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A few thoughts on what the Bill Self, Kurtis Townsend suspensions and other self-imposed sanctions might mean for Kansas

Kansas head coach Bill Self views his team during practice for the men's Final Four NCAA college basketball tournament, Friday, April 1, 2022, in New Orleans.

Kansas head coach Bill Self views his team during practice for the men's Final Four NCAA college basketball tournament, Friday, April 1, 2022, in New Orleans. by Brynn Anderson/Associated Press

As the years have passed and the schools involved with the NCAA’s Independent Accountability Resolutions Process have waited — and waited — for their cases to be resolved, the landscape of the penalties that are levied in infractions cases has shifted.

For years, it was a given that the schools and teams were the ones that paid the price for any misdoings by anyone associated with a given program. And while that indirectly impacted the head coaches, most penalties remained a collective punishment. Postseason bans, significant loss of scholarships and the like were all how the NCAA got justice.

Fast-forward to Wednesday, when Kansas men’s basketball coach Bill Self and longtime assistant Kurtis Townsend received self-imposed four-game suspensions to open the upcoming season, and it’s clear that the goal in today’s world is to protect the players from paying the price for something many, if not all, of them had nothing to do with in the first place.

So Self and Townsend serve the suspensions and now we wait to see what comes next. Regardless of what that may be, this move seems like the most fair thing to the Dajuan Harrises, Gradey Dicks, KJ Adamses and Jalen Wilsons of the world.

Being without their Hall of Fame head coach for a few games — or longer if it ever comes to that — will certainly feel a little weird, but it’s not as if the Jayhawks can’t power through it. There are capable coaches on the bench who will run the show with Self and Townsend sidelined, and, if we’re being honest, the players themselves do a fair amount of that out on the court anyway.

IARP officials have even said that they would prefer to not punish the current players, a stance put into practice earlier this year when Memphis received probation, a public reprimand and a fine but no postseason ban in its IARP case.

The Memphis case differed in many ways from the rest of the cases of the schools on the IARP track, but if that goes down as the start of a trend to protect the current players it’s significant all the same.

A couple of hours after KU announced it was self-imposing sanctions, news broke that a ruling in Louisville’s IARP case is expected Thursday.

If it comes, Louisville will be the third school to receive a final ruling from the IARP, joining Memphis and NC State.

It will be interesting to see what that includes and if anything about what might come of KU’s case can be learned from the Louisville ruling.

Even with Wednesday’s news, a ruling for Kansas still seems pretty far in the distance, and it’s still anybody’s guess how severe or light it will be.

Here are a few more quick thoughts on what Wednesday’s self-imposed sanctions mean for the future of the Kansas men’s basketball program:

• As of today, it’s hard to know exactly how KU’s move to self-impose sanctions will be received by the IARP. Both points of view make sense.

It’s logical to think that these penalties could lessen whatever penalties may or may not be a part of the IARP’s final ruling in KU’s case. And it’s also logical to think that the IARP, as an independent body, would make its ruling based on its findings and nothing else.

Beyond that, there’s also the point of view that says the long, drawn-out case in and of itself has been a punishment of sorts for Kansas, which has seen recruiting impacted and had to operate on a daily basis with the dark cloud of the investigation hanging around the program.

Regardless of how it’s perceived, I’m not sure KU even cares at this point. As stated in the release announcing the self-imposed sanctions, KU did this in an effort to move the case forward.

For years, those involved with this case have just wanted to put it behind them once and for all. There’s no doubt that KU still believes strongly that what was in the notice of allegations originally sent by the NCAA was over the top and full of, what Self once called, “half-truths.” Self, KU’s administration and the leaders of the university itself have made it clear that they’ll defend that position to the end of time.

Maintaining that stance does not mean that KU is not interested in doing whatever it can to bring this case to a close. And that’s what Wednesday’s announcement was all about.

KU controls the narrative at this point. Not only does it continue to defend and support Self and the way the men’s basketball program is run, but it also now has created a reality where, no matter what the IARP ruling is, KU will have been punished in some capacity. That’s not nothing.

I wouldn’t exactly call KU a sympathetic figure here. All one needs to do is hop on Twitter to see that’s not the case.

But the way this has all played out, with Kansas aggressively defending itself early in the process and now giving some ground in an effort to get it all over with, has probably made the Kansas program pretty relatable to college basketball fans across the country who are equally tired of hearing about all of this stuff and seeing nothing happen.

• Here’s one I’m not sure anybody has mentioned, and I think it’s fairly significant.

By docking the program three total scholarships over the next three years — presumably one per year — I think KU is all but guaranteeing that Self will be around for at least that long.

We know he has a lifetime contract at KU and probably will be the head coach of the Jayhawks for as long as he wants to be. But I can’t see him leaving while his replacement would have the deck stacked against him by operating with one less scholarship.

Self has said repeatedly that he will not run from KU’s infractions case, and, after initially signaling that he might be thinking about getting out of the game shortly before the FBI investigation surfaced, Self’s resolve and a couple of the teams and success he has enjoyed recently seem to have him more energized than ever.

I’m sure he’ll leave someday. But if you’re KU, the longer you can put that day off the better off you’ll be.

• Speaking of the scholarship ding, this is a big deal because it limits the talent KU can bring it, but it’s also very manageable.

