My thoughts

About halfway through my Apple Jacks Sunday morning I got a call informing me Kelvin Sampson was in trouble again. To say the least, breakfast didn’t end very well.

You see, I was already in a bad mood after watching the IU football squad’s 52-27 pounding the night before at the hands of Michigan State. And when I hear that Sampson AGAIN made too many phone calls to recruits, something he’s already been sanctioned by the NCAA on, I started to realize that this just wasn’t going to be a good weekend for IU sports.

You all know the story: according to an IU Athletic Department press release, the university has imposed a series of recruiting sanctions and corrective actions on Sampson and his assistant coaches. Allegedly, Sampson and his staff exceeded certain NCAA limitations on telephone calls to prospective recruits and their parents and coaches.

So pretty much, Sampson can’t stay off the phone. Even after he was put on probation for the same transgressions in May of 2006, he now faces identical charges. Apparently, he didn’t learn his lesson.

This whole saga just makes me sick. Sampson came here with baggage- something Indiana fans have little patience for- and he was able to work through that and restore the Hoosier nation’s faith in its basketball program. Oh, and it didn’t hurt that he signed Eric Gordon, the #2 recruit in the 2007 class.

Thing is, IU fans fell in love with Sampson last year. At Friday’s Hoosier Hysteria, the first official practice of the 2007-08 season, it was readily apparent that Sampson had earned the respect of the Hoosier faithful. He was met with chants of “Kelv-in Samp-son, Kelv-in Samp-son” before his name was even introduced over the loud speaker.

On Friday night, his past recruiting violations were the very last thought on everyone’s mind in Assembly Hall.

Until this Sunday that is. The worst part, which I learned as the day progressed, was Sampson’s apology he issued during a teleconference with reporters.

“When you get a call and a recruit is talking, you just start talking with him,” Sampson said. “We were under the impression that this was over. We thought we had complied with all the rules.”

Well they didn’t. Sampson’s a smart guy, and he should’ve known better. And unquestionably, he should have known better after being sanctioned by the NCAA in 2006. Maybe if this happened at Oklahoma, or Washington State (both schools Sampson coached at), or somewhere else. But not Indiana. Not a school that lives and breathes basketball.

When you’re put under an NCAA investigation, you make absolute certain that you don’t break any more laws. You never leave that in question. Never, never, never. You don’t break the same rule twice. And it’s jour job, as the head coach, to make certain that none of your coaches violate any rules as well.

Apparently, this didn’t happen. When recruits called Sampson, he spoke with them. There’s no way around it. It doesn’t matter if it was a direct call, a three-way call or a teleconference with 100 people, Sampson should’ve known better. Why risk it? Why risk a job like the men’s basketball coach at Indiana for 10 phone calls? Was it really worth it?

Added Sampson: “Our goal is to be 100 percent compliant. We did a good job in every area except the telephone rule. As we move forward, I’m dedicated to doing this thing the right way and to be 100 percent compliant as we move forward.”

Was this not the attitude after the first violation? Did he not arrive at Indiana at promise the students and alumni that his first transgression was a mistake and that it wouldn’t happen again?

Unfortunately, and IU fans will be slow to acknowledge this, this helps explain Sampson’s excellent recruiting classes he’s been able to acquire since coming to Indiana in April of 2006. All the good will he acquired from a 25-11 season, a third place Big Ten finish and NCAA tournament birth, seemed to evaporate into thin air Sunday afternoon. From now on, Sampson will have to fight the “cheater” mantra that has plagued other great coaches and ruined careers.

Sampson’s job at IU, on the other hand, is in no way ensured. IU did their part and imposed university sanctions. What the NCAA will do is a completely different story.

It seems like the weekend has spun 180 degrees for Kelvin Sampson. He went from deemed savior to deemed cheater. What he does now- with the most threatening accusations of his career before him- will determine how he and Indiana University move on from this devastating revelation.

For a state groomed on the strict adherence of NCAA policy by Bob Knight during his 29 years at Indiana, Sampson’s not off to a hot start in Bloomington. You break the law once, fine. It was a mistake. Twice? Well, this is brand new territory for IU basketball fans.

Myles Brand and the NCAA will probably let him keep his job. IU will let him keep his job. But the die-hard Indiana fans- who value the credibility of their basketball program above all things, including winning- will ultimately decide his fate.

