KANSAS CITY, Mo. – Other than the Court of Public Opinion, no one has been found guilty based on perception. In legal terms, “perception” equals reasonable doubt. What appears to be misconduct becomes a judgment call. Just because you’re thinking of flipping off the driver who cut you off, you’re not guilty of road rage unless you display the middle finger salute.
A month ago, the NCAA served Kansas with a notice of allegations involving its basketball program. The school has been charged with lack of institutional control, three Level I violations plus coach Bill Self was given a “responsibility charge” that could result in a show cause penalty.
This is some serious, uh, stuff.
The NCAA is emboldened and armed with testimony and evidence compiled by the FBI during its mostly ineffective investigation of the unsavory deals between basketball teams, their shoe companies and payments to top high school players. KU is working on its response to the allegations and a final reckoning from the committee on infractions won’t occur until next spring or summer at the very earliest.
Kansas and Self believe that the NCAA charges are bogus. “Without going into detail, we are going to fight it,” Self said earlier this month.
Now here’s where perception enters this narrative. To make a trial analogy, KU recently acted like a defendant charged with DUI who walks into court reeking of booze and carrying a six-pack.
Days after the NCAA letter arrived, Self promoted his program’s iconic Late Night at the Phog with a video distributed on social media. The musical guest for the annual event at Allen Fieldhouse was Snoop Dogg. Self, who has enthusiastically “acted” in other similar promos, was filmed browsing in a record store as Snoop’s “Gin and Juice” provided a musical background.
Self was wearing a shirt with a huge Adidas logo (the company recently signed a 14-year, $196 million contract extension with the school) and a gaudy gold chain with a large dollar sign. The perception? Kansas was telling the NCAA to four-letter-word itself.
Big Late Night in the Phog announcement 😎
🎶 One…Two…3 and to the fo’
— Kansas Jayhawks (@KUAthletics) September 27, 2019
Snoop’s appearance was likely booked, and the video also could have been shot and produced, before the NCAA notice arrived. Pimping your shoe sponsor’s logo and wearing bling to promote a rapper for your school’s version of midnight madness isn’t maintaining a low profile.
Then at Late Night Snoop took the court for a “radio-edited” version of a typical performance. Maybe Sirius-XM radio. It was raw Dogg and not G-rated. In addition to the songs, the show included Snoop, wearing a No. 20 blue KU jersey, shooting fake $100 bills at KU men’s and women’s players, his dog-costumed mascot puffing a log-sized fake reefer and dancers gyrating around stripper poles. There were 5-star recruits in attendance who likely Instagrammed the hell out of the event.
This wasn’t an NCAA violation, but Kansas could have been charged with a lack of institutional control.
Instead of posting the promotional video, it could have been trashed. No doubt there was a rehearsal of Snoop Dogg’s show and installing stripper poles might have provided more advance warning. Once the show started and the f-bombs detonated, observers noted that Self was in the back halls angrily confronting school officials.
Athletic director Jeff Long, who had been photographed with Snoop hours before Late Night, put out a statement the following day to apologize to KU fans and claimed that the rapper’s managers had promised a “clean version” of his show.
“I think it was more the publicity of what I did,” Snoop said on the Howard Stern Show. “… They invited me to come do what I do. And, when you pay for Snoop Dogg, you gon’ get Snoop Dogg.”
Kansas, again the pre-season favorite to win the Big 12, is assuredly gon’ get dogged this season when it goes on the road, especially against conference foes. That, of course, is what always happens. But expect the venom around the Big 12 to be a bit stronger.
“We’ve given some rabid fans bases some incentive,” Bill Self said here Wednesday at Big 12 media day. “But I can’t imagine that playing a factor in our success on the road. Our guys always fired up when we play on the road.”
Sophomore point guard Devon Dotson says he and his teammates enjoy playing in hostile environments.
“We just have to lock in,” he said. “Fans are gonna do what fans do, be loud and be rowdy. If this other stuff helps do that, fine, whatever.”
Bill Self said he’s “excited about getting back to basketball.” Anything’s better than dodging questions he can’t answer and putting out brush fires. I asked him if he could have a do over, would he change what happened around Late Night.
“I have had a chance to reflect and self-evaluate,” he said. “There are some things that could have been better discussed between all the departments that I wish would have taken place. I’ll just leave it at that. I’m not gonna throw anybody under the bus. We just weren’t on the same page.”
The promotion of and outcome of Late Night will not factor into the NCAA’s case. The school will not receive an addendum to the notice of allegations just because of a viral video and a semi-vile 30-minute rap show.
Perception isn’t reality but stuff gets real when evidence is presented that influences what folks perceive. Intentionally or randomly, Kansas and its Hall of Fame coach provided some damning evidence that doesn’t help their case.
Also, be sure to follow the ClutchPoints NCAA Facebook page for more great Bill Self, Kansas Jayhawks, college basketball, recruiting, original analysis and whatever other kinds of discussion. We’re also on Twitter over here. Give us a follow.
You can also follow the official college hoops podcast for ClutchPoints, Cutting The Net, over on SoundCloud here.
Wendell Barnhouse has covered sports for four-plus decades. That has included covering 25 Final Fours and 15 college football national championship games.