KANSAS CITY, Mo. — Bill Self isn’t sure where the corruption scandal rocking his sport will go next, but this much, the Hall of Fame coach said, is true when it comes to college basketball:
“It’s been sad,” Self said. “It’s been a dark week, and I hope it doesn’t, but all indications are it could get darker before it gets brighter.”
Speaking ahead of Thursday night’s Coaches vs. Cancer kickoff event at Bartle Hall, Self for the first time addressed the ongoing FBI probe into college basketball that on Tuesday resulted in the arrest of 10 individuals, including four assistant coaches and one high-ranking Adidas official.
Big money and too much third-party involvement, the Kansas men’s basketball coach asserted, have been the biggest culprits in the still-developing scandal, a dilemma with no easy solution.
“The biggest thing to me is, how do you fix it?” Self said. “It’s going to be one of those deals I think you could easily say, ‘Well, you could fix it this way or fix it that way,’ but I guarantee you whatever ideas people have, there’s a counter to that where people say, ‘Nah, that won’t work.’ ”
One change Self feels would be a step in the right direction is the elimination of the one-and-done rule.
“One thing I do think personally would help a lot, the vast majority of it, is I think kids should be able to go (to the NBA) right out of high school,” Self said. “If kids go out of high school, the most highly recruited guys won’t be in college where you’ll be dealing with certain things like this.”
Asked if the pressure to recruit has grown over the years, Self at first said he doesn’t think so, but at the end concluded the opposite.
Self outlined all the individuals and entities under pressure in today’s college climate in his 377-word answer to the question that at times seemed to be cathartic.
“I think the money is what’s driven the pressure,” Self said. “I mean, there’s pressure on the NCAA when they have a how-many-billion-dollar industry, and they want the best product on the floor. There’s pressure on schools to hire the right guys and pay them a high salary in order to make sure he gives them the best chance to (win). And then there’s pressure from the alumni that expects certain things and have given a lot of money, and in order to make the bills meet you jack up ticket prices ridiculous, so now there’s pressure on coaches even from alums that say, ‘You’re not giving us the product we’re paying for.’ And then there’s pressure on kids to perform earlier because if they don’t go to the league after their sophomore year they’re considered failures.
“There’s pressure on everybody, and I do think it’s more magnified now and it’s probably more than it has been because of all the money that’s involved in our industry.”
That pressure, Self said, is not something that’s going away, even if everybody were on the up-and-up.
“You could say, ‘Well, if everybody’s squeaky clean, then we wouldn’t have these problems,’ ” Self continued. “No no no, that’s not true either. There would still be pressure to sign guys, there would still be coaches losing jobs, there would still be assistant coaches not having opportunities to move on to get better paying positions. There’s a lot of things going on that is dictated by how well you recruit.”
Social media and message boards — the latter of which Self said often become “rumor boards” — have created an environment where virtually every coach in the country has to be on the defense against a steady stream of allegations year-round.
“Now you have to defend yourself all the time to certain things that are being said,” Self said, “and it’s everybody that has to do this.”
A Kansas athletics administrator on Thursday told The Topeka Capital-Journal that, as of 2 p.m., the scandal had not reached KU and that no one at the university had been contacted by any federal agency. Asked for his level of trust in his own assistant coaches, many of whom have been on the KU coach’s staff for well over a decade, Self issued his full support.
“I totally trust my assistants 100 percent,” Self said, “100 percent.”
Self said there’s “no question” the NCAA needs widespread reform, but the answer is not evident to the KU coach, who said paying players could open up a new set of problems.
Whatever solution is decided upon, Self said he’s hoping it works — and that it comes sooner rather than later.
“It’s been a dark week, there’s no question,” Self said. “But I’m not sure that it will trigger things that can make this better. Now, it’s not going to be in the immediate future, but there’s been some things that have obviously transpired that will create talks or whatnot that allows our sport to become better in the future.
“I just hope the future is soon as opposed to down the line.”