17 comments

  1. If the NFL lets Bill Belichick keep his job after getting caught blatantly cheating during a game, then I see no reason why Myles Brand and the NCAA should force Sampson out. And though I do believe we should hold ourselves to high standards than the New England Patriots, if their front office and fans can keep supporting Belichick, who according to everyone is a great coach (much like everyone says about Sampson) then I’m willing to give him another shot. 3-way phone calls are NOTHING compared to what many say and have documented goes on in programs around the country. I do, however, believe some kind of “zero-tolerance” policy would be fair to implement on Sampson and his staff so we can make sure this never happens again while he’s at IU.

  2. I do hope that nothing else happens because we
    don’t need to go through another coaching change.
    Especially the players. But Sampson and crew
    need to APPRECIATE IU BASKETBALL and what
    it means to a great many people. Another screw up
    would be truly unforgivable.

  3. Your thoughts are based on some really strange assumptions I think.

    “When recruits called Sampson, he spoke with them. There’s no way around it. It doesn’t matter if it was a direct call, a three-way call or a teleconference with 100 people, Sampson should’ve known better. Why risk it? Why risk a job like the men’s basketball coach at Indiana for 10 phone calls? Was it really worth it?”

    So . . . you’re saying that, to be extra extra extra sure he didn’t get himself into this situation, Sampson shouldn’t have taken ANY calls from recruits? Even though this was something he was explicitly allowed to do under the COI sanctions? Remember, he was not allowed to (1) MAKE any phone calls to recruits or (2) have contact with recruits off campus. He was allowed to _receive_ calls (and, yes, have his assistants tell recruits to call Kelvin and give out his number. Heck, he was able to text message with kids all day long if he wanted — perfectly legal under the COI sanctions. And, of course, get kids to Bloomington, show them around AH and go out to dinner at Yogi’s.

    IMO, that assertion is absurd.

    Now, maybe the NCAA -should- have made a black-and-white, no-contact-at-all rule. But they didn’t. They instead set up this system where Kelvin could sorta/kinda recruit.

    Mike DeCourcy over at The Sporting News has a really good article on this I’d recommend you read. Sampson is guilty here to be sure, and he’s being punished, as is Senderoff and the program. But this notion that Kelvin shouldn’t have been TAKING calls from recruits last year is pollyannaish and not rooted in the reality of the sanctions imposed.

  4. I want to know why bob knight choked kids and abused kids for years and that was ok.I am not saying what sampson did is cool. It is not.

    However, to think bob knight was a savior is crazy. He was abusive and treated kids like shit. He got away with it for alot of years because he won. He loved him until i got older and realized what he was all about.Collier, Reed, Recker, Funderburke,Callowy, it was always their fault for leaving. It never had anything to do with Knight!They all thought he was an abusive ass.

  5. I agree with the other Steve… This is ridiculous. Sampson violated secondary in-house rules. Some people are treating this like he paid off players or bought them cars or something. We aren’t Michigan or Kentucky, and to compare what Sampson did to that is ludacris. I mean if he did pay players or give out cars, by all means call for his head on a silver platter. But when people are up in arms because IU’s staff sent out newspaper articles to recruits that were in color instead of black and white (yes, that’s one of the reported violations), or an assistant lending a recruit a jacket on a cold day in Bloomington, (another “violation”) something is wrong! All you people asking for Sampson to be fired should get your heads out of your asses and realize what a good coach this guy is. I bet you weren’t complaining when Eric Gordon signed his letter on intent.

    I also like how all the old Knight guys are coming out and calling for Sampson’s head too. Go buy season tickets at Texas Tech or shut up! I guess a guy who throws chairs and chokes players has alot more integrity.

  6. Definitely a house divided. I dont feel this should be a fatal mistake when viewed by the NCAA and ruling authorities. It does appear to be a permanently numbing experience to the IU faithful. Like Hep, I feel Sampson brought the enthusiasm that was needed to heal a troubled program (i.e. Knight then Davis). He has now reversed most good feelings with this gray area action. Did he cheat? or did he expand the definition? Either way IU fans are damaged and the entire atmosphere is clouded. There are other more important things in our world but I doubt the sick feeling in my gut will disappear anytime soon. Dang it anyway!

  7. Where there is smoke… there is usually fire…

    No one should suggest “Sampson the Clown” should be fired over what has been make public to date, but this is clearly his MO and is obviously a repetative behavior of his and his staff. I think the question and concern is do we want to make excuses for the guy this time only to get burned down the line when he escalates his abuse of the system and fair play.

    I think that most believe that IU is an institution that tries to play by the rules. For this reason, I just can understand why they would want “Sampson the Clown.” Were we really that desparate? Was winning so important that IU was willing to put its repetation on the line… for Sampson?

