Schools, coaches more willing to fight NCAA allegations

Published 2:18 am Thursday, November 7, 2019

LAWRENCE, Kan. — The ink on the NCAA’s notice of allegations was but a few hours old when officials at Kansas huddled with Jayhawks coach Bill Self and crafted a strongly worded response that not only disputed the claims but went on the offensive.

The tradition-rich program, which found itself in the crosshairs amid the FBI’s investigation of corruption in college basketball, instead suggested it was the victim in a play-for-pay scheme crafted by Adidas executives.

“We strongly disagree with the allegations,” athletic director Jeff Long said. “We fully support Coach Self and his staff and we will vigorously defend the allegations against him.”

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So much for a cut-and-dried infractions case. Then again, few are these days.

The landscape of college sports has changed dramatically over the past 50 years, and the pace has only increased the past two decades. Massive television contracts worth billions of dollars, endorsement deals, coaching salaries and the amount of money pledged by well-heeled donors have raised the stakes to levels unimaginable when John Wooden was winning titles at UCLA.

The price of success is now measured in tens of millions of dollars. High-profile jobs are on the line every day. The reputation of an entire school is often tied to a single athletic program.

That’s why another change has occurred over the years: When schools run afoul the NCAA, they no longer blindly accept whatever punishment is meted out. Even those that suggest or levy self-punishments often close ranks and hunker down, hire outside counsel and vow to fight the penalties, big and small.

“There is some truth to that,” said David Ridpath, an associate professor of sports management at Ohio University and president of The Drake Group, a college athletics watchdog.

“The big schools can fight back harder,” Ridpath said, “and pay former NCAA investigators-turned-defensive point people a lot more money. So that is certainly an advantage.”

The moment Missouri was hit with wide-ranging allegations of academic fraud, much of it centered on its football program, the school turned to Mike Glazier of Kansas City-based law firm Bond, Shoeneck & King. Glazier has represented well over 100 schools and coaches in NCAA cases, including then-Indiana coach Kelvin Sampson and Louisville’s basketball program.