By now you’ve heard about Roy Williams’ involvement in some NCAA violations at Kansas. It seems that while he was coach, a few boosters gave a number of players small graduation gifts. Actually, “end of eligibility” gifts might be better, because I don’t think all the players had graduated.
Some of those involved say that Williams knew of the gifts, but he thought they were OK. There are conflicting reports about whether and when he checked with compliance officers at Kansas.
Either way, it’s seems like a pretty minor deal. I mean, do you really think that Kansas is using these gifts as lures to recruits? Hey man, come play for the Jay Hawks and if you stay four years, you’ll get a suit or a check for $300! What do you say, son?
The other odd thing about this is the discovery (well, it’s a discovery for me and apparently Roy Williams) that players are ineligible to receive gifts forever. Forever! That’s insane. According to NCAA guidelines, it’s illegal for an NC State booster club to hire David Thompson to speak at a meeting. Want to vote for Richard Vinroot because he played ball for Dean Smith? Better not be a Carolina fan or you could put the school in hot water!
So, obviously this is a tempest in a teapot. Nothing major happened and no advantage was gained. Where it’s potentially a bit more serious is that many times corrupt programs are not found to have committed serious violations (even though everyone knows they happen). Instead, they are often taken down by a serious of minor infractions that add up to a “lack of institutional control.” This is basically how the NCAA nailed the Eddie Sutton-led Kentucky program and the Jim Valvano-led NC State program. No big stuff like envelopes filled with cash or thrown games, but niggling infractions like selling sneakers.
So, are these gifts indications that Kansas is corrupt? What about Roy? I say no on both counts. Kansas has had their problems in the past. Roy Williams took over the program after Larry Brown packed up his gypsy tents and left a probation in his wake. Since then though, things have been nearly spot free. Williams has built a reputation as a guy who is very serious about doing things the right way and not taking any shortcuts. In this interview with Eric Chenowith, a guy who didn’t always get along with Roy, he says:
I was never offered a cent in my four years — ever. I don’t know if it was people hating me or alums wanting to play by the rules.
I remember times Jeff Carey (teammate) and I would go to breakfast and somebody would try to buy it for us. Jeff and I would refuse to the point it was almost embarrassing to refuse.
We’d say, ‘We can’t. It’s not right.’ I can’t imagine ever breaking a rule playing for coach Williams. I would never accept anything. I was scared to death of coach Williams in a situation like that.
And then there’s this quote from Nick Collison’s mom, “Coach Williams was always careful. When we came, we had to pay for snacks.”
It just doesn’t sound to me like there’s anything there.
But … on the flip side it should be pointed out that Kansas and Williams were involved with both Jaron Rush (and Myron Piggie) and Lester Earl. Rush, who was being paid by Piggie (along with some other players, including Corey Maggette), verbally committed to Kansas. Williams pulled the scholarship offer after Rush criticized his coaching style in a radio interview. Earl ended up at Kansas after getting involved in some shenanigans at LSU, including accepting cash payments. He later got into legal trouble at Kansas (and was arrested again just last month).
Neither of those incidents directly involved Kansas, but in each case, Williams courted players who had clearly been involved in some shady dealings just before going (or not in Rush’s case) to Lawrence.
In the end, it all adds up to very little. Williams was involved in some minor infractions that were reasonable misunderstandings. They happened at a different institution. While the story will surely provide some fodder for Duke chants and has given State fans a reason to trot out their insecurities again, it shouldn’t have any legs.