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Bill Self suspended for KU basketball’s first 4 games this season; faces other penalties

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Kansas men’s basketball coach Bill Self and assistant coach Kurtis Townsend are suspended for the first four games of the upcoming season in an apparent effort to head off penalties from a long-running NCAA investigation into the program’s recruiting practices.

The sanctions, which KU says are self-imposed, also include recruiting restrictions. Self and Townsend will be barred from all off-campus recruiting-related activities for four months and reduce the number of visits and scholarships available over the next few years.

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The coaches will most notably miss the Jayhawks’ Nov. 15 matchup against the Duke Blue Devils in the State Farm Champions Classic, which is predicted to be a top-10 showdown.

Assistant Coach Norm Roberts will serve as head coach for the Jayhawks’ first four games.

“Throughout this process, we have had ongoing conversations with all the involved parties,” Chancellor Douglas Girod said in a KU news release. “We believe the actions we are announcing today move us closer to resolving this matter. We look forward to commenting further when this process is fully resolved. Until then, I want to reiterate our unwavering support of Coach Self and our Men’s Basketball program.”

Self said in a statement that he and Townsend “accept and support KU’s decision to self-impose these sanctions.” 

“We are in good hands with Coach Roberts, and I am confident that he will do a great job on the bench leading our team,” Self said. “I am proud of the way our guys have handled this situation and I look forward to returning to the bench for our game against NC State.”

Self and Townsend previously were barred by the university from in-person recruiting for more than a month last summer.

The problems surrounding the men’s basketball team date back to 2017, when a scandal and FBI investigation into the apparel provider Adidas implicated the program in pay-for-play allegations for potential recruits. Since 2020, the serious allegations have hung over the program — namely because they carry potential punishments including a postseason ban and an extended suspension for Self, the Hall-of-Fame coach.

In July 2020, a new and independent panel called the Independent Accountability Resolution Process agreed to hear KU’s case along with several other universities’ cases that emanated from the Adidas scandal. The IARP process was particularly notable at the time because its decisions are not subject to appeal. The IARP has since been disbanded by the NCAA, but it will conclude hearing the cases it agreed to take on, including KU’s case, before it is discontinued.

The penalties KU announced Wednesday do not necessarily mean the IARP won’t issue additional punishments when it concludes hearing KU’s case.

“We are hopeful these difficult self-imposed sanctions will assist in bringing the case to a conclusion,” KU Director of Athletics Travis Goff said in the release. “Until then, we will continue to focus on supporting our outstanding Men’s Basketball student-athletes and coaches. Assistant Coach Norm Roberts will serve as interim head coach during the first four games. Per confidentiality guidelines related to infraction cases, we are unable to comment in depth until there is a full resolution of this matter.”

Self signed a lifetime contract extension in April 2021.

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Cuyler Dunn (he/him), a contributor to The Lawrence Times, is a student at the University of Kansas School of Journalism. He is a graduate of Lawrence High School where he was the editor-in-chief of the school’s newspaper, The Budget, and was named the 2022 Kansas High School Journalist of the Year. Read more of his work for the Times here.

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