LAWRENCE (TNS) — Fault Bill Self for what he said or didn't say earlier this week in light of the guilty verdict for sdidas representatives in the federal trial involving college basketball.
But he was spot on about the idea of perception. "I think it has been a hit on our sport without question," he said.
For the sport in general, and Self's program, dragged through the mud during the pay-for-play testimony, in particular.
Kansas' 120th basketball season debuted Thursday with an exhibition game against Emporia State, and the scene looked and sounded as it should. Allen Fieldhouse was filled, except for the farthest rows in the corners, and was noisy.
The Jayhawks, preseason No. 1 in both major polls despite losing three starters from a Final Four team, overwhelmed their Division II guest. Preseason All-American Dedric Lawson, the Memphis transfer, played the part with 31 points and 15 rebounds.
Kansas committed 22 turnovers against its Division II opponent, mostly by bigs who haven't worked on getting trapped, so that gives Self and his staff a sharp practice focus for a schedule that gets difficult in a hurry.
But all isn't and won't be right with Kansas when it comes to perception. Fallout from the trial, from the phone calls and text messages that suggest possible NCAA violations, were revealed and will follow the Jayhawks throughout a season that shapes up as another where anything less than a Final Four will disappoint.
Kansas is taking criticism as is a system designed to make everybody at top level college sports wealthy except the athletes generating the revenue. It's a bad look all around, and because of the timing of the trial no program's image as season begins has been damaged more than the Jayhawks'.
It will be argued that what's been alleged with KU is what's wrong with big time college basketball, and the case softened at the moment only by the inclusion of others who have been implicated — mostly Adidas schools — and those that play on the same level and feel fortunate their shoe company officials weren't wire-tapped.
The troubles figure to become part of the Kansas' narrative this season, on national broadcasts and forums. And assuming the NCAA doesn't become involved until given a green light from the FBI, a cloud could hover over the program through and beyond this season with trials of assistant coaches in the sport set for February and April.
Kansas has been living this existence most the year when media reports in February tied the mother of former player Josh Jackson to a loan from an agent. Jackson wasn't part of the FBI findings announced in April. But Silvio De Sousa and Billy Preston were.
Through it all, Kansas has gone about its basketball business of shaping a team, recruiting, and on Thursday tipping off a season. That's all it can do as its future is being determined by the Southern District of New York, site of the recent and future trials, and NCAA headquarters in Indianapolis.
The faithful will continue to support a team that aims for a 15th consecutive Big 12 championship, and perception of the program isn't part of the players' radar. Twenty-two turnovers is.
But a reminder of where things stand with Kansas was provided on the bench. De Sousa spent the game there in street clothes cheering teammates as the school looks into allegations revealed at the trial.
The beginning of a new season is a celebration for a program that's won more games than all but one and hasn't missed a NCAA Tournament in nearly three decades. And this team like so many before it has the makings of one of the nation's best. But it also carries an uncertain future. This isn't perception but the reality of Kansas basketball in 2018-19.