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  • Why does Bill Self get to keep coaching Kansas while a player he and his staff recruited in violation of NCAA rules has to sit?
By Michael Rosenberg
October 24, 2018

If the NCAA cares about its rules a 10th as much as it claims, then here is an idea: Suspend Bill Self. Tell him to sit on his couch while Kansas starts its basketball season, and tell him assistant coach Kurtis Townsend can join him there.

This may sound unfair, because Self has not been proven guilty of anything, he has a right to defend himself, and to that, I say: So what?

Players under investigation are held out all the time. Right now, Kansas is holding forward Silvio De Sousa out of competition because he might be ineligible. Kansas knows if the NCAA dings De Sousa for accepting money later, KU might have to forfeit games. Well, why is that fair for De Sousa and not for Self?

Self is the one who is 55, the one making $5 million a year, and the one who is supposed to know and follow every one of the NCAA’s rules. Why does he get to keep coaching while his player has to sit?

If you followed the Adidas trial, and you don’t think Kansas violated any rules, let me pause here so you can show me your Rock Chalk tattoo. Some highlights:

• Adidas consultant T.J. Gassnola apparently paid De Sousa’s guardian, Fenny Falmagne, $20,000 for De Sousa to attend Kansas.

• Gassnola texted former Adidas employee Merl Code: “I have been going around dropping bags to that idiot Fenny in order to get Kansas to re-sign with Adidas.”

• Gassnola also wrote a note, summing up one trip to Lawrence: “Met with Coach [Bill] Self and his staff … talked recruiting targets and the upcoming season. Assured them we are here to help.”

• The attorney for Adidas executive James Gatto, Michael Schachter, told the jury that Gatto approved the $20,000 payment because “Kansas’s head coach knew of and asked for a payment to be made to Silvio De Sousa’s handler.”

And from that, Silvio De Sousa gets suspended?

The NCAA did not suspend De Sousa, of course. But Kansas knows as well as anybody how this works. The school seems to go through some version of this game every year. Players get held out of competition as a laughable show of “good faith” that the school is serious about following the rules. Kansas is sacrificing a pawn (De Sousa) to save its king (Self), because that’s what the NCAA implicitly encourages schools to do.

Enough. Tell Self and Townsend the No. 1 team in the country will have to survive without them for a while. They can keep their paychecks if they want. That’s Kansas’s problem.

De Sousa has, at most, four years on campus. Self has a lifetime to coach. So keeping De Sousa out of games is much harsher than keeping Self out of games.

We have reached the point in the column where the cool kids argue that NCAA amateurism rules are a joke and players should be able to accept whatever the market bears, even if it’s a black market. I understand the argument. I have made some form of it at times. But as long as the NCAA has rules, it has an obligation to enforce those rules—and even if you think players should be paid by anybody and everybody, there is still no justification for De Sousa sitting while Self coaches.

The NCAA will surely investigate Kansas, but NCAA investigations tend to be long, and they very rarely confirm every violation. The organization has a lot less power than the legal authorities handling the Adidas case. Where there is smoke, there is often an NCAA investigator saying, “There sure is a lot of smoke.” It’s hard to catch people starting the fire.

But if you suspend Self, you put the onus on him: this is what came out in a court of law. Prove it wrong. Tell us that this is all a colossal misunderstanding suitable for a slapstick comedy. Do that, Bill and you can coach again.

But everybody does it. This will not be Self’s official defense, because that would mean admitting guilt. But it’s what he texted Adidas consultant and alleged bagman T.J. Gassnola, “That’s how ur [sic] works at UNC and Duke.”

That’s how it works at a lot of places. It is apparently how it works at LSU and a few other schools that were fingered in the trial, and they should pay a price, too. But that is no excuse. Too many college coaches scream for accountability from players, then give the weakest excuse when they get caught doing something wrong.

Self and Kansas have expressed confidence that KU operates a compliant program. People all over college basketball are either laughing or crying at that one.

The biggest booster of Kansas athletics is Adidas. Adidas invests millions in the program, Adidas has direct access to the basketball coach and Adidas is the one that paid the players that Kansas coaches told Adidas it wanted. If that’s not a blatant recruiting violation, then there are no blatant recruiting violations. The NCAA might as well fire its enforcement staff.

The picture of Kansas that was painted in New York is the one that has been painted privately in the sport for years. Townsend is pleasant company, but I can’t imagine that a single person in college basketball is surprised his name came up. Self did not hire Townsend in 2004 to draw up plays in the final minute of Big 12 games. This isn’t about a rogue assistant or a head coach who doesn’t want to know. It’s a business operation, and Self is the CEO. Why should the CEO skate?

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