The biggest topics at the ACC and Big 12 media days were the ongoing FBI investigation and subsequent corruption trials surrounding college basketball, with some of the sport's biggest names working to downplay the pervasiveness of the scandal before a jury reached its verdict later Wednesday.
"I could be naive, but I've been in college basketball for 43 years, and I've never been asked for money, and I've never asked anybody to give anybody money," Syracuse coach Jim Boeheim said, echoing comments from North Carolina's Roy Williams and Duke's Mike Krzyzewski. "It's very damaging what's happened, and that's not good for college basketball."
Last season, four Division I assistants and multiple individuals affiliated with Adidas were arrested as part of a bribery investigation that altered the sport.
On Wednesday in New York, a jury convicted the three defendants accused of pay-for-play schemes to influence high-profile basketball recruits to attend Kansas, Louisville and NC State. Adidas employee James Gatto, former Adidas consultant Merl Code and Christian Dawkins, a former runner for NBA agent Andy Miller, were found guilty after the three-week criminal trial in federal court.
During the trial, T.J. Gassnola, a former Adidas consultant and key witness, claimed that he arranged payments to the families of former Kansas player Billy Preston and current player Silvio De Sousa, who has been suspended indefinitely. Gassnola claimed that neither Kansas coach Bill Self nor assistant Kurtis Townsend was aware of any pay-for-play arrangements, but an attorney for Gatto said the payment to De Sousa's family was requested by Self.
Multiple text exchanges between Gassnola, Self and Townsend were presented as evidence during the trial.
Self was asked about the trial at Big 12 media day Wednesday in Kansas City, Missouri.
"I know you guys want to talk basketball with me, but before we can get to that, I just want to let you know that due to the trial in New York being ongoing, I will refrain from any comment that is directly related to the trial due to the fact that there has been a mandate given to me, and certainly, I will honor that," Self said before the jury reached its verdict Wednesday afternoon.
With the trial concluded, the Basketball Hall of Fame coach is expected to release a statement later Wednesday, Kansas said.
Big 12 commissioner Bob Bowlsby said he spoke with Self on Tuesday night but didn't ask him about the allegations because, "I knew he wouldn't be able to answer." Bowlsby also said the conference would not get involved unless the allegations in the trial became "matters of fact."
"I'm certainly not gonna prejudge any outcome," Bowlsby said. "There are lots of things that get bantered about in the media or anecdotally come up and don't have anything to do with what's going on in the courtroom. We're just going to have to wait and see. We'll respond appropriately."
Williams said the evidence that came out during court proceedings regarding North Carolina player Nassir Little has vindicated the family; text messages between Dawkins and Little's former AAU coach, Brad Augustine, appeared to show no wrongdoing. Krzyzewski downplayed any involvement of one of his freshmen, Zion Williamson, last week, saying the nation's No. 2 overall recruit has been through thorough vetting by the NCAA.
Both Williams and Krzyzewski raised eyebrows in the past week by suggesting that payments to players around college basketball were infrequent, with the Duke coach calling the trial "a blip" in the overall scope of the sport.
Krzyzewski further clarified his "blip" comment on Wednesday.
"I should have explained it more. For me, as a military person, a blip means a blip on a radar. And a blip, obviously, can be horrible. But it's not the entire radar screen. And that's the point," he told ESPN. "My feeling is there's always been blips and always will be. It's a serious one, but hopefully, there aren't a lot of them. In the context of things that I do, I'm not aware of blips. I haven't been hurt by a blip.
"When we lose a guy, and we deal with the top guys in the country, we haven't lost a guy because we feel somebody has done something illegal. And so for me to then comment on the entire state of college basketball in that regard is inappropriate, I think."
Former Duke assistant and current Pitt coach Jeff Capel said those comments likely reflect the firsthand knowledge Krzyzewski has of the situation.
"If it's something that hurts our game, I think it's a big issue," Capel said. "But I don't think everyone's involved or would know the ins and outs of what's happened in the trial, and he wouldn't know because he's not involved that deep in recruiting."
Williams agreed that there were issues in the sport, but he remarked on the small number of coaches in trouble as compared to the sport as a whole.
"We have some things we should be worried about. We have some negative things," Williams told ESPN. "But I think the glass is very much half-full. I think summer basketball, for example, has some great experiences. I think the game is pretty doggone good.
"Four coaches. Originally, four coaches. We have 351 Division I schools. Each one of them has four or five coaches. So we're talking about 1400, 1500 people. In any element of society, you put four bad situations out of 1500, most people would take that."
West Virginia's Bob Huggins offered similar comments, saying the FBI investigation should not affect the collective perception of college basketball.
"If, in fact, which I don't think has been proven yet, any of those things happened, they shouldn't have happened," Huggins said. "But you're talking about, what? Four or five schools, at the most? ... If things happened, we all know they shouldn't have happened, but that doesn't affect the state of our game and the way people go about doing their business."
After the verdict was announced, Krzyzewski said he would need time to digest it and what it means, but his initial thoughts were that the verdict was good for the sport.
"It's always good if someone does something wrong, they're found out -- and they're held accountable for it,'' he said.
Meanwhile, Notre Dame coach Mike Brey said the more information and dirt that came out of the trial, the better off the sport will be in the long run.
"We've had an underworld. We've kind of had this as part of the culture, and as a coach, you either dance in it or you make decisions to avoid it," Brey told ESPN. "And again, I think the majority of our coaches do a great job. But we do have an element that's out there, and right now, I think it's hurt the game a little bit, it's hurt the coaching profession a little bit. My feeling is, let's get it all out, let's let the NCAA deal with it. I think we gotta air it all out, man. I do think three or four years from now, we can find ourselves in a better place.
"My feeling is blow the whole thing up. Get it all out."
ACC commissioner John Swofford said his league continues to evaluate proper ways to implement the findings of the Rice Commission, but much of the evaluation of the biggest impacts of the FBI investigation might not be known for years. The commission suggested significant changes to how the NCAA punishes complex and serious infractions, and it recommended that high school and college players sign with agents to better understand their prospects of turning pro.
As the aftermath of the trial plays out, Boeheim and Williams were among the coaches who offered support for an Olympics-style model of compensation for players, whereby they could use their names and likenesses to earn money but would not be directly compensated by the schools. Williams said he has discussed this with former NFL star Peyton Manning, who lamented the significant number of jerseys sold with his number during his days at Tennessee -- for which he received no financial benefit.
"I'm not in favor of compensation," Williams said, "but if you use a kid's likeness, I'm in big favor of that."
Swofford said that topic has been discussed among conference commissioners but has been tabled while they observe how the FBI investigation unfolds. That has been a common refrain from the sport's executives, even as coaches work to repair the sport's image.
"Hopefully, we find a collective way to address this subculture that had a light shone on it and clean that aspect up," Swofford said. "I don't know how prevalent it is. I don't think it's terribly prevalent."
ESPN's Jeff Borzello contributed to this report.