On March 16, the day before Kansas State’s game against Syracuse in the NCAA tournament, K-State had a receipt show up in its compliance office.
The receipt — the result of a $200 wire payment to Jamar Samuels from his former AAU coach Curtis Malone, came from a grocery store in Manhattan.
“It was found, basically on the floor or the trash at the grocery store,” K-State athletic director John Currie said. “It was brought to the compliance office. And I promise you, I wish it had stayed in the trash.
“I’ll be honest, it would have made my weekend a lot better if a receipt hadn’t shown up in our compliance office. We don’t have people out combing the trash cans looking for trouble. It would have made our weekend a lot more pleasant had it not shown up.”
Frank Martin, the K-State head coach at the time, didn’t think Samuels did anything wrong. However, the interpretation of the rule is that the senior forward did indeed violate a NCAA rule, and there was nothing K-State, or Currie, could do about it.
“We handled that in a completely appropriate fashion,” K-State president Kirk Schulz said. “I had several people write to me and say that if I wanted to show support for your coach, you should have played a player that you knew was ineligible. We are simply not going to do that. That is not the way Kansas State athletics and the university operates.
“While I completely appreciate Coach Martin’s passion at that time — if I am the coach I would want the best players out there. At the same time, it is up to the president of the university and the athletics director working with our coaching staff to be sure that we maintain complete academic integrity. I think that it was handled really the way that we need to.”
There was public backlash from fans over the decision, but had K-State simply ignored it and the NCAA found out, the men’s basketball program could have suffered significant consequences
“Once it came into our possession, for us to do nothing would have risked the integrity of the institution, the integrity of our men’s basketball program and the integrity of our coaching staff,” Currie said. “The rule exists and we have to follow the rules. We will always follow the rules at Kansas State.”
Currie said having to tell Samuels he couldn’t play in what proved to be his final game was one of the tougher things he ever had to do.
“It was not fun,” he said. “I care about Jamar Samuels. I’ve gotten to know him over the last three years. We’ve had great times and we’ve had tough times. And that certainly was never the way we wanted a situation to unfold.”
Sources have confirmed Martin and Currie didn’t have a good relationship, but Schulz said that wasn’t the case, and added that the relationship was portrayed even worse due to the Samuels situation, something that wasn’t Currie’s fault.
“What happened in my opinion goes back to the Jamar Samuels situation and people said ‘well, if you look at how that was originally reported it looks like there’s a rift between the athletic director and the men’s basketball coach,’” Schulz said. “It’s been pretty distressing after the last three days to kind of hear ‘boy, the whole problem was John and one of our coaches didn’t get along and that’s why they left.’
“I don’t think that’s a fair characterization of John’s relationship with our men’s basketball coach. Unfortunately, that’s been the way it’s been portrayed over the last three or four days.”