NEW ORLEANS – Not even the NCAA can stop Kansas now.
At some point in the near future, the nation's withering-on-the-vine college governing body is expected to hammer the national champions with sanctions. In a cruel twist, after an historic comeback against North Carolina to win the fourth NCAA Tournament championship in school history, Kansas may not even be able to defend its title.
Perhaps Big Brother even has the brass to vacate Monday's championship won in dramatic, inspiring, historic fashion against the Tar Heels. That's how serious the allegations are against KU going back to the 2017 FBI/SDNY case that was supposed to clean up the sport.
"We have your playbook," one federal prosecutor boasted that September day.
How'd that work out? A bunch of shoe executives and assistant coaches went to jail. NCAA enforcement has had its chance with everyone, really. The college sports machine just keeps chugging along. And in a sense, Kansas has already served a heck of a sentence.
For 4 ½ years now, it has lived under a cloud of investigation and suspicion in regards to alleged improper recruiting with apparel partner adidas. How'd that work out? Kansas won another national championship Monday despite all the negativity swirling around it.
We can debate whether KU has actually become a sympathetic figure because of the NCAA's bumbling. Mark Emmert certainly seems to step in it each time he opens his mouth. The NCAA president called them the "Kansas City Jayhawks" on the podium while presenting the national championship trophy before correcting himself. T-shirts were already being printed Monday night to memorialize the gaffe.
You better believe Self noticed Emmert's miscue.
So admit it, on Monday the court triumphed over the courtroom. Kansas won on one. The NCAA doesn't want to go anywhere near the other. Bring on the sanctions. There are rumblings Kansas won't stand for them and have their lawyers ready to fire back.
But as guilty as KU may be, it just doesn't matter. Look at those kids dancing across the court Monday night and how do you feel anything but happiness? They had nothing to do with the impending investigative ugliness.
"I don't think I've ever felt as much joy coaching a team as I have with this team," Self said after the 72-69 win. "No headaches, no issues, no selfishness, no hidden agendas, no side streets."
It just doesn't matter. Whatever sanctions Kansas gets – and they probably will be severe – the program will bounce back, endure and thrive. The NCAA can suspend Self. It can cut scholarships and apply a postseason ban. It just doesn't matter.
Once again I have proof. Kansas may have been the last major college sports program not allowed to defend its national championship. Larry Brown skipped town after the 1988 title leaving KU with a postseason ban in 1989, Roy Williams' first season.
Two years later, Williams was in his first Final Four.
North Carolina won it all in 2017 amid a massive academic fraud scandal. UConn's Jim Calhoun accepted the trophy in 2011 having already been suspended for three games the next season.
The reason there is enforcement in the first place is because of a massive gambling scandal in the early 1950s. The likes of Kentucky were given a postseason ban. Again, how did that work out? The Wildcats are the bluest of bluebloods.
After Monday, Self's status went from hall of famer to legend. He became the first KU coach to win two nattys. At some future date he will have a structure named after him on campus. The man is talented and Teflon. Almost a year ago to the day he signed a lifetime contract that includes the unprecedented clause: Self cannot be fired for being guilty of NCAA sanctions.
That's also why it doesn't matter. Kansas will bounce back just like Arizona bounced back. Just like Auburn has thrived.
"The constant message [is] that we need stronger penalties," one Power Five commissioner told CBS Sports before the championship game. "The constant message is never evaluated against how are they being applied? Are they effective? Are they slowing down cases?"
Those questions have already been answered nationwide. The NCAA's Transformation Committee responsible for rewriting the association's constitution must consider penalties in the future that do not punish the athletes. The next-gen Jayhawks who will replace these national champions deserve a tournament to play in.
Perhaps the answer is eight-figure financial penalties that get the attention of even school presidents. The reason those CEOs haven't done more is because athletic budgets are tiny compared to the overall university budget. Kansas president Doug Girod is definitely involved. He oversaw Self's new contract which, as mentioned, last week was a middle finger to the NCAA.
Self's lawyer in particular has already threatened a lawsuit if the NCAA doesn't allow certain evidence in the case.
It could get ugly fairly quickly. Kansas has yet to receive its hearing date with the Independent Accountability Resolution Panel. The talk going around is that the IARP may soon be disbanded having become a failed attempt at, well, accountability. Cases have lasted too long, Kansas being one of them.
Thankfully, the night will be known for a gutty comeback by the Jayhawks, the largest in championship game history. No matter what the NCAA does – and it could be significant – will soon be forgotten. We had more proof Monday night.
These last 4 ½ years have impacted Kansas recruiting as well. For the most part, Self has gotten good players but not the top-five types. (Although he landed two such players for next season.) Final Four most outstanding player Ochai Agbaji was a developmental player. Fellow all-Final Four teammate David McCormack (15 points, 10 rebounds) made himself some money (legally) in the last month.
Self was brilliant Monday. He kept McCormack on the floor after the big man picked up his third foul 84 seconds in the second half. The defense was ratcheted up. The Jayhawks made a 30-10 run to open the half.
North Carolina didn't wilt after leaving it all out on the floor Saturday vs. Duke. It was overrun by KU.
"These don't fall off trees," Self said after winning his second title. "I mean, they're hard to get … Nobody's ever put pressure on me that we've got to win another one, but I think I put pressure on myself knowing that this place deserves more than what we've won."
And it's clear Self's run at No. 3 – and beyond – isn't ending after Monday night.
Kansas Jayhawks championship gear released
In historic fashion, the Jayhawks have won their first national title since 2008. You can now buy Kansas championship shirts, hats, jerseys, hoodies, and much more to celebrate the historic win. Get gear here now.
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