The NCAA's enforcement staff has charged the University of Kansas with lack of institutional control and Jayhawks basketball coach Bill Self with head coach responsibility violations.
Those are among the most serious charges levied against Kansas and Self in an NCAA notice of allegations the university received Monday. The Jayhawks are charged with five Level I violations, the most serious under NCAA rules, as well as two Level II violations related to the school's football program under former coach David Beaty.
Under NCAA rules, Kansas officials have 90 days to respond to the charges. In a release, the school noted "it is already clear from an initial review that the University will fiercely dispute in detail much of what has been presented."
Self, 56, has guided Kansas to at least a share of 14 consecutive Big 12 regular-season titles, three Final Four appearances and the 2008 NCAA championship. He was president of the National Association of Basketball Coaches in 2017-18.
"By the NCAA's own admission through its public statements early this summer, it's no secret that there is tremendous pressure on the NCAA to respond to the federal court proceedings involving college basketball. ... In its haste and attempt to regain control, the enforcement staff has created a false narrative regarding me and our basketball program," Self said in a statement. "The narrative is based on innuendo, half-truths, misimpressions and mischaracterizations. ... I will strenuously defend myself and the program, but I will respect the process and will not speak to the details of the case."
NCAA bylaw 22.214.171.124 states that a "head coach is presumed to be responsible for the actions of all staff members who report, directly or indirectly, to the head coach. The head coach will be held accountable for violations in the program unless he or she can rebut the presumption of responsibility."
Under NCAA rules, a head coach can receive a show-cause order and be suspended up to an entire season for Level I violations and up to half a season for Level II violations. The length of the suspension is determined by the committee on infractions and depends on the "severity of the violation(s) committed, the level of the coach's involvement and any other aggravating or mitigating factors."
The enforcement staff indicated in the notice of allegations that it "believed a hearing panel could enter a show-cause order" against Self for his involvement in three of the Level I allegations. The enforcement staff indicated that Kansas assistant Kurtis Townsend could receive a show-cause order in two of those allegations.
Responding to the allegations regarding Self, Kansas said in a statement that "voluminous evidence demonstrates uncontestably that he did, in fact, promote an atmosphere of compliance and fully monitor his staff. The University firmly and fully supports Coach Self and his staff."
"The NCAA has not alleged that Coach Self was involved in or was knowledgeable about any illicit payments to recruits or student-athletes," Self's attorneys, Scott Tompsett and Bill Sullivan, said in a statement. "The NCAA has not alleged that Coach Self or anyone on his staff was involved in or had knowledge of any illicit payments. If illicit payments were made, Coach Self and his staff were completely unaware of them."
Of utmost concern to the NCAA enforcement staff is the Kansas coaching staff's relationship with Adidas and its employees. The sneaker company was at the center of a federal investigation into bribes and other corruption in college basketball over the past two years. The Jayhawks are the company's flagship program and signed a 14-year, $196 million apparel and sponsorship extension in April.
Earlier this month, former Adidas consultant T.J. Gassnola was sentenced to probation and fined for his role in pay-for-play schemes to steer recruits to Kansas and other Adidas-sponsored programs.
During closing arguments in a federal criminal case in New York in October, an attorney for former Adidas executive James Gatto told a jury that his client approved a $20,000 payment to current Kansas player Silvio De Sousa's guardian only after Self and Townsend requested the payment through Gassnola.
Gatto, former Adidas consultant Merl Code and aspiring business manager Christian Dawkins were found guilty on felony charges of wire fraud and conspiracy to commit wire fraud. The three were accused of paying money from Adidas to the families of recruits to ensure they signed with Adidas-sponsored schools and then with the sneaker company and certain financial planners and agents once they turned pro.
Gatto was accused of working with Gassnola to facilitate $90,000 from Adidas to former Jayhawks recruit Billy Preston's mother and agreeing to pay $20,000 to Fenny Falmagne, De Sousa's guardian, to help him "get out from under" a pay-for-play scheme to attend Maryland, which is sponsored by Under Armour.
