LAWRENCE — The University of Kansas has made public a pair of documents confirming its participation in the federal government’s widening investigation into corruption in college basketball.
KU on Tuesday released to The Topeka Capital-Journal and other media outlets two subpoenas served to the university earlier this year by the U.S. attorney’s office in the Southern District of New York. While the documents redact key names of student athletes and their representatives, they do at least confirm the two occasions the federal government requested additional information from the school and the scope of those requests as it relates to the FBI’s ongoing probe into illicit financial transactions and bribery in college basketball recruiting.
KU received its first subpoena on Jan. 8 with a deadline for transfer of requested information by 10 a.m. Jan. 22. The subpoena requested “all documents regarding the recruitment and enrollment” of a student athlete whose name was redacted but is widely believed to be Billy Preston, a then-freshman who didn’t play last season amid an internal investigation into the financial picture of a vehicle he was driving on campus. Preston left the program on Jan. 20 and is now a member of the NBA’s Cleveland Cavaliers.
That subpoena requested any communication between or about the redacted student athlete or any family member or representative of the athlete, all application and enrollment, financial aid, eligibility and national letter of intent forms submitted on behalf of the athlete and all internal communications regarding those documents.
Additionally, the first subpoena requested all communication between the KU athletics department, including members of the men’s basketball coaching staff, with current and former Adidas executives James “Jim” Gatto, Christopher Rivers, Thomas “TJ” Gassnola, Merl Code and “any other representative of Adidas,” as well as any written or oral contract and/or agreement between KU and Adidas effective during the outlined time frame.
Gatto, a marketing executive already indicted on conspiracy and wire fraud charges in connection with the FBI’s investigation at the time of the subpoena, was hit with additional charges April 10 in indictments that outlined the apparel company’s involvement in alleged under-the-table payments made to family and guardians of two KU student athletes. Those athletes’ names were redacted, but the timelines matched up with the recruitments of Preston and current sophomore forward Silvio De Sousa.
The university is entering the final year of its apparel rights agreement with Adidas, although the two sides orally agreed to a 12-year extension last September. That extension remains unsigned and the two sides “are still discussing a long-form agreement,” KU Office of Public Affairs official Andy Hyland told The Capital-Journal on Tuesday.
KU received its second subpoena March 14 with a deadline for transfer of requested information by 10 a.m. March 23. That subpoena is almost identical to the first in language, though it requests information for a second student athlete, believed to be De Sousa. Both De Sousa and KU coach Bill Self have expressed optimism regarding the forward’s status for next season, with Self saying on July 11 that “nobody at this stage has given (KU) any information that would lead (KU) to believe that he could be in jeopardy in that way.”
Both subpoenas requested information dating back to Jan. 1, 2016. KU cited federal privacy law in justifying its redactions in the subpoenas.
The subpoenas outlined “documents” as writings, emails, text messages, drawings, graphs, charts, calendar entries, photographs, audio or visual recordings, images and other data or data compilations in both paper and electronic form.
Yahoo Sports first reported that KU had been subpoenaed on July 10, citing news that Maryland, another school involved in De Sousa’s recruitment, had itself been subpoenaed. Tuesday’s release comes following KU’s initial refusal to provide the documents following Kansas Open Records Act requests, citing the ongoing status of the investigation, among other factors.
When asked by The Capital-Journal if the university had met both subpoena deadlines and whether it had received any additional subpoenas to date, Hyland refused to answer, citing the university’s earlier email again declining further comment due to the active nature of the investigation.
“In light of other disclosures, we have decided to exercise our discretion to release the attached documents to all media outlets that have requested them,” Hyland wrote. ”... These documents do not suggest any wrongdoing by the university. We are cooperating fully with the investigation in this matter.”