Feds won’t accept hoops coaches’ ‘I didn’t know’ excuses

MORGANTOWN — By most accounts, Bill Self is not worried about job security these days.

Depending on points of view, that is either justified or the bulk of the problem that plagues NCAA institutions which find themselves in the midst of a federal investigation looking into college corruption.

Self’s Kansas program recently made public that it was subpoenaed by the feds in correlation with what is believed to be the recruitments of players Billy Preston and Silvio De Sousa.

Preston never played for the Jayhawks last season, but became a story when he was involved in a single-vehicle accident on campus that brought into question the type of vehicle Preston was driving.

The vehicle type hasn’t been named publicly, but you can assume it wasn’t a 1998 Buick. Preston is now a member of the Cleveland Cavaliers.

More to the point, the feds are looking into Adidas’ connection with both players and whether any money was funneled to them or their families that may have helped steer them to the school.

In all sincerity, we can understand how easy it is in today’s landscape for individuals with the financial means and with nothing else better to do in life to go behind the scenes and start handing out cash, cars and whatever else to five-star recruits and their families.

That’s not exactly breaking news. That has been a way of life in college athletics for decades.

It’s probably going to be at least a few months — if not at least a year — before Self makes any type of public statement on the subpoenas or the developing situation in his program.

When he does, it will likely have the I-didn’t-know ring to it.

That is the go-to these days for college coaches. Rick Pitino used it not once, but twice, in defending himself from a strippers-for-hire scandal and then when the feds came knocking on Louisville’s door for its own recruiting practices.

John Calipari effectively used it twice, during his tenures at the University of Massachusetts and Memphis.

Both schools were hit with NCAA probation for rules violations that Calipari got to claim he had no knowledge of, and he’s earning just under $8 million these days at Kentucky, so it worked out pretty well for him.

It shouldn’t work out as well for Self. Not because we believe he was some mastermind out there secretly giving the OK to Adidas to start funneling cash to recruits. In all likelihood, Self was as far away from that as Pitt is from a Final Four.

Eventually, though, the question has to become: “Well, why didn’t you know?”

If there are any college athletic directors out there with any backbone whatsoever, this has got to become the question they now hold all of their coaches to these days.

And this is not some issue of rising salaries in college athletics. According to a USA Today report, Self was the fourth-highest-paid coach in college basketball last season, earning just under $5 million.

This isn’t to say, “You pay a guy millions of dollars, so he should know what’s going on in his program.”

We don’t say that, because it lets the coaches earning $600,000 a year at the smaller schools off the hook.

Quite simply, all coaches at any college level making any type of salary should know what’s going on in their program.

Coaches are quick to tell you that they can’t watch their athletes

24 hours a day. If an athlete goes out on the town one night and has a few too many drinks and gets a DUI, coaches shy away from the supervision responsibility using that excuse.

To be fair, that’s all fine. It probably is unrealistic for coaches to know what their athletes are doing for all 24 hours a day, every day for four years.

But federal agents aren’t looking into DUIs or sexual assaults or kids selling their textbooks for money.

They’re wondering how 19-year-old kids from poor backgrounds are suddenly driving around campus in fully loaded Dodge Chargers.

They’re wondering how mom suddenly is able to move into a $750,000 home.

They’re wondering how big a role shoe companies and professional agents are playing in helping a recruit decide which university to attend.

These are the kinds of things that coaches should know. Bill Self should have known; otherwise, he simply is not fully in charge of his own program. And are you really going to pay a guy $4.95 million a year to be partly in charge?

In a world that has been made so much more aware of, well, the world through the internet, 24 hour news, readily available background checks and social media, is there any way we can really live with the I-didn’t-know line anymore?

Chances are, federal agents aren’t going to accept that story.

We shouldn’t anymore, either.

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