The Kansas Jayhawks are national champions.
Not that you need a reminder, but could it be short-lived?
The recent win lit the state on fire. Fans spent the night of the game (and the morning after) partying in the streets of Lawrence, celebrating the program’s fourth-ever college basketball men’s championship.
As Kansas sports betting comes closer to reality, there’s no doubt this title run will spark even more interest in fans placing bets on the Jayhawks.
While the enthusiasm surely has died out since their win, the excitement of winning the National Championship may soon be completely extinguished for the Jayhawks and their fans.
The NCAA is expected to finally hand down a punishment to Bill Self and the Jayhawks in the coming weeks. The punishment is due to illegal recruitment tactics that were first brought to light in a 2017 FBI investigation.
Many fear the program will be stripped of its most recent championship win, leaving the program with just three titles — and only one in the 21st century.
The ‘dark underbelly of college basketball’
In September of 2017, federal agents arrested a total of 10 people, made up of college coaches, sports agents, and company executives in a bribery and fraud case across the NCAA.
Acting US Attorney Joon H. Kim of the Southern District of New York described it as the “dark underbelly of college basketball.”
The investigation found several programs guilty of bribery, used as a way to lure recruits to their schools. “In exchange for bribes ranging from $13,000 to almost $100,000 each,” Kim said, “these coaches allegedly pushed particular managers and advisers on the players and their families.”
Kim went on to say:
“Coaches at some of the nation’s top programs soliciting and accepting cash bribes; managers and financial advisers circling blue-chip prospects like coyotes; and employees of one of the world’s largest sportswear companies secretly funneling cash to the families of high school recruits.”
This investigation led the NCAA to allege five Level I violations against the Kansas men’s basketball program in September of 2019. Included were specific allegations against head coach Bill Self and assistant Kurtis Townsend.
The NCAA alleged that Adidas, the school’s apparel sponsor, was making payments to prospective KU recruits.
Jayhawks play defense, on and off the court
Throughout this entire process, the University of Kansas has spent over $3 million defending itself against the NCAA allegations.
Kansas University officials claim that while the payments by Adidas to prospective players may have happened, they were kept out of the loop entirely.
“The university absolutely would accept responsibility if it believed that violations had occurred, as we have demonstrated with other self-reported infractions,” the school said.
The school seemed to double down on its support for Coach Self, as they offered him a five-year, $5.41 million rolling agreement that adds a year to the contract after every season. So, it’s a lifetime deal.
Self’s deal will remain intact regardless of the NCAA’s punishment, thanks to a clause that promises the organization:
“Will not terminate Head coach for cause due to any current infractions matter that involves conduct that occurred on or before the date of full execution of this Agreement.”
Dick Vitale says not to worry
The NCAA has yet to announce what punishments they will put on the Kansas men’s basketball program. And coach Dick Vitale is doing his best to ease Jayhawks fans’ nerves.
Vitale, who was an ESPN college basketball analyst for 41 years, has been criticizing the pace of the investigation since it officially began in 2019. Jokingly, Vitale tweeted on April 6 that the investigation wouldn’t end until Bill Self turned 70 — he is currently 59.
All jokes aside, Vitale is confident the NCAA will not strip the Jayhawks of their 2022 championship win. He tweeted earlier this month:
What can we expect from the NCAA?
Well, since this whole thing began in 2017, a few cases have been closed, and punishments have been handed down.
For example, Oklahoma State was banned from March Madness in 2022 after it was found guilty of bribery and fraud. So, most realistically, the NCAA may ban the Jayhawks from participating in next year’s tournament.
The LSU Tigers also received five Level 1 violations and fired their coach just days before the 2022 March Madness tournament.
The Jayhawks, however, have already made it clear they will not be parting ways with Coach Self anytime soon.
Photo by David J. Phillip/Associated Press