The FBI’s decision to continue to enforce the NCAA’s bylaws for them is shameful
The question that has hung over college basketball more than any other since the FBI first arrested 10 people in their investigation into corruption in the sport back on September 26th is this: When will Kansas get caught up in the mix?
Kansas, like Louisville, is one of the flagship programs sponsored by Adidas, so the reasoning stood that if Adidas was willing to pay players to play for Louisville, they would be doing the same for Kansas. On Tuesday evening, we got our answer, as the FBI added additional charges to Adidas executives Jim Gatto and Merl Code and a runner for an ex-NBA agent, Christian Dawkins, that looped the Jayhawks into this mess.
It started with a player that appears to be Billy Preston, a former McDonald’s All-American forward that never ended up playing for the Jayhawks this season. Preston’s mother, according to the documents released by the FBI on Tuesday evening, received roughly $90,000 from Adidas in exchange for her son’s commitment to Kansas.
But Preston never actually played for Kansas. The excuse that the Jayhawks used was a single-car accident that Preston was involved in prior to the start of the season, and an ensuing investigation into where the money came from to pay for the car that he was driving.
Preston is not what Kansas should be worried about.
Silvio De Sousa is.
A native of Angola, De Sousa was initially a member of the Class of 2018, but he graduated at the end of the first semester and enrolled at Kansas for the second semester to help bolster the front court depth of a team that desperately needed it. And while he averaged just 4.0 points and 3.7 boards, De Sousa did play a big role in Kansas winning the Big 12 tournament -- starting center Udoka Azubuike did not play because of a knee injury and De Sousa averaged 10.0 points and 9.7 boards in the three wins -- and grabbed 10 boards and played some critical minutes as the Jayhawks upset Duke in the Elite Eight.
He didn’t, however, play any role in Kansas winning their 14th straight Big 12 regular season title, and in the end, he may end up being the player that costs Bill Self his streak.
Because, according to the FBI, Adidas paid at least $20,000 to De Sousa’s guardian to earn what was a surprise commitment in late-August of 2017, money that was earmarked to pay back another shoe company who had already invested in De Sousa to ensure a commitment to a program that they sponsored. De Sousa played for an Under Armour sponsored AAU team and high school team and was long considered a lock for Maryland, Under Armour’s flagship basketball program.
And that is where Kansas could end up being in trouble.
As we’ve seen before, if the NCAA can determine that a player was actually ineligible at the time that he played in games, they can go back and vacate those wins. That’s what they did to Memphis in 2008, when Derrick Rose was ruled retroactively ineligible because of an issue with an SAT score; that’s why Self and Kansas, in the NCAA’s eyes, did not actually beat anyone when they won the 2008 national title. It happened with Louisville just last year, when the 2013 national title banner came down because players were ruled retroactively ineligible for receiving “impermissible benefits” in the form of strippers and sex workers from an assistant coach.
To be clear, Kansas is not the only school and Self is not the only coach that may be in trouble after this latest document was released. The FBI also determined that a player that appears to be Dennis Smith Jr. received at least one payment of $40,000 from Adidas, funneled through a member of the N.C. State coaching staff, to ensure that he would remain committed to the Wolfpack. Mark Gottfried, who is currently the head coach at CSUN, was the head coach of N.C. State at the time.
That’s not a good look for CSUN. It’s also CSUN and an N.C. State era that Wolfpack fans would be happy to see erased from the history books.
Which is why Kansas is who everyone is talking about.
This may be the end of the Kansas Big 12 title streak.
But that’s not really the story here.
Because my biggest takeaway from reading even more legal documents pertaining to this FBI investigation is this: What in the world is the FBI doing enforcing the NCAA’s arcane, made-up and exploitative rulebook for them?
The scheme described herein served to defraud the relevant universities in several ways. First, because the illicit payments to the families of student-athletes described herein rendered those student-athletes ineligible to participate in Division I athletics, scheme participants conspired to conceal these payments from the universities, thereby causing them to provide or agree to provide athletic-based scholarships and financial aid under false and fraudulent pretenses.
In doing so, the scheme participants interfered with the universities’ ability to control their assets and created a risk of tangible economic harm to the universities, including ... the possible disgorgement of certain profit-sharing by the NCAA.
Put another way, the victims of these “crimes” were the universities because these players hid the fact that they were ineligible, received scholarships that NCAA rules stipulate they should not have received and put the universities at risk of not receiving their share of the $1 billion brought in by the NCAA tournament this season.
Think about that for a second.
The FBI is out here spending all this time and all these taxpayer dollars investigating NCAA violations.
Each of the universities here, each of the “victims” in these investigations, banked eight or nine figures off of the work and the likeness of these unpaid amateurs.
And they are victims because those unpaid amateurs got themselves a payday that amounts to a week or two of NCAA president Mark Emmert’s $1.9 million salary.
If the FBI really wanted to investigate a criminal issue that matters, they should look into the potential illegalities in the NCAA restricting the ability of these athletes to profit off of their own name and their own likeness.
Until then, they should get the hell out of college basketball and let the NCAA continue to try -- and continue to fail -- to enforce their own shameful bylaws.