Investigating violations alleged in the college basketball corruption trials could be first big test for NCAA’s new rules

KANSAS CITY, Mo. – Possible NCAA investigations that emerge from the federal trial into college basketball could be the first evaluation of the association’s new enforcement model, Big 12 commissioner Bob Bowlsby suggested Wednesday.

In a wide-ranging interview with reporters at the Big 12’s basketball media day, Bowlsby laid out a possible scenario for how the NCAA begins investigating the significant possible NCAA violations revealed at the trial.

The NCAA and major conferences have stayed silent so far on the trial. Allegations of money changing hands between Adidas representatives, prospects and their families have emerged at the trial which is expected to conclude this week.

That’s the legal part of it. What’s in question is whether the NCAA will be interested in investigating some of the biggest name brands in college basketball including Kansas, the Big 12’s flagship program.

“I think it very well could be a test of the new [enforcement] model,” Bowlsby said.

The NCAA earlier this year announced significant changes to the old enforcement model.

  • As a condition of employment, college CEOs (presidents, chancellors) and athletic staff must have it written into their contracts full cooperation with investigations and enforcement.
  • In its investigations the NCAA can accept information that comes to light “in a court of law.” The first major utilization of that change could come in the federal trial.
  • Independent investigators and decision makers will be added. Previously, NCAA staff investigated all cases. The infractions committee was made up of administrative volunteers, and in some cases, retired judges.

“There is a new enforcement process that is in place, it is very  much in its embryonic stages,” Bowlsby said. “The significant aspect to that is the changes have been made have allowed for information to be used from other proceedings. That alone makes this a different environment.

“The fact that they’re willing to use documented facts from other proceedings, gives the enforcement force another tool.”

Also to be determined, whether the NCAA has the willpower and manpower to process a series of what could be monumental investigations. There are still federal cases to be heard in court next year. Assuming there are appeals of any convictions, the cases could extend for years.

If the NCAA goes down one rabbit hole with one school, doesn’t it have to investigate everything it finds? In this case we’re talking about some of the most recognizable names in college athletics.

“Whether or not the NCAA feels like it has to wait until all three trials are over, I’m not privy to those discussions,” Bowlsby said. “I fully expect there will be a follow on and investigation based on what has come out in the court case.

“The fact that the federal government is involved in it is significant. We’re not at the point where athletic organizations can get involved in it.”

Kansas, the No. 1 team in the AP’s preseason poll,  has come under withering suspicion. Evidence was introduced in New York that both head coach Bill Self and assistant coach Kurtis Townsend  exchanged texts with former Adidas rep Thomas Gassnola.

A further text exchange read in court seemed to indicate Townsend asking another Adidas consultant Merl Code Jr. what it would take to for the Jayhawks to land five-star prospect Zion Williamson, who eventually signed with Duke.

Gassnola and two other defendants have been charged in the New York trial with wire fraud. The texts were used by the defense to show Kansas coaches had knowledge of Gassnola recruiting players to Kansas.

Gassnola said in court Kansas coaches had no knowledge of his payments to the families of two KU players.

Self did not answer questions about the trial at the media day. The school announced Wednesday it is withholding Silvio De Sousa from Thursday’s exhibition pending an eligibility review. There is no timeline on when De Sousa could return according to sources.

“The NCAA has stayed out of [the trials] out of deference,” Bowlsby said. “It sounds as if they’re getting to the end of the process in New York.”

When asked whether the allegations have stained the conference’s reputation Bowlsby said, “Anytime there are accusations being made we take them very seriously. It goes right to the heart of the culture of the conference. I’m certainly not going to be prejudging the outcome.

I’ll react to those allegations when they become a matter of fact.”

Also to be determined, whether the NCAA uses the so-called Cam Newton Rule to prosecute schools in this case. After the former Auburn quarterback’s father solicited what was reported to be $180,000 for his services, the NCAA in 2010 changed its rules defining any family member soliciting money as an agent.

That could make Kansas and other schools involved, culpable if the NCAA deems those family members to have solicited funds.

“What gets said around court cases is not necessarily gospel,” Bowlsby added. “It’s at that point the conference will get involved. The conference and NCAA have deferred to the federal governing process.

“For all the reasons we love March Madness there is a lot of good. To the extent we can, we ought to fix it.”

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