Forty names, games, teams and minutiae making news in college basketball (maps to the basket sold separately in Raleigh, after North Carolina State scored 24 points in an entire regulation game Saturday):
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Last Friday, when the NCAA benched Kansas big man Silvio De Sousa (1) for all of this season and the next one, the outrage from Lawrence was both potent and predictable. Here is what coach Bill Self (2) said in a statement: “In my 30-plus years of coaching college basketball, I have never witnessed such a mean-spirited and vindictive punishment against a young man who did nothing wrong. To take away his opportunity to play college basketball is shameful and a failure of the NCAA. Silvio is a tremendous young man who absolutely deserves to be on the court with his teammates. This process took way too long to address these issues. We will support Silvio as he considers his options.”
Here is what Bill Self should have said, if he had a lot less gall and a lot more Self-awareness: “I apologize to Silvio De Sousa for putting him in this predicament. I’m sorry that T.J. Gassnola (3), a known bag man and now convicted felon, who I was in contact with during this recruitment and others, paid the money that helped bring Silvio to Kansas. We have said that Silvio didn’t know what was transpiring, but I should have. Everyone in college basketball was aware of T.J.’s reputation and how he operated. I acknowledge that it’s very hard to believe that someone with my experience and connections had no idea that he was working a deal to abruptly pull Silvio away from Maryland and send him to Kansas. Instead of blaming the NCAA for its ruling, I should blame myself for using T.J. Gassnola as an unofficial recruiter.”
Here is what Kansas athletic director Jeff Long (4) should have said, instead of joining Self in railing against the NCAA: “Silvio De Sousa’s ineligibility rests with us, not the NCAA. As was revealed in federal court, our head coach said in a text message to T.J. Gassnola, who was working recruiting angles as an Adidas bag man, ‘I’m happy with Adidas. Just got to get a couple real guys.’ Well, T.J. got us a guy, and he did it with a cash payment. We let a fox in the hen house, then acted surprised when he ate a chicken. That’s on us, and nobody else.”
Here is what Kansas president Douglas Girod (5) should have said, if he’d bothered to say anything at all: “As the head of the university, I’m here to accept responsibility for what’s happened within our basketball program and not fall back on the tired, easy, blame-the-NCAA lamentation. Silvio De Sousa has been declared ineligible, and playing him last year will almost certainly vacate our 2018 Final Four appearance. Billy Preston (6) was recruited to Kansas and never played a minute after his mother also was paid by T.J. Gassnola. Cliff Alexander (7) was declared ineligible during the 2015 NCAA tournament and never played again for our school. Assistant coach Kurtis Townsend (8) was quoted on a wiretap transcript discussing a housing-job-cash deal to land Zion Williamson (9). We should have taken a hard look at the way Kansas basketball does business long before now — but frankly, we didn’t want to.”
Self’s tantrum and the media outcry supporting De Sousa wasn’t surprising. What’s surprising is that Long excoriated the NCAA twice in 24 hours, which harkened back to the response of former USC athletic director Mike Garrett when his football program was under investigation. (That didn’t end well.) This seemingly is a sign that Long is all-in on Self, despite the red flags that were waved in federal court. But Long is protected either way, thanks to a creative contract that gives him an extension for the length of any “federal, state, NCAA, or conference investigation leading to restrictions or probation for its football, men’s basketball, women’s basketball or women’s volleyball athletic programs.” And it’s extended at $1.5 million per year.