LAWRENCE, Kan. — There was always the feeling that no matter what the NCAA had in store for Kansas basketball, Bill Self was going to be around to see the future. Even if there was a postseason ban, scholarship reductions, even a suspension of the Hall of Fame coach, KU was all in fighting the NCAA and with Self out front leading the charge.
Kansas made that feeling official Friday when with a 35-word clause in Self’s so-called lifetime contract. The surprise was that KU spelled out that support saying Self would not be fired “due to any current infractions matter.” That infractions matter happens to be one of the biggest out there at the moment and one of the most significant in school history.
KU is charged with five Level I violations (the most serious) stemming from the FBI basketball scandal that emerged in September 2017. The NCAA called the violations “egregious” and “severe.” The NCAA says Self is responsible for violation of the coach responsibility bylaw.
Self and KU have maintained from the beginning they disagree with a large portion of the NCAA allegations.
Self and KU chancellor Doug Girod addressed the unique nature of a lifetime contract Wednesday in the middle of an NCAA investigation following the press conference to introduce new AD Travis Goff.
“The chancellor explained [the contract] to the NCAA,” Self told a small group of reporters Wednesday. “He talked with them before he did it. That wasn’t my call to determine how it looked. It was the chancellor having confidence in the way we’ve done things. I can’t go into any details but the media doesn’t know what’s going on with our NCAA investigation. Who really does know? I’m not saying we know either.”
Schools don’t usually alert the NCAA of new coaching contracts. This might be different. Kansas officials are frustrated at the length of the investigation that has hung over the program for more than three years and impacted recruiting. Kansas sources have indicated they hope for resolution in the case before next season.
Self admitted to seeing some national backlash to both the timing and nature of the contract.
“I’ve had people send me stuff from a national perspective. There were people that really got after me and got after the university on making this decision,” Self said. “This was a decision the chancellor wanted to make … Regardless of whether you like the timing or not there has to be some decisions on basketball going forward. You can’t stop living because we’ve got this other thing above our head.”
However, eyebrows were raised when the announcement of the contract came the day before the Final Four and while KU was still searching for an AD. The optics were obvious: KU was without an AD for almost a month but had time to sign the basketball coach to a new contract.
And then on Wednesday, KU was explaining how it had doubled down on Self the same day Arizona had fired Sean Miller. Arizona’s NCAA case also emerged from the Southern District of New York investigation. Some contended Arizona stuck with Miller way past his expiration date. The message Wednesday: There is no expiration date for Self.
“It mostly came out that way,” Girod told CBS Sports regarding the contract. “We’ve been working on it a while. And then we hit a transition period and did not want to lose our momentum. Also we didn’t want to put it on the new guy [Goff]. That’s not fair. We’ve been on this for months. We wanted the new guy to know that wasn’t something he was going to have to contend with for months.”
The deal was done between Self, Girod, the two sides’ attorneys and interim AD Kurt Watson. It replaced a 10-year deal that was signed in 2012. That deal had less than one year to go on it.
There was speculation in the industry the contract had perhaps turned off some KU AD candidates. Not that they would fire Self, but the deal brought into question what kind of autonomy the new AD would have.
“I’m glad it was done on Friday and I didn’t need to be the guy doing that,” Goff said smiling, “not because I wouldn’t have wanted to but because it was such a clear demonstration from Chancellor Girod and the Kansas community that Bill was our basketball coach.”
Self pushed back at the “lifetime” label attached to the contract. That word does appear in the deal which is essentially a series of five-year rollover contracts. If Self is fired without cause he is owed only a year’s salary — $5.41 million.
“Is it guaranteed for a lifetime? The answer is, no,” Self said. “It’s guaranteed for a year. It is a lifetime deal as long as we do what we’re supposed to do. If we don’t there are decisions that can be easily made.”
Adding to the length of the current investigation, Kansas was one of the first cases placed in the NCAA’s new third-party resolution process. Then COVID-19 hit. The Independent Accountability Resolution Process has been criticized for delaying decisions because its members come from outside the NCAA and sometimes have to be educated on NCAA rules violations.
Kansas has been public and consistent in disagreeing with the heart of the NCAA allegations. The association has said Self and assistant Kurtis Townsend “embraced, welcomed and encouraged” Adidas to influence recruits to sign with Kansas.
One of Self’s attorneys is already on record threatening to sue the NCAA.
Last year Self went in-depth with CBS Sports regarding his future and the allegations.
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