The NCAA also included allegations that Gassnola provided $15,000 to an unidentified individual to give to the mother of recruit Deandre Ayton, who signed with Arizona, and that Gassnola "communicated in a text message to Self that he had let Self down" when Ayton signed with the Wildcats. That information had previously been disclosed in a criminal trial.
The NCAA alleges that Gassnola provided an impermissible benefit to another recruit, whose name was redacted, "in the form of an indeterminate amount of cash through a wire transfer." Former Adidas consultant Dan Cutler is accused of having impermissible contact with a recruit and promising that he and Adidas would ensure that the recruit's "parents could attend his games by providing financial assistance for their travel expenses."
The notice of allegations also includes details of a telephone call between Code and Townsend, in which Code says he met with a player's family and "learned recruiting information and what it would take for [the player] to commit" to the Jayhawks. Sources told ESPN that the player was former Duke star Zion Williamson. Details of that telephone call were shared with the judge by an attorney during one of the criminal trials.
Gassnola testified during the trial that Self and his assistants weren't aware of the alleged payments.
On Sept. 19, 2017, three days before Kansas announced the 14-year extension with Adidas, Gassnola texted Self and thanked him for helping the sponsorship deal get done.
Self responded: "I'm happy with Adidas. Just got to get a couple real guys."
Gassnola replied: "In my mind, it's KU, bill self. Everyone else fall into line. Too f---ing bad. That's what's right for Adidas basketball. And I know I am RIGHT. The more you win, have lottery pics and you happy. That's how it should work in my mind."
Gassnola, a former youth basketball director from Springfield, Massachusetts, pleaded guilty in April 2018 to conspiracy to commit wire fraud for his role in the alleged pay-for-play schemes. He testified during the October trial as part of his cooperation agreement with federal prosecutors.
The NCAA previously alleged that Gassnola and Adidas were representatives of NC State's athletics interests when Gassnola provided $40,000 in cash to then-assistant coach Orlando Early in November 2015 to ensure star guard Dennis Smith Jr.'s commitment to the Wolfpack.
A footnote in the notice of allegations sent to Kansas states that "Adidas is a representative of the institution's athletics interest," which is how the NCAA defines boosters.
The university disputes this characterization, saying in a statement that it "emphatically rejects the assertion that Adidas and Adidas employees and associates were boosters and agents of the University (as defined by NCAA legislation) during the period of the alleged violations and therefore acting on the University's behalf when they engaged in alleged violations of NCAA bylaws."
Josephine Potuto, a professor at the University of Nebraska College of Law and a former chair of the NCAA Division I Committee on Infractions, said a corporation such as Adidas might fit under the NCAA's definition of boosters.
Under NCAA rules, an individual or entity can be identified as a booster if they "assisted or [have] been requested by the university staff to assist in the recruitment of prospective student-athletes."
"Typically, when you think about a booster, you think of somebody who is trying to assist a particular school," Potuto said while not specifically talking about Kansas or any of the other schools involved in the federal government's investigation into college basketball corruption. "That's the normal definition and the normal way you think about it, but it's not exclusive.
"To the extent that one of the shoe companies was providing payments to a prospect or to the family members of a prospect, and the interest was getting the prospect to attend a particular school, that would sound as though that would fall within that [booster] provision."
David Ridpath, president of the Drake Group, a think tank dedicated to protecting academic integrity in college sports, and an associate professor of sports business at Ohio University, said it's too early to tell whether the NCAA can make a dent in cleaning up college basketball corruption.
"[The notice of allegations] is not surprising," Ridpath said. "But it's one thing to allege and another to know what's going to be the end game. I think we saw that in the North Carolina case [involving alleged academic misconduct]. I have my doubts that the membership really truly, truly wants to punish these schools and punish coaches like Bill Self. At the end of the day, whether he knew or didn't know, he should have known or did know. My guess is Bill Self probably knew a lot more than he's letting on.
"If we're going to have these rules, they need to be enforced. Until we see the end game, I don't know how worried Kansas should be about these allegations because it still has to go through the infractions process. The committee on infractions has shown in the past that it's very reticent to punish some schools. We'll have to wait and see. If they're doing their job, Kansas should be absolutely eviscerated."
ESPN's Jeff Borzello contributed to this report.