18 comments

  1. Dear Myles Brand,

    Just wondering when you were going to start investigating the recruiting situation with Eric Gordon, Jr. (“EJ”), the 2007 men’s basketball recruit who recently reneged on his commitment to the University of Illinois on Friday, October 13, 2006 and simultaneously had his father, Eric Gordon, Sr. announce his son’s commitment to Indiana University.

    There are some key questions swirling around this recruiting game and I, among others, would like to hear your thoughts and findings regarding the following:

    Sampson’s Current Recruiting Violations

    After Indiana University said a tearless goodbye to their former coach Mike Davis in early 2006, Indiana had no qualms about hiring Kelvin Sampson, the Oklahoma University head coach, who was awaiting NCAA penalties to be handed down due to recruiting violations over a four year period. In May 2006, the NCAA issued its penalties against Sampson which followed him to his new head coaching position at Indiana.

    The NCAA banned Sampson from calling recruits and participating in off-campus recruiting activities for one year for making 577 impermissible phone calls from 2000 to 2004 while at OU. So during in his first year at Indiana, Sampson was handcuffed by these well-deserved penalties . . . or was he? The dire question became – how was Sampson going to recruit his way out of a brown paper bag? The answer: Well, hire the friends of the Gordons, of course.

    Hiring Coaching Friends of the Gordons

    Soon after Sampson arrived in the spring of 2006, he hired his assistant from OU, Ray McCallum, an Indiana native, who has known Gordon Sr. since he played against him in high school.

    In April 2006, Sampson hired a new assistant, Jeff Meyer, longtime acquaintance of Gordon Sr. and his former coach at Liberty University. Meyer’s last job was as an assistant under Quinn Snyder at Missouri and certainly the NCAA knows what happened to Missouri under Quinn’s tenure.

    In August 2006, Sampson hired another, new assistant, Travis Steele, who happened to be a summer basketball coach that EJ has known since middle school. Sampson appears to be in good company with Steele when it comes to NCAA investigations given that Steele was at the center of controversy last summer that led to the NCAA prohibiting people with “basketball duties” at a college program from coaching “nonscholastic based teams, such as summer travel teams.

    Does the NCAA mind that friends of families might get “served” recruits due to favors being passed as a result of “deeply ingrained relationships?” It appears that Kansas University’s men’s basketball program is allowed to hire the father of a recruit as the head of basketball operations according to the NCAA. So perhaps the NCAA turns a blind eye when three “friends of the Gordon family” are employed by Indiana which happens to be heavily recruiting their son who verbally committed to a different program. But, when does openly hiring friends and family members coincide with delivering a recruit become “out of hand” or impermissible by the NCAA? Or when does the illusion of bartering under the table turn into a realization of a “quid pro quo?”

    Now where is Yogi’s Again?

    Per the NCAA penalties, Sampson was not allowed to leave campus to recruit; however, interestingly enough, he was allowed to have recruits meet with him at Yogi’s, a restaurant located in Bloomington, Indiana (off-campus) that does not appear to be owned by the University. This happened not just once in September with EJ and another recruit, Derrick Rose, but twice. Again in September, Sampson and his recruits, including EJ, made yet another trip to Yogi’s.

    Does the NCAA arbitrarily and capriciously decide what is considered on and off campus in terms of recruiting violations or was Yogi’s “pre-approved” in your penalties handed down upon Sampson? Also, if Sampson can’t call recruits or leave campus, how did “very high” profile recruits such as EJ or Derrick Rose get in touch with him to set up these meal meetings?

    Impact of Donors and Alumni Large and Small

    Another curious aspect of this recruiting scenario is the impact of donors. Recently, the famous and wealthy Indiana alum, Mark Cuban, sat down for a very public dinner with Sampson. Within days, Indiana announced that they would be supporting a $55 million new facilities budget for the athletic department which included new facilities for the men’s basketball program.

    In addition, Indiana alumni who are physicians and clients of Gordon Sr. appear to have an influence on his role as a pharmaceutical representative as well have an impact on his ability to “make his livelihood.” Gordon Sr.’s financial interests will be met if the physicians who have ties to Indiana have their interests met. Are there any other financial dealings going on here that might peak the interest of the NCAA?

