Many recent Jayhawks have faced eligibility concerns; Self says ‘system’ has changed

By Jesse Newell

In past stops at Oral Roberts, Tulsa and Illinois, Kansas coach Bill Self says he didn’t face the number of eligibility issues that he has during 15 seasons in Lawrence.

The latest is Billy Preston, who is being held out of games while KU’s compliance department looks into the “financial picture” regarding his vehicle. Before that, Darnell Jackson, Josh Selby and Cliff Alexander all missed games because of impermissible benefits.

“I don’t think that I’ve ever had a situation where I’ve dealt with this (eligibility issues) like we have since I’ve been here,” Self said. “And it has nothing to do with Kansas. It has everything to do with the system.”

Self was quick to explain.

“The way it was 20 years ago, every athletic department had one compliance person, and that one compliance person is responsible for everything going on in that athletic department,” Self said. “Now you have five to seven, and the mandate of the NCAA is, ‘We want to monitor all these things.’

“And so, I don’t know that it’s a lot different. I just know that there’s more things that have become known now than what there was before, in large part because you have the manpower to look into them when you never looked into everything before.”

The individual circumstances have varied. Jackson and Selby, for instance, both served nine-game NCAA suspensions after receiving about $5,000 each.

“With Darnell’s case — if I remember right; it’s been awhile — the NCAA concluded that there was some impermissible benefits that was given to his family basically during a difficult time for his family. Which I have a hard time dealing with that one, but that’s was what was determined,” Self said. “Then with Josh, it was something comparable to that that happened before he ever got here.”

In the end, though, Self understood the punishments.

“The way the rules are written, those are violations,” Self said. “So what you have to do, you have to try to mitigate those. But it takes time to get all the information and things like that.”

Jackson and Selby were available to play for KU at the start of the second semester. Self was asked whether a similar scenario could be in play with Preston, who has missed the Jayhawks’ first seven games.

“I don’t know if (the timing) was a coincidence with those two, but I don’t think it was. I think based on the penalty, that was probably something we anticipated that being the case. But I’m not sure that’s the case with this one (Preston) at all,” Self said. “I’m not sure that has anything to do with this one other than the fact that this is something that our people have worked really hard on.”

Some other eligibility problems KU has faced include:

▪  Braeden Anderson, Ben McLemore and Jamari Traylor were deemed academic partial qualifiers in 2011. Anderson transferred to Fresno State, while McLemore and Traylor sat out the 2011-12 season.

▪ Alexander missed KU’s final eight games in 2014-15 while the NCAA looked into a loan that was given to his mother.

▪ Cheick Diallo was suspended five games by the NCAA for receiving $165 in benefits, though Self disputed that explanation by the NCAA, saying he had been told that the forward was only being held out while his high school coursework was examined.

“I don’t think Cheick’s situation and Billy’s situation are remotely comparable,” Self said. “ … Cheick’s situation was strictly an academic situation, and you’re trying to get documentation from Mali that’s translated, and you’re trying to do different things that the eligibility center’s trying to work with you on, or they have their own investigator, so to speak, looking into it and evaluating course classes, which is totally different than what this situation is.”

When it comes to Preston, though, Self said there’s been no final resolution.

“We think it’ll come to a head soon,” Self said. “And hopefully, it’ll come to a head in a way where we held him out for precautionary reasons. But we just don’t know yet.”

Jesse Newell: 816-234-4759, @jessenewell

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