KANSAS CITY — As he took to the stage Wednesday morning at Big 12 media day, Kansas coach Bill Self was at least able to chuckle at the vitriol his team will receive at opposing arenas during the 2019-20 season.
“I think we've probably given some rabid fan bases some ammunition to help in some areas to fire them up,” Self said with a laugh.
That’s certainly one way of summing up Kansas’ turbulent early fall. The Jayhawks were served with a notice of allegations from the NCAA a month ago that detailed three Level I allegations against the program and a head coach responsibility charge against the Hall of Fame coach stemming from the federal college basketball corruption trial. Oh, and there was also the Snoop Dogg at Late Night fiasco that involved stripper poles, flying fake money and a Kansas apology for allegedly not knowing exactly what the show would entail.
Level I allegations are the most serious allegations in the NCAA’s tiered system of violations. Each of the allegations against Kansas carries a potential postseason ban and the charge against Self comes with a potential season-long suspension.
As soon as the notice of allegation was served, Kansas fought back against the NCAA’s “false narrative.” Self retained that confidence in a muted form on Wednesday, and said that he planned on being the coach of the Jayhawks for the foreseeable future.
“I feel totally confident — I feel 100 percent confident — that I’m going to be the coach here for a long time. I feel totally confident that I’m not the coach here for a long time it will be because I choose to be not the coach.”
“I won’t cut and run. I know what’s transpired and even better yet I know what has not transpired. I’m not running from this.”
Kansas isn’t running from the fight, either. The school was vociferous in its defense of Self and the basketball program after the NOA was dropped. That’s a potentially risky maneuver. The NCAA has both ramped up the severity of its penalties in recent months while also typically softening penalties for programs that have cooperated with compliance investigations in the past.
Self, however, wouldn’t directly address questions about the notice of allegations on Wednesday. When he was asked point-blank by a reporter if he had ever arranged or requested payments for players or recruits, Self conceded it was a “fair question” but wouldn’t answer it directly, instead referring back to that September statement that said, “every student-athlete who has ever played for me and their families know we follow the rules” while saying that the NOA was “unsubstantiated.”
“It’s a fair question and it has been answered,” Self said. “And I have answered that and adamantly so and I’m not going to rehash what I’ve answered. I have been told that there is no other comments after the school and myself did their initial comment after the NOA there will not be any other comments until the proper time comes.”
The question was in reference to former Adidas employee T.J. Gassnola, a longtime acquaintance of Self and the guy who Self once told via text that Kansas “just got to get a couple of real guys.” Gassnola testified that he paid $89,000 to former Kansas player Billy Preston’s mother and $20,000 to the guardian of Kansas player Silvio De Sousa.
‘Kansas will always prevail’
A year ago at Big 12 media day, Self sat at a table with a Kansas-logoed tablecloth and answered questions while a jury in New York found two Adidas executives and an aspiring agent guilty of paying the family of recruit Brian Bowen to steer him to Louisville. One of the Adidas executives, Jim Gatto, was also found guilty of a charge relating to Kansas basketball.
In that trial, the transcript of a conversation between Adidas’ Merl Code and Kansas assistant Kurtis Townsend surrounding Kansas’ pursuit of Zion Williamson was released. In it, Code says Willamson’s stepfather was “asking for opportunities from an occupational perspective, he’s asking for cash in the pocket and he’s asking for housing for him and his family.”
Townsend responded that “I’ve got to just try to work and figure out a way because if that’s what it takes to get him here for 10 months, we’re going to have to do it some way.”
This year, Self said he was confident that Kansas would come out of the NCAA’s investigative process victorious. Or at least with its reputation intact.
“Kansas will always prevail. Always. And I’d like to think that I will as well. But I think the school is obviously much more important than the individual is.
There is 100 percent confidence that Kansas will prevail and it will not lose any of the tradition-rich thoughts of this university and what it’s meant to our game. That will not have an effect.”
Earlier in the day, Self said his coaching staff was positioned to “have one of our better early signing periods we've had in a long time” on the recruiting front. But he did concede that at least one recruit didn’t commit to the Jayhawks because of the pending NCAA action against the school.
“We have,” Self said. “But we’ve also lost guys for different reasons in years past too.”
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Nick Bromberg is a writer for Yahoo Sports
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