LAWRENCE — Despite the perception of some outsiders, Bill Self insists his Kansas men’s basketball program isn’t thumbing its nose at the NCAA.
Nor is it using any other finger, for that matter.
KU faces five Level 1 violations, including a lack of institutional control charge, that are detailed in a notice of allegations delivered to the university on Sept. 23. Citing testimony and documents at last year’s trial of three Adidas executives in the federal government’s probe into pay-for-play schemes in college basketball, the NCAA has kick-started a lengthy process that Self on Wednesday said he doesn’t expect will reach a conclusion until late next spring at the earliest.
KU has continued to make national headlines in the weeks since it received the notice of allegations.
Some pundits have interpreted a handful of subsequent events — Self wearing an Adidas shirt and a gold chain with dollar-sign symbol around his neck in a promotional video for Late Night in the Phog, and rapper Snoop Dogg’s provocative concert at that event, a performance that featured scantily dressed pole dancers and a prop money gun that shot fake hundred-dollar bills in the direction of KU players and recruits — as a figurative “middle finger” from the Jayhawks to the NCAA.
Not so, Self asserted.
For starters, the promotional video was no different than past skits he's done ahead of Late Night — "Anybody that knows me knows that I’m not smart enough to figure out some of those things that have transpired that would relate to anything other than just that moment," Self said.
"I just happened to be wearing an Adidas shirt, which happens to be our sponsor for the next 14 years that helped sponsor the event,” Self said. “It was innocently given to me and I just put it on.”
As for the Snoop Dogg concert, Self has expressed his displeasure for the type of entertainment provided but indicated Wednesday it was in no way an intentional slight directed toward the NCAA.
“I don’t know how an entertainer would in any way, shape or form be thought to be sticking it to anybody, including the NCAA, by (us) having an entertainer perform,” Self said. “I do not like the narrative that has been said concerning that with me, but I also understand that I can’t control what the media writes or their opinions. I do know, and people that know me know, that’s not factually true in any way, shape or form.”
As for the allegations, Self reiterated that KU is eager to “fight ’em,” continuing strong rhetoric he’s offered since the day the notice arrived on the school’s doorstep. The 17th-year Jayhawk coach said the university, athletic department and basketball program are all “aligned” in their response.
“There is still a story that hasn’t been told, and that would be our story,” Self said. “That will obviously be told in a way that is consistent with the NCAA process, and when it’s the right timing to do that and the public can be aware of that, then I very much look forward to that day. But right now we’re locked up as we wait for that opportunity.”
Regardless, the noise isn’t likely to die down at any point in a season featuring sky-high expectations.
The Jayhawks should be a top-five team when the Associated Press preseason poll is released in two weeks, par for the course but noteworthy given the inability of last year’s team to win a Big 12 championship or make it past the second round of the NCAA Tournament. Those Jayhawks were ranked No. 1 in the preseason poll.
Sophomore point guard Devon Dotson agreed it’d be fair to say KU is taking an “us-versus-the-world” mentality.
“I wouldn’t say it’s weighing on us at all,” Dotson said of the allegations. “I feel like it can add some motivation for this team, really just make us go harder. ... Just kind of all the heat the program’s been getting, we’re trying to stay together and try to be the best team we can possibly be.”
Self expects Dotson and the rest of his team to play “with a free mind.”
“I think there will be potential distractions out there because they will be asked the same questions all year long, and we’ve talked about that. That will make us tougher and harder and more together than we’ve ever been,” Self said. “But I don’t see this being a distraction for them. Not saying that it won’t enter their mindset, but I don’t see them seeing how this affects them and this year.”
California law ‘very, very positive step'
California Gov. Gavin Newsom on Sept. 30 signed into law the “Fair Pay To Play Act,” aimed at giving college athletes an avenue to make money from endorsement deals without losing their scholarships or amateur status. Lawmakers in New York, North Carolina, Florida and other states have discussed similar legislation, which could change the landscape of collegiate athletics.
Self supports the proposal, with one significant caveat.
“It’s a very, very positive step,” Self said. “I think it puts it on the front porch of everybody involved with the NCAA. I think it’s been long overdue to give student athletes the same opportunities that general students possess. I mean, there’s nothing that says a general student can’t go to school, be on scholarship and go work and make money on the side and do whatever. I think obviously student athletes would have more access to do different things in order to do that.
“So I think it’s a good first step. Legally where it ends up, I have no idea. The one thing that I would hope that does happen: I hope it’s a uniform law and become a rule. I don’t believe California or New York or South Carolina could have it and other states can’t. So it’ll be interesting how that all plays out, but I certainly think it puts, pressure may not be the right word, but it puts it in the NCAA’s court that we have to have the most serious of discussions to try to figure out what direction this needs to go.”
The Fair Pay To Play Act is set to go into effect in January 2023.