With the 2019-2020 NCAA College Basketball season tipping off, most would expect the Kansas Jayhawks to be looking to make a run at the National Championship. However, amidst program allegations, could Kansas’s performance in the courtroom be more important than its on-court performance for the future of Kansas Basketball? When the National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA) handed down allegations on the storied, blue-blood basketball program of the University of Kansas in September, the administration at Kansas quickly acted not just to deny the claims, but to go on the offensive and point the finger elsewhere.
On September 21, the University of Kansas received notice of a list of violations against their basketball program citing recruiting violations and a lack of institutional control. The Hall of Fame coach of the Jayhawks basketball team, Bill Self, was also levied with a responsibility charge. These charges are the result of a “pay-for-play” investigation by the NCAA that was sparked by an FBI investigation into Adidas, where employees testified to making payments to college basketball recruits. Kansas has pointed blame at Adidas, insisting their own involvement is as a victim of the same Adidas scheme that the FBI investigated.
At this time, it is uncertain the exact defense that the University of Kansas will employ, but experts look to a similar defense the University of Missouri employed to represent themselves during their similar allegations scandal in early 2019. The University of Missouri, amid allegations of academic fraud with respect to their football program, hired a Kansas City law firm that specializes in cases involving the NCAA. More specifically, Missouri was looking to the expertise of Mike Glazier, who spent seven years at the NCAA dishing out allegations to collegiate sports teams and has since represented over 100 schools and coaches in NCAA related cases. Though an expensive defense to put on, costing the University of Missouri over $350,000, that was pennies in relation to the potential lost revenue the university could suffer depending on the severity of potential penalties. The University of Kansas will similarly have to weigh these options when deciding how to proceed with their defense.
As the Jayhawks gear up for their season, it will be interesting to see what happens as the NCAA continues to investigate and the University of Kansas begins to put on its defense. Will Kansas be willing, like Missouri, to pay hundreds of thousands of dollars to bankroll its categorical denial of the allegations, or will we see a new legal strategy, ushering in new standards for dealing with NCAA regulations? The allegations against the university are serious, and if Kansas is found guilty, the NCAA could choose to make an example out of them and impose strict penalties, thereby broadcasting to other schools that pay to play behavior will not be tolerated. In the end, Kansas’s most important victories this season might not end up coming from the hardwood.
Jason Fitzgerald is a Sports Highlight Contributor for the Harvard Journal of Sports and Entertainment Law and a current first year student at Harvard Law School (Class of 2022).