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Bill Self, Kansas Avoid Serious Penalties in NCAA Infractions Case

The Independent Resolution Panel gave the Jayhawks a three-year probation.

The long-awaited Kansas men’s basketball infractions case ruling is in, and the Jayhawks are walking away unscathed.

In a decision announced Wednesday, the NCAA’s Independent Accountability Review Process (IARP) led to a downgrade in the severity of the five Level I allegations against the program, ultimately judging this a Level II case. The Independent Resolution Panel gave Kansas a three-year probation, with no effect on the program’s postseason status. Head coach Bill Self, who was initially charged with a Level I violation and was suspended for four games last season, was instead charged with a Level III violation and no additional penalties. Assistant coach Kurtis Townsend, who was suspended four games last year as well, also had his charges reduced from Level I to a Level II and a Level III violation, with no additional penalties. Neither coach faces a show-cause order, which could have been applicable for Level I violations.

In explaining the ruling, the report states: “The hearing panel was intentional in not prescribing penalties that would have a negative impact on current student-athletes. The hearing panel also applied significant weight to Kansas’ self-imposed penalties, especially the men’s basketball recruiting restrictions for the 2022-23 academic year.”

The self-imposed basketball penalties were as follows:

  • A financial penalty fine in the amount of $5,000, plus 1% of its average men’s basketball budget based on the average of the men’s basketball program’s previous three total budgets.
  • Reduction in men’s basketball scholarships by a total of three over the course of the 2023-24, 2024-25 and 2025-26 academic years.
  • Reduction in the total official visits permitted in men’s basketball by a total of four over the 2022-23 and 2023-24 academic years, with the option of reducing visits by any combination (e.g., four in one year, or three in one year and one in one year).
  • A six-week ban on recruiting communications with all men’s basketball prospective student-athletes during the 2022-23 academic year.
  • A six-week ban on unofficial visits by men’s basketball prospective student-athletes during the 2022-23 academic year.
  • A 14-day reduction in the number of recruiting person days during the 2022-23 academic year.
  • The men’s basketball staff was prohibited from hosting any official visits by men’s basketball prospective student-athletes (including families, guardians and/or representatives) during the 2022 Late Night event.

The ruling closes multiple chapters in a long-running saga. It is the final infractions case stemming from the 2017 federal investigation of corruption in college basketball, which resulted in major investigations of no fewer than eight programs. It also is the final act by the IARP itself, which was created in response to that corruption scandal but is now being shuttered after heavy criticism for its cost and inefficiency.

Kansas men’s basketball coach Bill Self stands with his hands on his hips.

Self avoided receiving a show-cause order.

The Kansas case was arguably the most high-profile of all investigations that came out of that FBI probe. The school was charged with five Level I violations, the most severe breaches of NCAA bylaws, including a lack of institutional control charge, and an allegation that Bill Self failed his head-coach responsibility requirements for compliance within his program.

Among the alleged violations were payments from Adidas bag man T.J. Gassnola and Adidas executive Jim Gatto to people associated with former Jayhawks Billy Preston and Silvio De Sousa. Gatto and Gassnola allegedly funneled money to Preston and his mother Nicole Player. Self, Townsend and other representatives of the school allegedly committed violations in recruiting De Sousa. Self and Townsend also were allegedly aware that Adidas representatives made impermissible contacts or offered impermissible inducements to three recruits.

Kansas is also required to vacate victories in which De Sousa participated. That includes Kansas’s 2018 Final Four appearance.

The school fought the assertion that Adidas was a representative of its interests, as did Louisville in a previous case that went through the IARP.

The school acknowledged some wrongdoing without getting into specifics. After Kansas initially rebuked the allegations and even awarded Self a so-called “lifetime contract,” it changed course last November and issued its suspensions to both Self and Townsend for the first four games of the 2022–23 season. The two also were given recruiting restrictions by the school. Those proved to be the only major sanctions the two incurred.

Kansas is one of the few schools involved in the FBI-related cases that did not fire any of its involved coaches. Louisville, Arizona and LSU all dismissed their head coaches.

In ruling on FBI-related infractions cases involving Arizona, LSU, Louisville and North Carolina State, the IARP set a precedent of not applying sanctions that banned any of those programs from postseason play. The only school that was caught up in the federal investigation and received a postseason ban was Oklahoma State in 2021, for seemingly lesser violations than some of the other schools had committed. The Oklahoma State case was adjudicated through the standard NCAA process and not the IARP.

In Kansas’ case, postseason eligibility was of fundamental importance to the upcoming season. The Jayhawks could start the year ranked No. 1 and are widely expected to be a national championship contender. Kansas won the 2022 NCAA tournament while in the midst of this investigation.

The IARP concept was born in 2018 as part of the recommendations by a panel convened by then-NCAA president Mark Emmert to address the corruption probe into men’s basketball. The panel, led by Condoleezza Rice, recommended an “off-ramp” from the NCAA’s customary peer-review process of investigation and adjudicating infractions issues for especially complicated and contentious cases. The belief at the time was that this would free the NCAA from insinuations of bias.

However, the IARP was beset with problems from the beginning. Investigators were not familiar with NCAA rules or investigative protocol, which led to a long and steep learning curve. Many of the investigators from the IARP’s Complex Case Unit conducted their own interviews of involved coaches, administrators and players, duplicating effort and further elongating the process. And the cost in billable hours skyrocketed as cases dragged along.

Case in point: the Kansas infractions hearing in front of the Independent Resolution Panel was held in mid-April. Nearly six months later, there finally is a ruling, and it frees the Jayhawks to move on unencumbered in their pursuit of another national championship.