The Kansas basketball program went looking for trouble this past weekend with an ill-conceived, raunchy, NCAA-be-damned Snoop Dogg performance to kick off the season at Allen Fieldhouse.
Facing NCAA allegations of multiple major violations and a lack of institutional control, KU Athletics officials somehow saw fit to greenlight a mini-concert during Late Night in the Phog that featured profanity, pole dancers and money guns. After all, when you’re charged with serious recruiting violations, why not shoot fake $100 bills at the KU bench?
Coach Bill Self’s hasty retreat to the locker room during the show — he said he “wasn’t feeling well” — effectively summed up the state of Kansas basketball.
KU athletic director Jeff Long admitted staffers didn’t properly vet Snoop Dogg’s performance before the rapper and his not-so-family-friendly pole dancers took the court Friday night. But pleading ill-preparedness and ignorance is no excuse.
The preseason spectacle would have been a bad look for any college basketball program. But with the specter of serious NCAA punishments looming, KU can’t afford to make light of pay-to-play allegations.
After the money guns came out Friday, Self could only hang his head before leaving the court.
“I didn’t know that there was going to be anything like that,” he said of Snoop Dogg’s show.
But what did Self and KU officials expect? Snoop is a well-known gangsta rapper with a strong affinity for marijuana. No one would confuse him with a fun-for-the-whole-family entertainer.
Sure, Snoop has a cooking show with Martha Stewart, who went to prison for insider trading, by the way. And by all accounts, the rapper, whose real name is Calvin Cordozar Broadus Jr., is a doting father and husband.
But on stage, Snoop Dogg is anything but a PG-13 performer.
KU Athletics officials should have anticipated the risks. While Self later hinted at his dismay, Long issued an apology and wisely took responsibility for the widely panned performance. But that did little to quell the criticism or to answer the question on everyone’s mind: Who thought this was a good idea?
“We apologize to anyone who was offended by the Snoop Dogg performance at Late Night,” Long wrote in a statement. “We made it clear to the entertainer’s manager that we expected a clean version of the show and took additional steps to communicate to our fans, including moving the artist to the final act of the evening, to ensure that no basketball activities would be missed if anyone did not want to stay for his show.
“I take full responsibility for not thoroughly vetting all details of the performance and offer my personal apology to those who were offended. We strive to create a family atmosphere at Kansas and fell short of that this evening.”
These unforced errors played out at a moment when KU’s athletic department has essentially declared war on the NCAA’s enforcement division.
Shortly after KU received a notice of allegations detailing violations tied to the recruitment of Billy Preston and Silvio De Sousa, Self went on the offensive, accusing the NCAA of creating a “false narrative” based on “innuendo, half-truths, misimpressions and mischaracterizations.”
Of course, KU is entitled to mount an aggressive defense in response to the NCAA’s allegations. This process is likely to play out over several months, and it’s too early to draw definitive conclusions.
But at a time when KU can’t afford a single misstep, we’ve seen poor judgment aplenty.
A week before Late Night in the Phog, the school released a video featuring Self donning Adidas gear and a gaudy (“phat” in hip-hop parlance) gold chain adorned with a “$” sign.
It was aimed at promoting Snoop Dogg’s appearance. But KU’s lousy timing — the video dropped the same week the school received notice of the NCAA allegations — spurred speculation about whether Self was thumbing his nose at the oversight organization.
Both the video and the Snoop Dogg performance raise questions about whether Kansas officials are just making bad decisions or are not actually taking these charges of major violations seriously.
Neither scenario is reassuring for backers of this storied program. And while there is still more to learn about the NCAA’s allegations, one thing is clear: Kansas basketball should be better than this.
Copyright The Kansas City Star. Reprinted with permission.