LAWRENCE, Kansas — Kansas suspended Hall of Fame coach Bill Self and top assistant Kurtis Townsend for the first four games of the season Wednesday and imposed several recruitment restrictions as part of the fallout from a lengthy FBI probe into college basketball corruption.
Norm Roberts will be the reigning champions’ acting coach starting with Monday night’s opener against Omaha. Self and Townsend will also miss games against North Dakota State and Southern Utah, as well as a high-profile showdown between the No. 5 Jayhawks and No. 7 Duke in the Champions Classic.
Self and Townsend will join the team to face North Carolina State at Battle 4 Atlantis on November 23 in the Bahamas.
The school had already banned the two coaches from off-campus recruitment last summer. It will also reduce the number of official visits during the 2023-24 academic year, reduce the total number of scholarships by three over a three-year period, and reduce the number of allowable recruitment days by 13 days in the coming year.
There were no official attendees for Late Night at the Phog, the annual season-opening celebration, this year.
“Coach Townsend and I accept and support KU’s decision,” Self said in a statement. “We’re in good hands with Coach Roberts and I’m confident he’ll do a great job on the bench leading our team. I’m proud of how our boys handled this situation and I look forward to returning to the bench for our game against NC State.
The Kansas violations case stems from a 2017 federal investigation that resulted in the conviction of executives at a shoe company, a middleman who worked with them, and several assistant trainers.
Kansas was among the schools named in the case, along with Arizona, LSU, Louisville and NC State.
The Kansas case hinged on whether representatives from apparel company Adidas were seen as boosters – the school claims they were not – when two of them arranged payments to potential recruits. The school has never denied that the payments were made, only that it was aware of the incentives.
Auburn received four years of probation through a traditional NCAA violation process for a similar case, but Kansas joined other schools to challenge its case to an independent accountability review panel that was part of former Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice’s reform proposals in 2018 the sport.
The panel operates outside of NCAA jurisdiction and was designed to handle particularly complex cases. But its work has been painfully slow — NCAA President Mark Emmert conceded the process is taking “far too long” — and Kansas decided to impose restrictions on itself while continuing to wait for the IARP to announce its decision.
“We hope these difficult self-imposed sanctions will help bring the case to a conclusion,” Kansas athletic director Travis Goff said in a statement, declining to comment further. “Until then, we will remain focused on supporting our outstanding basketball students and coaches in men’s basketball.”
Kansas had already doubled Self by signing a new contract in April 2021.
Under the terms of the five-year contract, Self gets an additional year after the conclusion of each season – effectively a lifetime contract. It guaranteed him $5.41 million a year with a base salary of $225,000, a $2.75 million professional services contract, and a $2.435 million annual retention bonus.
Kansas head coach Bill Self applauds last season’s national championship team during Late Night in the Phog, the school’s annual NCAA college basketball opener, at Allen Fieldhouse.AP
The contract includes a clause stating that the school cannot terminate Self for cause “due to current violations involving conduct that occurred at or before” the contract was signed. And while he would have to forfeit half his base salary and professional services salary while serving a Big 12 or NCAA suspension, it’s unclear if that includes self-imposed suspensions like the one imposed Wednesday.
“Throughout this process, we have had ongoing discussions with all parties involved,” Kansas Chancellor Douglas A. Girod said in a statement. “We believe the actions we are announcing today bring us closer to resolving this matter.”
What makes the Kansas case even more complex, however, is the rapidly changing landscape of college sports. Some of the alleged violations from the 2017 investigation would no longer violate the rules that follow the name, image and likeness laws, which have allowed athletes of all sports to make money off of the field from endorsements and other business arrangements.
Meanwhile, the days of postseason bans and crippling grant cuts appear to be ending as punishment.
Memphis was sentenced to three years probation in August and faced a public censure and fine for recruiting violations of James Wiseman, now with the Golden State Warriors. But the Tigers avoided scholarship penalties or postseason bans because the IARP said it didn’t want to penalize current athletes.
Although the IARP continues to work on several cases, earlier this year the NCAA’s Division I Reconciliation Committee issued a recommendation to end the process. The proposal was quickly accepted by the Board of Division I.
“We look forward to providing further comment when this process is fully resolved,” Girod said of the IARP process. “Until then, I want to reiterate our unwavering support of Coach Self and our men’s basketball program.”