He’s out

He’s out

Sampson resigns, agrees to $750K buyout amidst scandal; Dakich to fill interim coach role

By James Boyd, Herald-Times

February 22, 2008

Indiana athletic director Rick Greenspan exits the news conference after announcing the resignation of basketball coach Kelvin Sampson, who accepted at $750,000 buyout. At left, is Robin Green Harris of the Indianapolis law firm Ice Miller. David Snodgress | Herald-Times
From the Feb. 22, 2008 Bloomington Herald-Times

Kelvin Sampson resigned as men’s basketball coach at Indiana University Friday, bringing to an end one of the most chaotic weeks in IU sports history.

Sampson, who will be paid $750,000 as part of a settlement agreement, resigned amidst allegations he violated NCAA sanctions by making improper phone calls to recruits. Dan Dakich was named Sampson’s interim replacement.

The agreement, announced Friday night by the university, will prohibit him from filing a wrongful termination suit against IU.

Sampson’s reign came to an end after a week of speculation about his future.

After having his attorneys review the settlement, Sampson signed the documents around 8:15 p.m., formally dissolving his ties to the university and its storied basketball program.

He said in a statement that he felt it was in both his and IU’s best interest to step down.

“I wish my players and staff nothing but the best for the remainder of the season,” Sampson said. “They are all truly incredible people.”

Sampson didn’t admit to any violations in the statement, and even went so far as to say he looks forward to his day in court.

“I welcome the opportunity to go before the Committee on Infractions in June,” he said.

Friday was supposed to be the day an internal investigatory body — appointed by university president Michael McRobbie — revealed its recommendation on Sampson’s fate.

But McRobbie said Sampson’s resignation made the point moot.

He had asked three people to look into the discrepancies between IU’s commissioned report from Indianapolis law firm Ice Miller and the NCAA’s report that eventually led to the notice of allegations.

One of those people, IU athletic director Rick Greenspan, didn’t say whether Sampson had been asked to step down, or did so voluntarily.

“The decision reached is in both parties’ best interests,” he said. “What I mean by that is, there was not a great appetite on either party’s part to be involved in potentially contentious litigation. I think (Sampson’s resignation) helps the team, the players and the university heal quicker, and I think it gives Coach Sampson an opportunity to come to the Committee on Infractions to make his case as he sees fit.”

The obvious question then becomes how favorably the NCAA will view Sampson’s resignation when considering the allegations against him at their June committee meeting.

“We can’t speculate what the Committee on Infractions will do,” Ice Miller attorney Robin Green Harris said. “We continue to believe the sanctions we imposed back in October were appropriate.”

Those sanctions came after an intern in IU’s compliance office discovered anomalies in phone records showing calls from Sampson’s staff to several recruits, prompting IU to bring in the Ice Miller law firm.

Ice Miller conducted what they described as a thorough investigation into the matter, eventually finding some 100 phone calls were made to recruits that were apparently in violation of sanctions already imposed on Sampson because of similar recruiting violations at the University of Oklahoma.

But investigators from the NCAA went even further, essentially calling Sampson a liar, based on testimony from recruits Ice Miller didn’t have initial access to. Sampson, those investigators allege, gave “false or misleading” information to both IU and NCAA officials.

Head coach Kelvin Sampson kept a straight face as the fans chanted his name during the second half of the Indiana Michigan State basketball game at Assembly Hall in Bloomington Feb. 16. Indiana won 80-61. Chris Howell | Herald-Times
From the Feb. 22, 2008 Bloomington Herald-Times

Sampson will now have the chance to respond to those allegations in Seattle. He will do so without the backing of IU.

Greenspan has come under fire for sticking his neck out for Sampson, who brought with him a bucketful of NCAA sanctions after he made 577 impermissible phone calls to Oklahoma recruits.

Greenspan said he deserves some of the blame for the current situation.

“I take responsibility for all the things that happen in athletics,” he said. “I’m the athletic director.”

Friday’s announcement capped a whirlwind of activity, frustration and false media reports.

At a specific point earlier in the day, depending on which source you chose, you could’ve read at least three different versions of Sampson’s fate.

How his settlement was reached remains a secret. Greenspan said that after spending hours meeting with the investigatory body, he gave an oral report to McRobbie, but he would not reveal the content of that report.

All that is known is that at some point Friday afternoon, an agreement was reached between IU’s and Sampson’s attorneys.

Of the $750,000 he’ll walk away with, only $200,000 will come from university money.

The other $550,000? It’s coming from a mystery donor.

For his part, McRobbie said he wanted to put the issue behind the university.

“I have accepted the resignation of Kelvin Sampson in order to put this matter behind us and allow our basketball season to move forward without these distractions,” McRobbie said in a statement. Neither he nor Sampson was present for Friday’s news conference.

Sampson’s resignation could ultimately tear a team that is poised to contend for a Big Ten title apart. Or, Greenspan said, it could bring them together.

“There’s a disappointment for the team,” Greenspan said. “There’s a disappointment to the fans of our university, who I think have taken great pride over a long period of time of having a very solid university be major-infraction free. But out of sometimes some of these situations come some very good things. We are going to move forward.”