A trio of reporters at KU’s Daily Kansan–Conner Mitchell, Sean Collins and Wesley Dotson–are getting some deserved national attention for their work in tracking the Adidas basketball scandal to their home university.
The story broke two weeks ago with the FBI announcement that four assistant basketball coaches had been arrested on a variety of bribery and fraud charges relating to their involvement with Adidas. These were big time schools: Arizona, Auburn, Oklahoma State and Southern California. Louisville University meanwhile fired head coach Rick Pitino shortly after the arrests due to the university’s involvement in the scandal.
The enterprising KU reporters sent a Freedom of Information Act request to the FBI regarding the possible role of KU personnel in what is proving to be a widespread abuse of power and money. Specifically, they asked for “all documents and communications within this investigation related to the University of Kansas and any of its sponsorship deals with Adidas or any investigation of Kansas basketball coaches.”
The answer they got back from the FBI cannot be reassuring to KU authorities. “The records responsive to your request are law enforcement records; there is a pending or prospective law enforcement proceeding relevant to these responsive records, and release of the information in these responsive records could reasonably be expected to interfere with enforcement proceedings,” the FBI responded.
KU has a real timing problem. On September 22, Athletics Director Sheahon Zenger boasted of a restructured apparel deal with Adidas, from which KU was expected to reap $191 million over the next 14 years. KU, one of only 10 schools in Power Five conferences with an Adidas partnership, has the highest profile of any college team affiliated with Adidas.
As reported in the Topeka Capital Journal, the last three tweets posted to the Twitter account of James Gatto, director of global marketing for Adidas, referenced the KU deal. Four days after Zenger boasted of that deal, the FBI arrested Gatto.
When the scandal story broke on September 26, KU assistant athletic director Jim Marchiony denied that the university had any contact with the FBI during its three-year investigation. When asked for clarification, Marchiony said, “I think the answer that I gave about the fact that no federal authorities have contacted us about this case, I’m just going to let that answer speak for itself.”
When the Daily Kansan reporters spoke to Marchiony on Wednesday, he was now saying there had been no contact with the FBI “that he knew of.” He refused to comment on the FBI FOIA response that he claimed not to have seen. Concluded the reporters, “The presence of documents responsive to the Kansan’s request, filed on Sept. 27, does not necessarily implicate the University in wrongdoing, but appears to contradict what Kansas Athletics officials said after the scandal broke.”