panel did not find that Townsend asked for the Adidas representative to assist in the recruitment of the athlete. (Level II)

Neither Self nor Townsend faced any additional penalties.

In the fall of 2022, KU imposed four-game suspensions on Self and Townsend, as well as a restriction of three scholarships over a three-year period and limits on visits and recruiting activities. Sarchio said the IARP gave weight to these self-imposed penalties, especially the limits on recruiting.

“A lot of it was in the spirit of just wanting to move forward, wanting to have finality to this,” Goff said. “I think that was an anchor of those discussions, and we used some of the guidelines the NCAA provides in terms of penalties to help align with where we landed with our self-imposed penalties. It feels as if they were probably on the heavier end of things, but we were willing to do so in order to give everyone the best chance to move forward.”

Self said that taking on self-imposed penalties does not imply a measure of guilt but that KU was doing what was in its athletes’ best interest.

“I was OK with the self-impositions,” Self said, “because as the leader of this program and the head coach, it’s my responsibility to protect, preserve, look after our present student-athletes and future student-athletes.”

With regard to the restriction of three scholarships over three years, KU is currently three scholarship players under its limit of 13 for the 2023-24 season, which would knock out the penalty in a single year. However, it’s not clear yet if the scholarship previously allocated to Arterio Morris, who was dismissed from the team on Sept. 29, could count against the requirement.

The IARP disbanded with the presentation of its final ruling after completing five other cases prior to KU’s. It took on KU’s case from the NCAA in July 2020 and rendered a verdict more than three years later.

“I would say the unknown was probably as much of a penalty as anything,” Self said.


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