KANSAS CITY, Mo. (AP) – After every home game at Kansas, players file out of the locker room at Allen Fieldhouse and spend about 15 or 20 minutes signing autographs. Sometimes, there will be hundreds of fans – many of them children – waiting for their favorite player.
These days, a seemingly innocent way to connect with fans is triggering red flags.
High-profile cases of college football players signing autographs for money, a violation of NCAA rules, has coaches on edge in all college sports – including basketball. Johnny Manziel was investigated last year, though no wrongdoing was found, and Georgia’s Todd Gurley was suspended recently as the NCAA investigates him, too.
“We’ve run it through our compliance in the past and have ways to handle it,” Kansas coach Bill Self said Wednesday during the Big 12’s annual basketball media day.
“Somebody asks for an autograph, the perfect thing to say is, `Who do you want me to make it out to?’ If they say, `Don’t – just sign your name,’ well, then you automatically know it could be for sale, and with you having no knowledge of it,” Self said.
Iowa State’s Fred Hoiberg said coaches talk to their players “all the time, until you’re blue in the face,” but that it’s still hard to monitor everything.
“They’re 18- and 19-year old kids,” Hoiberg said. “They spend a lot more time on their own than they do with the coaches. You do as much as you possibly can by trying to educate them.”
RULE CHANGE: The NCAA generally implements rule changes every other year, and this is a non-change year. But officials are still planning to expand on the block-charge rule.
“Last year we butchered it,” Big 12 director of officiating Curtis Shaw said. “Many of the fouls in the post position came from missing fouls on the offense. We were penalizing the wrong players.”
This season, the defender – regardless whether he is the primary or secondary – can move vertically, step back or move to protect himself. Shaw said the rule is being enforced to teach players “to play vertical, rather than undercut.”
“By the end of the year, everything was a block,” Shaw said. “I don’t think we got half of them right last year.”
BIG SLIM: Iowa State forward Georges Niang lost about 25 pounds in the offseason, which he said was a byproduct of working out and eating right – with a little outside motivation.
“Someone (tweeted) I had bigger breasts than their girlfriend,” Niang said. “I think I had a salad after that.”
He said that he had issues with fatigue last year and thought losing some weight would help. Hoiberg also met with him after a foot injury and told him to get in better shape if he wanted to improve his game.
“That’s when things took a turn for the best and I started eating right,” Niang said. “I’m healthier than I’ve ever been. I think that working on my body every day will be key for me.”
AIR UP THERE: Kansas was picked to finish first in the Big 12 by the league’s coaches. If it comes to fruition, that would be 11 straight titles for the Jayhawks.
But not everyone is convinced Kansas will dominate.
“We actually had a practice and the next day we saw the preseason rankings,” Iowa State forward Dustin Hogue said. “We realized we were No. 5 and that took the whole team by surprise. … In trying to dethrone who everybody thinks is the best team, it starts off the court.”
Hogue added, “We have to have a good season record before we even get to Kansas. If we do that, we will be a good contender.”
The Jayhawks, meanwhile, are accustomed to having the league shooting for them.
“It’s a long race to the championship,” Kansas forward Jamari Traylor said. “As long as we take it one game at a time, respect our opponents, not take anything for granted, just do our thing every night, I feel that we shouldn’t lose.”