What does FBI probe now mean for KU?

By Jesse Newell and Blair Kerkhoff jnewell@kcstar.com bkerkhoff@kcstar.com

The FBI investigation into illicit college basketball recruiting landed at Kansas this week with the revelation money exchanged hands to steer two players to the Jayhawks.

It was bad news for Kansas. But how bad?

To begin to find answers, let’s return to where this all started, with a news conference on Sept. 26, 2017, at the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Southern District of New York. U.S. Attorney Joon Kim said until that day, he didn’t believe the NCAA was aware of the investigation but had been notified presumably earlier in the day, and “we will be working with them and talking to them.”

To what extent that has happened, the NCAA isn’t saying. The Star received a “no comment” when asked about the current relationship with the investigation and the NCAA.

But what matters most to the Jayhawks and their fans turns on that connection.

Will Kansas have to forfeit victories that would end the program’s streak of 14 consecutive Big 12 championships and vacate a postseason appearance that ended in the Final Four?

In its storied history, the Jayhawks’ basketball program has been cited a handful of times by the NCAA but has never forfeited a game.

The FBI isn’t involved in the NCAA punishment business. The NCAA has its own investigative process. It works with the school, which presents its case to the Committee on Infractions. There is also an appeal process. A decision usually comes six to eight weeks after a hearing.

Unknown is the state of the FBI’s case. Are the latest allegations the next batch or the final say, and will the NCAA simply accept the FBI findings?

The next known date of activity is the NCAA announcement by the committee headed by former Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice. The committee will address the issue and possibly propose changes on April 25.

When could Kansas and other schools named in the two-year investigation know something?

“That’s the big unknown,” said a former member of the NCAA enforcement division. “We could be looking at a year, but no one knows.”

Tuesday’s announcement brought no new names to the 10 who were originally charged. One person has had their case dropped.

But it brought Kansas into the mix.

According to new charges filed Tuesday against Adidas executive James Gatto, a mother and guardian of the two unnamed KU student-athletes are said to have benefited from illegal payments, which were made without knowledge of the university.

The players are believed to be Billy Preston, who never played for the Jayhawks, and Silvio De Sousa, who appeared in 20 games this season as a freshman.

The court documents say Gatto agreed to make illegal payments to the legal guardian of a top-rated prospect. Fenny Falmagne is De Sousa’s guardian, but Falmagne denied receiving any money in an interview with The Star.

Under NCAA rules, eligibility can be jeopardized even if the student-athlete was unaware that a parent or guardian accepted a prohibited financial benefit.

CBS Sports’ Matt Norlander reported Thursday that the NCAA had not taken any action on the FBI’s findings so far while “taking its cues from the federal government, which has explicitly told the NCAA to not do anything until it gives the OK to do so. Because of this, the (potentially elongated) timeline on NCAA sanctions to any coaches or programs is unclear.” Norlander went on to say that no NCAA rulings are expected before the start of next season.

There’s a possibility also that the NCAA could choose not to pursue backdated punishment related to the FBI investigation at all. Going after each of the schools might create more problems, which could include issues with proving the FBI’s evidence and potential claims of unequal treatment from schools who were penalized more than others.

If one is looking for previous NCAA precedent that could come into play when discussing KU’s situation, though, here are three cases to know:

Reggie Bush

This one is important when examining how the NCAA could potentially punish KU even if the athletic department is found to have no involvement with players getting paid by Gatto.

Reggie Bush, a running back for USC, received benefits from an agent for his family, which included a home for his stepfather. Though USC was not involved with those transactions, the NCAA ruled that the school had a lack of institutional control, saying that USC’s compliance department and coaching staff did not perform due diligence to ensure that Bush followed NCAA rules.

The punishment was severe, with many believing the NCAA was attempting to set a one-time example with USC. Lumping Bush’s details with an investigation of basketball player O.J. Mayo, the NCAA gave USC football a two-year postseason ban and took away 30 scholarships over three seasons. The football team also vacated wins from 2004 and 2005, which included the 2004 national championship game.

In addition, USC’s basketball program received a one-year postseason ban, and the NCAA also accepted some of the school’s self-imposed punishments, which included the vacating of basketball wins in the 2007-08 season.

Derrick Rose

This could be an important case to remember when it comes to the NCAA potentially punishing KU after the fact for playing someone (in this case, perhaps De Sousa) when the school could have believed him to be eligible.

Derrick Rose, a guard on the Memphis Tigers’ 2007-08 basketball team, was being investigated for someone else possibly taking his SAT in high school. Memphis knew the SAT testing agency was looking into the matter but decided to continue playing Rose as that process played out.

When Rose was ruled academically ineligible after the season — and following his final appearance, in the NCAA championship game against KU in 2008 — the NCAA ruled that all of Memphis’ 38 wins had to be forfeited, and its Final Four trophy had to be returned. Memphis, which was also found to have had issues with its women’s golf program, was said to have provided $1,700 in illegal benefits to Rose’s brother so he could attend away games. The school was placed on three years’ probation.

Cam Newton

This case relates to a player’s status if a party related to him received money without his knowledge.

Cam Newton, a quarterback for Auburn, was twice declared ineligible by the NCAA based on an investigation that his father, Cecil, had sought money in exchange for Cam’s commitment to Mississippi State.

Twice, though, Cam was reinstated, with the NCAA claiming that both he and Auburn were not a part of the wrongdoing while unaware of Cecil’s actions.

This would seem to be encouraging for KU if it could prove a player had no knowledge of a family member being paid by Gatto. However, in 2012, the NCAA also worked to close this Cam Newton loophole by amending its Bylaw 12, stating an agent can now include any person who, directly or indirectly, uses that individual to seek financial gain.


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