    I have a sick feeling the thrill that Steve O described when Eric Gordon had this abrupt change of heart and decided to come to IU is going to ultimately come back to haunt us. The whole IU emotional story that Eric Sr. and Eric Jr. tried their hardest to make the country believe just didn’t and still doesn’t really make sense. I just know the whole Gordon soap opera will one day come back to burn IU.

    Again, where there is smoke…

  8. Eric,

    You made a lot of good points. What I was trying to say is that Sampson should have made absolute positive that he didn’t engage in any three-way calls. I know, it’s easy to just pick up the phone and start talking, but with the importance of his job and the scrutiny he got for his first violations, I just think you don’t even take that chance. I’m not going to sit here and tell you that I even agree with the rule either. But as inconsequential as that rule and some of the NCAA rules are, Sampson just shouldn’t have broken them.

    Zak

  9. Justamatteroftime, you can speculate all you want, but i find it hard to believe that sampson and his staff would be stupid enough to do something illegal to get gordon here. i mean 3-way calls are one thing, but insinuating that he did anything beyond that would mean he is just a flat out dumb ass. i mean i guess it was dumb to not stay in 100% compliance with last years ruling, but do you really think he and his staff would pay or do something that dramatic knowing he was under the microscope. i seriously hope not.

  10. Anyone with any perspective is seeing this whole situation for what it really is: a tempest in a teapot. We’re talking a few phone calls that went awry — not cash in a FedEx package (yeah, you, Kentucky).

    Anyone screaming for Sampson’s removal already either hates IU’s program or has a grudge and would love to see it fall — that includes Kent Benson.

    And that’s all I’m going to say about that.

  11. Agree with you on that Zak. Unlike a lot of IU Nation, I’m not getting overly excited about this (I just don’t see it as a hanging offense — more akin to Roy Williams having Imani Shumpert play some pick up games in Chapel Hill with Felton and May, on top of the not-so-long-ago revelations about the grad gift program Roy had going at Kansas). But I’m sorely disappointed by it, and agree that even if these were relatively slight violations, 45 instances out of thousands of permissable calls, it should not have happened. I think IU was right to act in this instance, and while the punishment handed down internally is fairly harsh, it’s also fair.

  12. IU when it wanted to fire Bob Knight who didn’t cheat to recruit players they had secret meetings which were illegal no matter what the court says. They let Myles Brand, not a hoosier or an IU alumni, to institute a zero tolerance policy which got Bob Knight fired over telling a young man some manners on addressing him in public. Now IU hires a coach who I believe is talented but doesn’t seem to understand the rules about calling recruits to play at IU even before he got here there were sanctions on him. My one question is “Where the trustees now???!!!” They just shrugg their shoulders and say we are concerned. Now they don’t want institue a zero tolerance policy. Now that’s evidence of two-faced hypocrites that are concerned about everything that goes on at IU!!

  13. Hey steveO,

    If the NCAA rules say your telephone contact privileges are reduced, or you face further punishment, and then you allow violations in that area to occur, you are either very arrogant, or not too bright, I’ll let you pick which one you want.

    I happen to agree with most of what justamatteroftime had to say, and I am not a BK apologist, nor do I ever want him back. Bob Knight is not the coach at issue now. Maybe you should stop generalizing your attacks and shut up yourself.

  14. Zero tolerance was an atrocious policy placed on Coach Knight — it was doomed from the start. And applying it to Coach Sampson would not by any means be two wrongs making a right.

    Outside of the “10 + 35” phone calls issue this week, I saw IU also self-reported a number of other minor infractions within the athletic department, including 3 on the men’s basketball team. For example, one of those infractions was Senderoff mailing a recruit a newspaper clipping that was in COLOR, not BLACK & WHITE. I’m not making this up. So under a zero tolerance policy, that would be the end of the Sampson regime, wouldn’t it? While some might like that end result, the end rarely actually does justify flawed means, and this case is no exception.

  15. Justamatteroftime: the idea that EJ was never going to play for the earnest but clueless Mike Davis, and wanted to take a second look at IU after we finally got rid of him and hired an actual basketball coach to run things — well, if that idea just seems too implausible for you to believe, and has convinced you other, nefarious dealings went on . . . my guess is you weren’t paying that close attention to Indiana basketball over the past 5 years.

    It’s not merely plausible, it’s completely logical and obvious.

  16. Eric, you can rationalize the Eric Sr. and Eric Jr. situation any way you want. Its your opinion. However, I’m going to bookmark this article for future reference. Hopefully, I won’t need to retrieve the information for 4 years… but with Sampson the Clown, it may be next week. I just don’t know if he is really that stupid or thinks he is above any NCAA rule. I guess its easy for him, if he gets nabbed at Indiana, he can pack up and continue his track east!

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