The Four States NPR News Source
Play Live Radio
Next Up:
0:00
0:00
0:00 0:00
Available On Air Stations

KU men’s basketball must give up wins, Final Four banner for bribery and recruiting violations

Kansas men's basketball head coach Bill Self directs his team during the first half of the semifinals in the 2018 Final Four NCAA college basketball tournament against Villanova. The Jayhawk's tournament appearance that season will be vacated, according to a ruling Wednesday from the Independent Accountability Oversight Committee, and a banner in Allen fieldhouse marking the achievement will be removed.
David J. Phillip
/
AP
Kansas men's basketball head coach Bill Self directs his team during the first half of the semifinals in the 2018 Final Four NCAA college basketball tournament against Villanova. The Jayhawk's tournament appearance that season will be vacated, according to a ruling Wednesday from the Independent Accountability Oversight Committee, and a banner in Allen fieldhouse marking the achievement will be removed.

The decision from the NCAA's Independent Accountability Oversight Committee was six years in the making. The Independent Resolution Panel largely accepted the Jayhawks' self-imposed penalties from last season, when coaches Bill Self and Kurtis Townsend sat out the first four games.

Finally a ruling.

That’s the biggest takeaway from the University of Kansas athletics department after the NCAA-appointed Independent Accountability Resolution Panel placed the Jayhawks men’s basketball program on probation for the next three years.

The panel also ordered KU to vacate 15 wins from its spring 2018 campaign, when the Jayhawks reached the Final Four. KU lost in the semifinal that season to the eventual champion, Villanova. Any visible recognition of that achievement, such as the banner hanging in Allen Fieldhouse, will be taken down.

“It sucked!” said Bill Self about the dark cloud that has hovered over his basketball program the last six years. “But over a course of (about) 35 years (of coaching), don’t you expect to have some periods of time that aren’t that great?”

The review panel also accepted a set of self-imposed penalties that KU enforced last season, when Self and assistant coach Kurtis Townsend sat out the first four games.

Self guarded against reading too much into the implications of the NCAA accepting the school’s self-imposed penalties.

“I don’t think it implies a measure of guilt at all,” Self said. “What I think it implies is that we were doing everything possible to move forward and put this behind us.”

“At the same time, (we were) doing what was in the best interest of our present student-athletes,” he said.

KU Athletics Director Travis Goff said the Jayhawks’ self-imposed penalties were based on what they knew at the time from NCAA guidelines.

“It feels that (the self-imposed penalties) probably were on the heavier end of things, but we were willing to do so in order to give everyone the best chance to move forward,” said Goff.

A Kansas team manager carries basketballs during practice at the 2018 NCAA men's college basketball tournament in Omaha. The team was forced Wednesday to vacate its appearance in the tournament, over bribery and recruiting violations dating back to 2014.
Charlie Neibergall
/
AP
A Kansas team manager carries basketballs during practice at the 2018 NCAA men's college basketball tournament in Omaha. The team was forced Wednesday to vacate its appearance in the tournament, over bribery and recruiting violations dating back to 2014.

'The unknown' as a penalty

The NCAA based its investigation into the Jayhawks program on the 2017 FBI probe into college basketball corruption. As a result of the probe, high-profile head coaches like Rick Pitino at Louisville, Sean Miller at Arizona, and Will Wade at LSU lost their jobs.

The IARP was created in 2018, but schools accused of violations got to choose if they wanted those allegations decided by the panel.

In Oklahoma State’s case, for instance, the school chose to appeal to the NCAA for a verdict, instead of relying on a ruling from the IARP. The Cowboys lost their appeal and ended up banned from the 2022 NCAA Tournament.

But KU’s athletic leadership took a different tack, and adamantly defended Self.

He acknowledged Wednesday that the shine taken away from the 2018 trip to the Final Four wasn’t the only thing lost.

“The unknown was probably as much a penalty as anything,” said Self. “Going (through) a period of time that we did with the unknown, and not knowing how to address it or how to attack it.”

Still, Self and the Jayhawks managed to capture the 2022 NCAA championship with a group of players that wasn’t projected to go far, amid a cloud of negative publicity resulting from the NCAA’s Notice of Allegations leveled against KU.

The vacating of 15 victories puts KU as runner up to Kentucky on the all-time list of victories. The Wildcats, with 2,377 wins, now have a seven-game lead on the Jayhawks.

The ruling on KU is the panel’s last. In January, after heavy criticism over the length of time the panel took to hand down decisions, the IARP announced it would stop taking new cases. According to the NCAA, their existing open cases "required significant resources to bring those cases to resolution."

There is no option to appeal the decision.

Copyright 2023 KCUR 89.3. To see more, visit KCUR 89.3.

Greg Echlin