A year ago

I had a pretty relaxed Sunday. Hope you did, too.

I ran some errands, did some chores.

Most thrillingly, I bought a toaster. And then I toasted bread to test it. It works.

The floor needed sweeping, the bathroom needed cleaning and I had to take out the recycling bin.

You know, one of those days.

I did have the tube on and heard/watched the Big Ten games today. Was surprised how well Illinois played in winning (and showing that it can actually score the basketball) at Ohio State, how easily Minnesota handled Northwestern and by the Michigan meltdown in overtime against Iowa.

(By the way, I was folding laundry and heard the announcer yell “That’s the dagger by Michigan!” Of course when I came up the game was headed to overtime. So it wasn’t much of a dagger. But therein lies my question: what does that term even mean? Is the rest of the game a fist fight and then suddenly one dude pulls out a dagger and stabs the other, ending it? Is that the imagery we’re after there? I get confused every time I hear it.)

Anyway, it was a day to let the brain recharge a bit. I actively tried not to think too much, which, because I know you have this question, is different than other days because other days I try to think and simply fail to do so with much result.

But I could not let the anniversary of Kelvin Sampson’s resignation pass without at least a note here.

Feb. 22, 2008 dawned the way you know February days will, cold and gusty with a snow/ice/slush mix underfoot. As the few dozen reporters who had descended on Bloomington to cover the Sampson story set out into that cold, we knew exactly what would happen that day — Sampson would exit the program — but did not know it would happen.

As you probably remember, we were camped out at Assembly Hall for most of the day. Mostly we stood around, waiting and bantering about how we thought it would go down. It’s also the first time I recall that we seriously talked about having to cover the search for a new coach that would surely ensue, and who we thought it might tab as the next Hoosiers coach. Unfortunately I can’t remember if anyone piped up and named Tom Crean as a candidate. We had a lot of time to b.s., so it’s hard to recall what exactly was said.

As I would find out only later when I opened by extra-bulky (and extra-pricey) cell phone bill did I realize that I had been involved (that is, sent or received) over 400 text messages with sources on that day as we tried to figure out what was happening.

Sampson and his wife walked out of the basketball office in the morning; what I remember about it was that Sampson was not wearing a suit or a piece of IU clothing. It was the first time I’d ever seen him like that.

Later, H-T intern Zak Keefer was able to sneak into practice and the H-T was the first to report that Dan Dakich was leading the team and that half the team had not shown up for his first session. To think that on that day, with all of us milling about and knowing how paranoid the whole athletic department seemed under Rick Greenspan, they had somehow failed to lock the doors that led to the seats at Assmebly Hall still astonishes me.

Finally, at about 9 p.m., we heard from Greenspan that Sampson had been bought out. Like that, he was gone.

This past weekend in West Lafayette, a few intrepid Purdue students had cut out large letters that spelled, “CHEATERS” (just imagine what they’ll be able to do when they take their 400-level engineering courses). And of course the natural inclination of any Indiana fan is to counter their charge with the contention that it’s a ridiculous sentiment because of the drastic changes that have taken place in the year since Sampson left.

Indiana isn’t that Indiana anymore, they would say.

But after the Hoosiers lost to the Boilermakers and Crean was asked to discuss the rivalry he brought up the fact that, no matter what, when you put on the Indiana jersey it carries certain responsibilities. Adidas may give you a new jersey, made of a material the pulls moisture away better and keeps you cooler or whatever. Doesn’t matter; it’s still the jersey of Dees and May and Benson and Alford and Cheaney and Jeffries and White.

Of course remembering those players is more enjoyable and probably easier to do for many fans — the Samspon years have been tucked into the same rarely accessed corner of the brain as that day in fourth-grade gym class when they taught you how to ballroom dance — but to bitter rivals the Sampson days are significant.

From my vantage point as a reporter I tend to fall somewhere between the perpetually perturbed-with-each-other fanbases:  Indiana runs neither an inherently evil program bound to act unethically as a matter of course nor a bastion of propriety that was infiltrated only momentarily and has since been clensed and returned to flawless operating conditions.

