The University of Kansas has discovered that Roy Williams ’72 gave his approval to some gifts of cash, clothing and alumni association memberships to graduating basketball players in 2001, 2002 and 2003 while he was the university’s head basketball coach, which Kansas has acknowledged to be in violation of NCAA rules. Other improper gifts occurred on Williams’ watch but apparently not with his direct approval.
The gifts, believed to be in the range of $50 to $400, were made by boosters of the Kansas athletics program.
Williams said in a statement released through UNC’s athletics department that he had made a mistake in thinking that graduation gifts were permissible under NCAA rules.
“I personally felt this was not a problem and evidently a communication problem led me to believe this was OK with our compliance department. Therefore, I told the alum a small ‘gift’ would be OK. I also stated the ‘gift’ shouldn’t be extravagant and there should be no campaign for this – just a personal graduation ‘gift,'” Williams said. “I did not know the rule that once you’re a student-athlete, you are a student-athlete until death.”
Williams said he had spoken with only one of three boosters named in the Kansas report on the question of whether the gifts were permissible. The other boosters, according to the report, asked permission of others in the KU athletics department.
The NCAA terms such gifts “extra benefits” that are prohibited unless expressly authorized by NCAA legislation.
The person who investigated the Kansas program termed the basketball violations “secondary.”
Kansas officials already were conducting a self-study of the school’s athletics operations at the time that Athletics Director Lew Perkins discovered some mail sent to three KU players with the return address of Joan Edwards, a Jayhawks athletics booster. Perkins’ inquiry led to the discovery that Edwards had sent graduation notes to three players. One contained $50, and Edwards subsequently said she had been sending cash gifts of appreciation to players – after their playing eligibility had expired – for several years. Edwards recalled that the amounts generally were in the $25 to $50 range and possibly as high as $200.
According to the report, Edwards said that Williams and then-Athletics Director Bob Frederick were aware she was making the gifts.
The NCAA will investigate the findings in the self-study, in which Kansas also found NCAA rules violations in its football and women’s basketball programs. Kansas reported that the NCAA expected to finish its review of the self-report by this fall. The school has imposed a two-year probationary period – minus any sanctions – on itself for the violations it found.
UNC Athletics Director Dick Baddour ’66 said he was confident the gift-giving practice had not taken place at Carolina and that there would not be a formal investigation of the program, which Williams’ has headed for three years.
“No one is more committed to complying with NCAA rules than Roy Williams,” Baddour said in a statement. “He and his staff have the utmost respect for doing things the right way. I am confident he received approval from the compliance staff at Kansas. I have never worked with a coach who is more serious about adhering to the rules than Coach Williams.”
Chancellor James Moeser also gave Williams a vote of confidence.
“I did speak with one alumnus and one alumnus only on the question of ‘May I give these seniors a graduation gift?’ ” Williams said. “I personally felt this was not a problem and evidently a communication problem led me to believe this was OK with our compliance department. Therefore, I told the alum a small ‘gift’ would be OK.
“Kansas never gained a recruiting or competitive advantage – the students had completed their eligibility and it was seen as a ‘graduation gift.'”
Of one of the boosters, he said, “the alumnus himself says in the report that I referred him to the KU compliance department and that is where he felt he received ‘approval.’ The ‘gifts’ in three instances were purchasing lifetime memberships to the university’s alumni association [currently $1,000] and in one case the purchase of a suit of clothes for an individual. I never had any knowledge of these ‘gifts’ and therefore did not give my approval.”
Williams added in his statement, “I take compliance with NCAA rules very seriously. If ever I do not, or if the University leadership thinks I do not, it is time for me to move on.”