    Does is Really Matter if the Shoe Fits?

    The strangest part of this recruiting fiasco is how EJ struck up a very close relationship over the summer with another recruit, Derrick Rose. Both ended up playing on the summer basketball circuit together for Derrick Rose’s team, MeanStreets Express, coached by Derrick’s brother and handler, Reggie Rose.

    It is public knowledge that Reggie is currently being advised on Derrick’s recruitment by Reebok affiliated tournament sponsor, Sonny Vaccaro, who is all too associated with the lower rungs of college basketball recruiting. Sonny’s previous stints and falling-outs with Nike and Adidas landed him at Reebok, but Reebok was most recently acquired by Adidas, so Sonny is back on the Adidas payroll and up to his old tricks on delivering high school basketball recruits to the college teams associated with his employer.

    So, when Derrick picked all Adidas schools to consider and left the Nike ones off of his list, no one was truly surprised, and it didn’t appear the NCAA was either. However, when Indiana appeared on his list and he later visited with Sampson at Yogi’s with EJ, the plot thickened.

    It appears that perhaps the Adidas and Reebok tournaments were useful places for Sonny to whisper “sweet nothings” into the ears of Reggie and Gordon, Sr. Does the NCAA find shoe company involvement with high school basketball recruiting acceptable? How is Sonny given access to this process and what steps are the NCAA taking to ensure that no “improper dealings” were undertaken?

    It All Comes Out in the Wash

    Myles, I hope my questions poised to you and the NCAA investigative teams do not fall onto deaf ears. Yes, you may laugh, chuckle or perhaps toss my letter into the trash can under your desk, but remember, as my father always said “it all comes out in the wash.”

    These improper dealings that continuously plague high school basketball recruiting will only continue to harm and denigrate the purity of collegiate sports. When TV ratings in college sports on ESPN, CBS, ABC, NBC slide, when fans start to boycott sponsors of the NCAA or boycott merchandise sold by the NCAA, then maybe it might hurt a little more.

    What will be really funny is when Sampson fails to develop EJ into the NBA talent he could have been, EJ fails to restore Indiana’s program to its former glory, and when EJ ends up playing for IU for three or more years and doesn’t get drafted in the first round in the NBA. That is when the dirt from this whole matter will finally be washed out.

    I guess the NCAA really doesn’t care under what circumstances a kid gets recruited as long as he gets a free education, shoe companies get paid, donors and alumni are happy, and friends and family get jobs and money. Kind of sad isn’t it? Isn’t college a place that the NCAA wants boys to develop into men with minds, ethics and morals or are they just part of the three-ring circus that everyone hates to watch?

  2. This is found in the city county building downtown Indy on a plaque in a case

    there is a certain blend of courage, integrity, character and principal which has no satisfactory dictionary name, but has been called different things at different times in different countries., our american name for it is guts .

    eric senior and the indiana recruiting program have none and EJ ….. you need to get some quickly

  3. To the loser who wrote the “Dear Brand” letter:

    Not enough time to laugh at your pathetic sour grapes effort, but do you realize how many inaccuracies are in your post? For example, Meyer wasn’t at Mizzou when the Clemons thing occured. Meyer was brought in when Quinn cleaned house.

    LOL. The college basketball world is laughing at Illinois.

  4. To the loser who wrote the “IbiotsUnited” comment:

    You misspelled your name… IdiotsUnited!!

  5. Why are Illinois fans on the HT blog? Doug and Chris, you guys are doing a fantastic job! And IBiots is the correct spelling. It is a play on the Illinois message board called “IB” (Illini Board or something along those lines), thus the name IBiots. And those phone call sanctions are really hurting so far. Go Kelvin! Go IU!

  6. Jeff,

    Don’t you know… We are on your blog to mess with the Hoosier fans!!! I understand your explanation of the spelling of IBiots… but I stand by my statement… “IDiotsUnited”

  7. Thanks for getting back to me Sanction. The message board website is called the Illini Board, or abbreviated IB. Thus, a lot of Peegsters (Peegs.com message board posters) called the Illini Board posters IBiots. Doesn’t really roll off the tongue well though. See you around!

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