The NCAA slapped Kansas with sanctions yesterday for a wide range of violations including one violation committed during Roy Williams' tenure there. Since media reports are full of all sorts of spin and what not I will simply link to the official report(in PDF format) which reads like tax code so if you can't sleep, take a look. Naturally some will latch onto this as some sort of proof that Roy Williams is a cheater and also that the NCAA is giving UNC and Williams preferential treatment. There is also a hue and cry that Kansas pays the price for Williams' sin which I suppose has merit but when you consider that the violation in question provided zero benefit to Kansas it hardly seems fitting to debate that issue here. In other words I am ignoring the premise. There were actually two violations committed related to the men's basketball program but only one which, as best as I can tell from the report, happened on Roy Williams' watch.
The one that is attached to Williams is the provision of cash gifts and other items to graudating seniors who had exhausted their eligibilty. It turns out that since 1988 an elderly woman had been sending money to graduating seniors to thank them for their service to the school. Williams was aware of the practice and looked the other way. Between 2000-2002 a second booster began sending $300-$400 to graduating seniors to help them "transition into the real world." Williams was aware this was happening and even approved the gift saying he thought a modest gift was permissable. When the practice was discovered and Williams was asked about it he says he had checked with the compliance office and gotten approval. There appears to be no record of him asking the question however. So, yes a rule was broken and these players received a benefit which they were not allowed to receive under NCAA rules. And yes Williams failed by not doing due diligence on making sure the gift was proper which apparently he did not do on the record. The likely scenario is that Williams assumed, as I would have being a former NCAA student athlete, that once your eligibility was done you could receive such gifts. So he probably just assumed it was okay, looked the other way, and the practice persisted until it was discovered. In many respects it is evidence of nothing but the folly of making assumptions about an organization such as the NCAA which prides itself on defying common sense every chance it gets. In fact I was afraid I would have to start returning all sorts of gifts I had received since I stop running cross-country at UNCG after the 1995 season. In other words it is stupid rule and Williams fell prey to a classic mistake with the NCAA and that is do not assume common sense makes any sense where their rules are involved. Or as Ronald Reagan once said, "Trust but verify."
The other men's basketball violation appears to be tied to the actions of a booster and does not seem to fall into the same time frame as Williams tenure. The report makes reference to actions of a booster who basically gave all sorts of inducements to a KU prospect and eventual player from 2003 to 2005. Since Williams left Kansas within two weeks of the NCAA finals loss to Syracuse in April of 2003 it is unlikely that this activity was occurring on his watch though we do not get specifics from the report as to what month in 2003 this activity began. So, in my rather biased mind, there is no link between Roy Williams and this booster or the violation in question.
So to sum up we have Roy Williams making a bad assumption on whether giving gifts to graduating seniors was permissable and in doing so he failed to get official approval on the record. As I said, yes he violated an NCAA rule but in my mind Kansas received zero benefit from it. It was not intrumental in inducing a player to sign with Kansas nor did they enjoy the benefit at any point during their career. That is why the report never once refers to the gifts as "inducements" but does use it in reference to the other booster. All that means is that the NCAA did not see the gifts as something which gave Kansas an unfair advantage in perusuading a player to come or stay at Kansas. It was a case where the NCAA rules defied the logical assumption that once a player had exhausted his eligibility then he was not subjected to NCAA rules concerning extra benefits or gifts. I think the activity surrounding players who elect to go pro probably factored into this thinking since they are considered ineligible and therefore begin receiving gifts galore. I am sure there is a difference, I just do not care to figure it out at this point.
The other men's basketball violations are not tied to Williams in any discernible way so any assertion that he was allowing boosters to give inducements to recruits would appear to be incorrect. It also should be noted that the NCAA was fairly clear that most of the troubles observed at Kansas were a direct result of the compliance office being understaffed and fairly derelict in its duties due to unmanageable workload. The report also points to some serious violations in the football program concerning benefits and academic cheating. The NCAA also slapped the always maligned "loss of institutional control" label on Kansas because of the wide spread nature of the violations.
Of course the NCAA seems to have very little control of itself on matters important to the sports it oversees, but that is a topic for another day.