The basketball season hasn’t come a minute too soon for fans of Kansas University. All the talk about possible sanctions, however, is like a cloud looming on the horizon.
It isn’t every day that a blue-blood school like Kansas might be penalized by the NCAA. As Jerry Tarkanian once famously said, “The NCAA is so mad at Kentucky it will probably slap another two years’ probation on Cleveland State.”
Fans have long felt that the NCAA uses selective punishment when handing out penalties.
Assuming that KU appeals the NCAA’s charges by mid-December, odds are that no final outcome will be determined before the end of this basketball season. However, what’s at stake for KU is seismic, with the NCAA alleging lack of institutional control in basketball and a head coach responsibility violation against Bill Self.
The worst-case scenario is that one of college basketball’s premier programs could be banned from the postseason, and its Hall of Fame coach could face a suspension of up to a year or more.
Of course, KU plans to vigorously defend coach Self and his program, which faces five Level I violations, the most serious the NCAA can allege. This isn’t like the criminal system, where you’re presumed innocent until proved guilty. With the NCAA, you’re presumed guilty unless you can prove otherwise.
Meanwhile, KU says it withheld a $3 million buyout from former football coach David Beaty because of lower-level NCAA rules violations. A spokesperson for athletic director Jeff Long said the violations alone would represent a breach of contract.
That may be true, but it’s a bad look for the school while it defends its head men’s basketball coach for Level I violations.
To be fair, KU isn’t the first or last school to split hairs with the NCAA over rules violations. They are just the latest school to get caught – allegedly.
Whenever a school is accused of breaking rules, the typical reaction by fans and some school officials is “Well, everyone is doing it. Look at School X. You can’t tell me they aren’t breaking any rules.”
Pointing the finger at others is as old as Adam and Eve. If you don’t remember the Bible story in the book of Genesis, let me refresh your memory.
God told Adam and Eve they could eat of every tree of the garden except one. So, naturally, with encouragement from the serpent, Adam and Eve decided to eat the fruit from the forbidden tree.
What happened next sounds a lot like what is happening today at KU and other schools who are accused of behavior unbecoming of their athletic programs.
When God confronted Adam, he admitted that he ate fruit from the forbidden tree, but he blamed Eve, who gave him the fruit. God then asked Eve about the matter. Eve quickly blamed the serpent for tricking her.
Taking responsibility for one’s actions appears to be as hard today as it was for Adam and Eve.
As columnist Sam Mellinger wrote: “Instead, we have this absurd reality: The FBI called Kansas a ‘victim,’ a label the university grabbed onto without shame or irony and re-upped with Adidas in hopes of being victimized with $191 million and more blue-chip recruits.
“One more time: The existence of others breaking rules is not a viable excuse. That’s a lesson taught in kindergarten,” wrote Mellinger.
Maybe KU will be cleared, and maybe it won’t. If image matters, the question remains, “What will be the size of its black eye?”