LAWRENCE — Silvio De Sousa and Kansas basketball have gotten their long-awaited answer from the NCAA.
And if the ruling wasn't the worst-case scenario, it's not far from that for the withheld sophomore forward, whose collegiate career could very well be finished.
De Sousa will not only remain ineligible for the remainder of the current season but also must sit out the 2019-20 campaign, the NCAA announced in a Friday news release that cited illicit payments it says De Sousa's guardian, Fenny Falmagne, received during the prospect's recruitment period. Falmagne allegedly received a payment of $2,500 from an agent and booster of the school and agreed to accept an additional $20,000 from the same individual and an Adidas employee working to secure De Sousa's enrollment at KU, the NCAA found.
During testimony last October in the trials of three apparel company executives in the federal government's probe into corruption in college basketball, former Adidas consultant T.J. Gassnola acknowledged he made the $2,500 payment to Falmagne to help De Sousa pay for classes required for his early enrollment at KU. A further payment of $20,000 was scheduled to help Falmagne repay a debt to a Maryland booster who gave the guardian $60,000 to steer the recruit to the Under Armour program, but that payment never occurred, Gassnola testified.
De Sousa joined the Jayhawks in December 2017 and averaged four points and 3.7 rebounds across 8.8 minutes per game in his 20 appearances, coming on strong late to help KU reach the Final Four.
The NCAA didn’t determine De Sousa was aware of the payment, but in its statement, the governing body stated potential collegiate players are “responsible for the actions of that (representative), regardless of whether the prospective student-athlete had knowledge of if benefits were received.” The typical punishment for such an infraction is permanent ineligibility, the release stated, but the NCAA recognized “mitigation based on specific circumstances of this case” when issuing what is effectively a two-year ban for De Sousa.
Minutes after the NCAA announced its decision, KU issued a response characterized best by both bewilderment and anger.
“In my 30-plus years of coaching college basketball, I have never witnessed such a mean-spirited and vindictive punishment against a young man who did nothing wrong,” KU coach Bill Self said in a news release. “To take away his opportunity to play college basketball is shameful and a failure of the NCAA."
KU athletic director Jeff Long said the university is “shocked and incensed” by the NCAA’s decision and added the university will immediately appeal the ruling to the Division I Student-Athlete Reinstatement Committee, which is comprised of representatives from NCAA schools.
“(T)his was clearly an unfair and punitive ruling for a young man who had no knowledge of any NCAA violation, nor did Silvio personally benefit from the violation,” Long said in the release. “While we will continue to work with the NCAA on the broader matter, we have an obligation and a desire to advocate for our student-athletes and will continue to do that for an outstanding young man.”
De Sousa's attorney, Scott Tompsett of the Kansas City, Mo.-based Tompsett Collegiate Sports Law, said in a statement he will work with KU and do everything legally possible to reverse the decision.
“The NCAA’s decision today is outrageous. It should shock the conscience of anyone who believes in fundamental fairness,” Tompsett said. “Silvio did absolutely nothing wrong. He was not involved in any wrongdoing by the adults, he did not know about any wrongdoing by the adults, and he did not benefit from any wrongdoing by the adults. Let me be very clear: Silvio never received any illicit money from anyone.
“The NCAA’s decision illustrates the absurdity of how the NCAA enforces its rules: A young man who did nothing wrong has had his life altered in a very negative way through no fault of his own. That is not how we do things in this country.”
Tompsett's statement didn't indicate what the immediate future holds for De Sousa, who hasn't appeared this season as KU has voluntarily withheld the sophomore following the revelations at the October trial, awaiting the NCAA decision that came down Friday.
“Silvio is a tremendous young man who absolutely deserves to be on the court with his teammates in a Jayhawk uniform," Self said. "This process took way too long to address these issues. We will support Silvio as he considers his options."
The No. 11-ranked Jayhawks (16-5, 5-3 Big 12) play host to No. 16 Texas Tech (17-4, 5-3) at 3 p.m. Saturday at Allen Fieldhouse.