Yesterday, Monday, Oct. 15, text messages between Kansas Jayhawks basketball coach Bill Self and former Adidas consultant T.J. Gassnola were released to the public. These messages were used as government evidence in court that Adidas was illegally facilitating money to ensure that valuable college basketball recruits signed with the University of Kansas. This report was first broken by ESPN’s Mark Schlabach.
I am a fan of the Jayhawks. Some would even say I’m more than a fan. Both of my parents attended the University of Kansas. My father wrote the original petition to construct the statue of Phog Allen that currently sits outside of Allen Fieldhouse, one of the most historical places in basketball.
So, how do I feel about Bill Self’s corruption? I’m happy. I’m so happy. It’s about time that someone exposed the best college basketball programs for what they are. Am I still going to root for KU? Absolutely. But at least now it’s public knowledge that teams like Arizona, Michigan State, Kansas, and Duke get their best players at a price.
All the money is off the books. Billy Preston, Kansas’ former five-star commit, didn’t play a single minute last year because the NCAA quickly found out that Preston wrecked a car on campus that was illegally purchased for him in a different state. Also in the government’s text message dump were Preston’s conversations with his mother involving the NCAA questioning the legitimacy of the vehicle.
“Tell him you don’t know where it was bought, ” a text from Preston’s mother, Nicole Player, said. “[I don’t care] what they say to you…. YOU DON’T KNOW.”
This evidence is damning and easily proves Self’s guiltiness. Preston was going to be one of KU’s best players last year; instead, he’ll never play a minute in a Jayhawks uniform. He turned pro, in my opinion, to get away from the NCAA and start earning money legally. And this stinks because I really was excited to see Preston play. If he doesn’t crash that car before the season starts, Kansas might have beaten Villanova in the Final Four and probably would have won the National Championship. There’d be banners, parades, and more memorabilia for my dorm room. But again, I’m happy. There is concrete evidence that exposes Power Five conference Division I Basketball for what it is: a money-making machine that has zero tolerance for consultants that play by the rules. Big name coaches need the best recruits, no matter the price.
Here’s another example: It’s mid-November of 2017. Kansas Basketball looks good, but they lack size. Udoka Azubuike, the Jayhawks’ big man, needs help. He’s repeatedly banged up, and they don’t have any other reliable, physical big men. Less than three months later, Silvio De Sousa, a 6’9’’, 245-pound forward from Angola, is playing significant minutes for the Jayhawks. How does that happen: a senior in high school gets called up, and a few months later, he’s playing on one of the best basketball teams in the country? Money.
Adidas consultant T.J. Gassnola made sure De Sousa joined the Jayhawks. He promised to pay De Sousa’s guardian, Fenny Falmange, $20,000 to relieve Falmange from a pay-to-play scheme in Maryland. So, in this case, there seems to be two layers of corruption.
I remember reading on my phone that Kansas was going to get another big man. I was ecstatic. I really thought it was our year to win it all. Did I think De Sousa was graduating high school early and coming to KU completely legally? Of course not. With Bill Self’s history and my understanding of how Power Five conference sports work, I knew there was no way De Sousa happened to land on KU’s roster in such a short time span. As much as it pains me to admit, noted Wesleyan football hater Ben Strauss co-authored a brilliant book titled “Indentured” that details the systematic corruption behind major Division I NCAA sports. It’s a deep insight into that world that I highly recommend.
Overall, the corruption of Kansas basketball has led me to two conclusions. One is that I despise the way NCAA recruiting is conducted. I think the one-and-done rule is ruining the college game, mostly for fan bases. The major programs don’t have real teams anymore; it’s just one or two stars with their sights already on the NBA accompanied by a few role players. There used to be visible chemistry in great teams, even a decade ago. Now, the best teams rely mostly on talent. Very rarely does a team like Loyola Chicago come in like last year with a few key, hard-working seniors that shake up the NCAA Tournament. The big-name programs like Kansas, Duke, North Carolina, and Michigan State feel like they’ve gotten away from their claim to fame: utilizing a great coach led a great, fundamental basketball team towards a title. Now, it feels like the head coach’s main job is to recruit the best talent with no regards for NCAA regulations.
The other conclusion I’ve come to is that I’m going to continue to root for Kansas no matter what. Unfortunately, it seems like most great programs now have been caught up in government investigations, and now my team has. I’m not going to boycott Kansas because they orchestrated getting a kid a car. Wilt Chamberlain used to drive around Lawrence, Kan., in a bright red convertible that the university most certainly had a hand in giving him. Corruption has been going on for a long time. It’s sad, but it’s true. The real situation hasn’t deterred my bias towards the program. They’re the Hawks. I didn’t fall in love with them because of championships or Big 12 titles. It was my parents, my friends, and my neighbors. It was my dad taking me to games when I was young so I could hear the roar of Allen Fieldhouse. I love the basketball side of Kansas, so I’m happy that the corrupt side was exposed. Now, hurry up and punish Self and the university so I can yell, “Rock Chalk,” at my dorm room TV in a few weeks.
Ben Owen can be reached at email@example.com.