Consider this: In each of the past seven seasons, Kansas has had at least one scholarship player who did not play and never really sniffed the court for any regular playing time. Cam Martin (redshirt) and Kyle Cuffe Jr. last season; Tyon Grant-Foster, Latrell Jossell and Gethro Muscadin in 2020-21; Dajuan Harris Jr. (redshirt) in 2019-20; Silvio De Sousa (NCAA trouble) in 2018-19; Charlie Moore (redshirt) and Billy Preston (NCAA trouble) in 2017-18; Sam Cunliffe and Malik Newman (transfers) in 2016-17 and Dwight Coleby Jr. (transfer) in 2015-16.

You have to go back to the 2014-15 season to find a Kansas roster that used all of its scholarship players semi-regularly. And, even then, guys like Hunter Mickelson and freshman guard Svi Mykhailiuk probably wished they had played more.

The point is, Self has never been one to use a 12- or 13-man rotation on a regular basis. So, while operating with 12 scholarships instead of 13 for the next few years will limit the talent that Kansas can bring in, it’s not like it will cripple the Jayhawks on game days.

Comments

Doug Cramer

Seems like the university is admitting Self and Townsend lost their integrity. Probably should just proceed with life as normal until IARP decides what they want to do. I just don’t think IARP cares if KU penalizes Self or not. They will do what they want to do anyway.

1 month ago

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Matt Tait

I think you're probably right but we won't know for sure until a ruling comes out... Whenever that day comes. Even then, we'll probably never *really* know whether the IARP's final ruling was impacted by KU's self-imposed penalties or not.

The IARP folks certainly don't have to say either way.

1 month ago

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Rodney Crain

I agree Doug. Unless doing this actually softens the blow. There is no reason to think this will speed up the NCAA/IARP. There is no reason to think it will soften the blow either.

What it looks like now is we are admitting fault, after 5 years of defending ourselves. Doing so with the intent of speeding up the process with an entity that moves at their own speed regardless.

Matt is reaching for straws trying to explain why this happened. Any spin, or anyone who thinks this is good news is doing the same thing. Gaslighting this just does not fly.

1 month ago

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Matt Tait

Not spin or even remotely passing it off as good news. Not by any means. Mostly just a reaction to what happened and what it might mean. *Might* is the key word there.

We'll learn a little more tonight when we can ask Self a few questions (assuming he can/chooses to answer them. But we'll learn the most when the IARP ruling comes out. Whenever that is.

Until then it's all guesswork and speculation.

KU must think it will soften the blow and/or speed up the process a little or it probably would not have done it. That's really the only thing that seems to be certain here.

Whether it works or not is a whole other matter and still a big question.

1 month ago

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Pamela Shanks

I agree Matt. KU must have some sense that this will either move this along or soften the blow. Do you think that there is any chance that this is the result of on-going discussions with the committee? Why NOW seems to be one of the big questions. What changed and caused this decision to be made? After all this time, I can't imagine KU doing this on a gamble. Let's hope there is solid reasoning/information behind this decision.

1 month ago

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Matt Tait

It's hard to know if this was something that came from their communication in the process or not. There's no doubt that they have had several discussions with the people making the ruling — or at least their attorneys have — but I don't know enough about the process (it is still new and going away) to know whether they would provide this kind of guidance or not.

On one hand, that makes sense. On the other, I could see them saying, "It might help you but we're not going to say either way."

In the long run, their ruling should be based on their investigation and its findings. A move like this certainly could impact that, but it's hard to say if it absolutely will.

1 month ago

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David Gisi

I tend to think they're doing this because they've gotten some feedback indicating what the final ruling is going to look like and they're taking proactive steps accordingly. Aside from that being the case, I see no good reason to do any of this. The Memphis case certainly was different from the others, but honestly so is KU's. No coach at Kansas was accused of a crime as in the case of several other schools. No coach at Kansas was accused of directly paying anyone. The only part of the NCAA allegations that ever concerned me was the statement regarding the Adidas access to Preston and his family by KU. It stated that Adidas reps were allowed at the same hotel with the Prestons and lends at least some credibility to the idea that Adidas was viewed, even by KU staff, as a booster and not just a sponsor. Everything else is innuendo, some of which is even refuted by the FBI, sworn testimony and court ruling.

1 month ago

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Dale Kroening

Louisville and former coach Pitino got a slap on the wrist today. This bolds well for KU whenever their decision finally does come down . Most likely a couple years probation , a fine , and some light restrictions on Self/Townsend . Be glad when this is over .

1 month ago

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Matt Tait

Here's that story for those interested...

https://www2.kusports.com/news/2022/n...

1 month ago

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Dale Rogers

Matt, how does the allegations against Louisville compare to those against Kansas? That might give me a feel as to what to expect for KU, if the allegations are similar.

1 month ago

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Matt Tait

They're definitely similar. Way more so than comparing KU to Memphis. But it's unique because each case is a little different and the panels that are investigating/ruling on each one are also different.

That's why I've always cautioned against trying to take too much from one ruling and apply it to the next. But the trend we are seeing of the IARP not interested in punishing current players certainly seems like it makes it much more likely that a postseason ban will not be a part of KU's ruling either.

Time will tell on that, and nothing would surprise me at this point. But that's the biggest thing I'm taking away from the previous IARP rulings.

1 month ago

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