It’s been a whole year; a lot has changed.

It’s only been a year; there’s a lot to be done to ensure that Indiana is where it wants to be.

9 comments

  1. Chris, I will admit that at that point I did not know how hard this year would be for us fans. With that said, I am really happy with Crean and this team. I will take this team over last years any day. I got tired of watching Gordon jack up bad shots and whining, Ellis temper tantrums, Crawfords playground ball, and kids sitting out for disciplinary reasons. This team at least plays their butts off.

  2. To think a few three way calls brought IU basketball to this miserable season. Next year when the passion is back and we’re competing for the big ten title, you’ll make another post like this reminiscing today’s malaise surrounding this year’s team.

    You have to admit as a sports journalist last year was more exciting.

  3. Really enjoy your posts like this Chris. I just want to thank Coach Crean for the remarkable job he’s done as head coach this past year. Who else would have had the guts to clean house like he did? Who else would have embraced Indiana like he has done, winning back every single fan while the team loses night in and night out? Who else would have brought in a top 8 recruiting class for ’09 under the restrictions and black cloud the program had? Basically, I dont think there is anyone out there who could have repaired the IU image, while setting the program up for future success, like Coach did since he was hired. He worked so hard to reunite the “Hoosier Nation,” and I think the fanbase is going to repay him ten-fold as the years go on.

  4. Larivee uses the “dagger” reference all the time and he used it twice on Sunday for DIFFERENT teams. This needs to stop.

    Nice post Chris. I’m just sick of his name. Sampson. Ugh. Can we do a [name redacted] when mentioning him from now on? I can’t wait until Crean’s winning makes [name redacted] a distant, unhappy memory in a proud history.

  5. Happy Anniversary fellow Hoosiers. At least we’ve got our memories of the General and our 5 dusty banners and little Knight’s suspension.

    I’m just going to enjoy this special day.

  6. What a year, indeed; from starting last season 14-1 to ending this season 1-16, IU’s spectacularly tragic implosion has been like nothing ever seen before in college sports. Sure, other D-1 programs have been gutted, but none have matched the breadth, exposure or impact of Indiana’s self-destruction (and subsequent and on-going resurrection).

    And as unbelievable as this whole sordid debacle has been, I remain even more astonished by how little more we know one year after the K-bomb was detonated inside Assembly Hall.

    Save the C.O.I.’s cryptic report and the various, partial responses thereto which have been made public, many of the most critical facts of the case remain unknown.

    Remind me again why it took months for compliance to get detailed billing reports on the cell phones they issued to the coaches?

    It was said the coaches had questions about 3-way calls and phone hand-offs; exactly when were these questions asked? Who asked and who answered? What were the answers and who gave them?

    Once the intern found the needles in the database haystack, tell me again why we thought it was a good idea to allow the repeat offender to keep the keys to the program?

    Did it ever cross anybody’s mind that the credibility of Sampson’s denials might be called into question by the NCAA after he violated the very rules which got him in trouble in the 1st place?

    Did anybody ever think about contacting the recruits involved in the impermissible calls to determine whether the coaches’ statements might be contradicted by other witnesses?

    Exactly what evidence led the C.O.I. to determine compliance was too cozy with the coaches? From which desk did the dilution of such a significant duty originate?

    One year later, my excitement for the future remains encumbered by my questions of the past.

  7. My most nagging memory of last year was that we were a damn good team until the whole ‘phone-gate’ storm broke. Sampson inherited a great program and was well on his way to National Championship territory. If only… he had shown some awareness that he was under a microscope and couldn’t get away with even minor infractions. I’m convinced that we would have been a Final Four team last year and a contender for a Championship this year had he just been able to exhibit a little self control. As it is, he ‘retired’ with IU’s all-time highest winning percentage for a coach. And, no I don’t subscribe to the ‘thugs’ nonsense – his players were kids who needed guidance and someone to show them through example how one achieves his goals by self-control and focus; neither of which Sampson seemed to have. Damn good coach, damn good players – down the drain.

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