Kansas Basketball Program Evades Postseason Prohibition and Severe Sanctions.

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Kansas Basketball Program Evades Postseason Prohibition and Severe Sanctions.

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Kansas Basketball Program Faces Probation, Removes 2018 Final Four Banner

LAWRENCE, Kan. — In a recent development, the Kansas men’s basketball program has been placed on probation and instructed to take down its 2018 Final Four banner. However, they have been spared a postseason ban after an independent panel, established by the NCAA to address intricate cases, downgraded five Level I violations against the Jayhawks.

These violations arose from a 2017 federal inquiry into corruption within college basketball. The focus was on determining whether representatives from the apparel company Adidas could be classified as boosters, as they facilitated payments to potential recruits.

While Kansas officials did not contest the fact that payments were made, they maintained that they had no prior knowledge of them. They lodged an appeal against the violations through the Independent Accountability Resolution Process. The hearing occurred in April, and the verdict was revealed less than a month before the commencement of the season, where the formidable Jayhawks are set to vie for a national championship.

In a joint statement, Kansas chancellor Douglas Girod and athletic director Travis Goff expressed their satisfaction with the panel’s decision: “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. Most importantly, the panel decision unequivocally confirms our coaches were not involved in — or had knowledge of — payments to student-athletes.”

During a campus press conference on Wednesday alongside Goff, coach Bill Self conveyed his eagerness to move forward, unburdened by this lingering cloud over the program. “I’m very happy that it’s over,” Self stated. “I’m certainly happy with the end result, and at the same time, don’t feel like a celebration mode because this is exactly what we thought the end result would be years ago. And it’s taken such a long period of time to get here. But I am pleased with the findings because the findings are accurate.”

The panel determined that the apparel company’s consultant became a representative of Kansas’ athletics interests starting in August 2017, leading to several Level II and Level III violations. However, it found no substantial evidence to suggest that Kansas officials hindered the investigation, lacked institutional control, or failed to monitor the basketball program.

As part of the sanctions, the 2018 Final Four banner is slated for removal from Allen Fieldhouse, and any wins involving forward Silvio De Sousa — referred to as “student-athlete No. 1” and pivotal to the case — will be expunged from all records. Additionally, the school will face various recruiting restrictions, augmenting penalties that were self-imposed last year.

Notably, the panel opted not to impose a postseason ban on Kansas. The Jayhawks, led by Michigan transfer Hunter Dickinson and bolstered by several key returning players, are anticipated to claim the top spot when the preseason AP poll is unveiled next week.

“We have the penalties we’ve imposed, but we don’t want that to be a reflection on current student-athletes, or impose any limitations on current student-athletes,” remarked Christina Guerola Sarchio, the chief member of the Independent Accountability Resolution Panel overseeing the case, during a Zoom meeting addressing the matter.

The conclusion of the case against Kansas, which also involved minor infractions related to its football program, marks the final chapter for the soon-to-be dissolved IARP. This comes after the IARP handed down sanctions against former LSU coach, now helming McNeese State, Will Wade in June.

In response to the pending IARP verdict, Kansas officials preemptively took action. Head coach Bill Self and top assistant Kurtis Townsend were suspended for the initial four games of the previous season, and various recruiting restrictions were imposed. These measures were aimed at potentially lessening any penalties the IARP might impose.

Athletic director Travis Goff stated that the university meticulously examined NCAA guidelines before implementing these self-imposed penalties, which, in terms of severity, leaned towards the more stringent end of the spectrum.

Self emphasized, “I don’t think it implies a measure of guilt at all… What I think it implies is we were doing everything possible to move forward and put this behind us. And at the same time, doing what was in the best interest of our present student-athletes and future student-athletes to make sure they were not impacted in any negative way whatsoever.”

In addition to restricting the two coaches from off-campus recruiting last summer, the university voluntarily reduced the number of official visits permitted during the 2023-24 academic year, decreased total scholarships by three over a three-year span, and cut down the number of recruiting days for the current year by 13 days.

“The NCAA membership has acknowledged the significance of these self-imposed penalties,” noted Christina Guerola Sarchio, the lead member of the Independent Accountability Resolution Panel overseeing the case.

The roots of the Kansas case trace back to an FBI investigation that implicated several institutions, including Auburn, Arizona, LSU, Louisville, and North Carolina State. This led to convictions of executives from shoe companies, intermediaries, and numerous assistant coaches.

Initially, Kansas faced five Level I violations from the NCAA, including the serious charge of lack of institutional control, and an accusation that Self had not maintained program compliance.

While Auburn received a four-year probation through the traditional NCAA infractions process for a similar case, Kansas opted to join others in appealing through the IARP. This entity, proposed by former Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice in 2018 to revamp the sport, operated independently from the NCAA and handled intricate cases.

However, the IARP’s pace has been criticized, prompting former NCAA president Mark Emmert to acknowledge that the process was taking “way too long.” This is a significant factor in the decision to disband the panel now that the Kansas case has concluded, as the NCAA endeavors to modernize its infractions process.

Moreover, many alleged infractions from the 2017 investigation are no longer in violation of current rules, thanks to name, image, and likeness guidelines that enable NCAA athletes across all sports to earn income from endorsements and other off-field business ventures.

Christina Guerola Sarchio emphasized, “This case was not dormant. There was activity going on. It took this long to render a decision because it was an incredibly thorough record.”

The panel has also faced criticism for inconsistent penalties. Arizona, LSU, Louisville, and North Carolina State received minor penalties without a postseason ban, while Oklahoma State received a postseason ban for comparatively minor violations.

Sarchio clarified, “What we looked at was the conduct, the fact that there were no Level I findings — there were some Level II and Level III — and compared to what the self-imposed penalties were… That led us to reach the conclusion that we disclosed today.

Reference:

www.newstribune.com/news/2023/oct/11/kansas-basketball-program-escapes-postseason-ban-major-penalties/

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