Sampson’s sanctions lifted after one-year penalty

Sampson’s sanctions lifted after one-year penalty

Punishment for recruiting violations at Oklahoma over for Hoosier coach

by Chris Korman, H-T sports writer

May 25, 2007

Indiana coach Kelvin Sampson’s one-year NCAA penalty was lifted on Thursday. Sampson could not call recruits during the year as a penalty for violations at Oklahoma. Chris Howell | Herald-Times
From the May 25, 2007 Bloomington Herald-Times

A year ago, newly hired Indiana basketball coach Kelvin Sampson was dealing with more than acclimating himself to a new town and team.

He was also embroiled in the final stages of an investigation into his program at Oklahoma that revealed 577 impermissible recruiting phone calls and resulted in sanctions levied against him.

Those restrictions, which prevented him from calling recruits and visiting them off campus, ended Thursday. Not that it matters in the short term; basketball recruiting is in a quiet period until the middle of July. Coaches can meet with players only if those players come to campus.

The effect of the calling ban has been minimized the past year because Sampson was allowed to send text messages to players and could often initiate contact that way. Recruits were able to call him.

“I found it easier to get through to a kid, and more convenient, with texting,” Sampson said Thursday. “You wouldn’t think an old guy like me would learn to do that but I did.”

A recent ban on text messages instituted by the NCAA doesn’t go into effect until August.

The NCAA investigation, which began with an anonymous tip in 2001, uncovered 577 impermissible phone calls to 17 recruits made by coaches at Oklahoma between 2000 and 2004. Sampson himself made 233 of the calls.

“This case is a result of (Sampson’s) complete disregard for the NCAA guidelings for proper telephone contact with recruits,” Thomas Yeager, the acting chair of the NCAA Infractions Committee, said last year. “(Sampson) created and encouraged an atmosphere among his staff of deliberate noncompliance, rationalizing the violations as being a result of ‘prioritizing’ rules.”

At the time Sampson issued a statement saying, “I have learned an invaluable lesson, and I hope that this reinforces to other coaches the importance of every aspect of NCAA compliance.”

Thursday, Sampson said he has not made any recent changes to his recruiting procedures to avoid further violations. Those changes, he said, were made three years ago but he did not elaborate on what they were.

Despite the sanctions, Sampson put together probably the best recruiting class of his career. His staff wasn’t in place until mid-April and still managed to sign Eric Gordon, regarded by many as the best high school player in the class, and Jamarcus Ellis, who was the JUCO player of the year.

“The way our recruiting class was this year, I think you attribute that to the fact that people respect you and know the reputation of your program,” Sampson said.

Intensity of recruiting by head coaches varies from program to program, and Sampson has been unable to travel during the summer before due to USA Basketball commitments. He stayed home in Norman for his final summer at Oklahoma as an early self-punishment and still signed what he considered the top class of his 12-year tenure there.

But he said he will return to the recruiting trail this July (when an evaluation period begins) for the major AAU showcase events and high-level camps. He’ll use that time to introduce himself to and scout the top rising sophomores and juniors.

“That’s what I missed last summer,” he said. “If we’re in a meeting and one of my coaches brings up a kid, I’d like to be able to say that I saw him.”

Rambling coach

Sampson has criss-crossed the country over the last several weeks. He was in Oklahoma for the graduation of his son, Kellen, who has moved to Bloomington and will soon begin work on a graduate degree in addition to becoming a graduate assistant for the basketball team.

Sampson also attended a ceremony at Montana Tech, where he began his head coaching career in the middle of the 1980-81 season. He and his wife, Karen, donated $50,000 to the athletic department there for renovations to the physical education building.

Sampson also joined dozens of other coaches in Sarasota, Fla., at a benefit for the Jimmy V Foundation.