Thoughts from a reporter’s chair

Let’s make this simple: none of this has made sense since the very beginning.

As far as I can tell — and I spend a lot of time thinking about this — the theme of this year’s basketball season has had nothing to do with D.J. White and Eric Gordon, who have been utterly amazing players in their final years playing for the Hoosiers.

The theme has been this and only this: too many questions, not enough answers.

It started when we first found out that Kelvin Sampson and his staff had somehow violated the terms of the sanctions they were operating under due to impermissible phone calls he and his staff made at Oklahoma. At the same time, the IU staff had broken NCAA rules.

First question: Could Sampson really be that careless/cavalier/dumb?

Eventually we learned that it had taken an intern to discover the 3-way calls that touched off the full investigation that has led us here.

Why did it take a summer intern to find the discrepancies in the phone records months and months and months after the violations started occurring? Wasn’t the IU compliance staff watching the basketball staff closely because of Sampson’s previous misdeeds?

So many questions. When Rick Greenspan and Kelvin Sampson held their first teleconference to discuss the violations, we all couldn’t help but ask, What the heck did he just say? That’s because somehow IU could not find a teleconferencing service that actually worked, and most of the conversation — which was far too short to get many questions answered anyway — was garbled.

Then IU fired Rob Senderoff. Or, as the university claims, Senderoff voluntarily resigned. Either way, he was the sacrifice to whoever needed to be sacrificed to. Hey look! We’ve cleaned up!

But wait: Wasn’t Sampson, at the very least, supposed to be supervising Senderoff to make sure he operated under the sanctions and the rules? Wouldn’t that be a priority for Sampson, given all that has happened?

More than that, wasn’t Sampson not only aware of what Senderoff was doing but complicit? Wink, wink. Nudge, nudge. Would Senderoff really do any of the things he supposedly did without knowing it was OK with Sampson?

Then there was this whole issue of the 3-way calls. Sampson claims that he often had to be connected to recruits by his assistants because he didn’t get good enough cell phone coverage at his house.

If you’re a Division I coach and you can’t get cell phone coverage at your house, you do something. You change cell phone companies. You have an extra land line installed for recruiting purposes. You get that Vonage thing, whatever that is. You tie plastic cups to strings and spread them around the country.

If none of that works, you move.

Then there was the most troubling statement of them all: Sampson claimed that for an entire year he didn’t look at his caller ID, and therefore didn’t know who was calling him. He just picked up the phone.

No one believes that. It is probably more difficult to willfully NOT look at the caller ID. The number or name pops right up. It’s right there. You can’t help but see it. Try looking at a stop sign and not seeing the word Stop. Can’t do it.

Let us move forward to today and not get bogged down.

Today we find out that the NCAA has uncovered additional impermissible contacts, including instances of Sampson talking to recruits on speaker phone with Senderoff in the room and a time when Senderoff handed Sampson his phone so Sampson could talk to a recruit.

When asked why Indiana’s investigation — conducted by Ice Miller law firm and probably anything but cheap — didn’t uncover those violations, Greenspan and associate athletic director for compliance Grace Calhoun said that the NCAA was able to reach more of the people involved and also had the ability to compel them to talk. So they found out more.

Also, IU’s report was compiled mostly using hard data — phone records and such — and by asking open-ended questions of the coaches involved.

Presumably one of the questions that was asked went something like this: “Coach Sampson, did you concoct ways to get around the sanctions placed on you previouly?”

And, presumably, Sampson said no.

The NCAA has determined otherwise. If IU can verify those findings with its own research — which is what it will be doing over the next few days, one would think — then it has to conclude that Sampson fibbed.

Wouldn’t that call into question the veracity of everything Sampson said about this issue so far?

A skeptic might point out that since IU paid Ice Miller and since IU wants nothing more than for this all to go away then Ice Miller might not have done it’s true “due diligence” in compiling the report. Maybe — just maybe — it shaped a report that it thought would convince the NCAA that IU had done the noble thing by self-reporting.

The NCAA didn’t bite.

It’s a bizarre organization with too many rules and supsect motivation.

Still, you shouldn’t mess with it. Sampson should have realized that the first time around, when he thought the 577 extra calls made by the Oklahoma staff were nothing more than collateral cheating in the world of big-time coaching. The NCAA thought they represented organized and deliberate cheating.

D.J. White — just give him the Big Ten player of the year trophy — said after the game tonight that this has not hurt the team.

“We’re a family,” he said.

But what was White supposed to say? He, of all people, must have a brave face right now. His teammates need it.

To suggest that this won’t do something to the team — could it pull them closer together? — is absurd, though. Sampson actually said during a recent television interview that all of this would only impact him and not the players.

So the fact that IU is handicapped in its recruiting efforts right now won’t impact the team, eventually? It probably already has. Isn’t it fair to ask whether Sampson would have landed a legitimate big man to go along with Eric Gordon if he would have been able to go off campus to recruit last year?

Does Sampson honestly believe that the time he has already spent — and will need to spend in the coming weeks — talking to investigators from IU and the NCAA hasn’t changed this season? He inevitably missed time he would have otherwise spent watching film or maybe even designing an offense.

As you’ve undoubtedly read elsewhere, Sampson read a statement following the game tonight. He proclaimed his innocence.

He also proclaimed that he won’t be able to talk about the case until it has gone through the NCAA process.

I know, I know. It’s always best for a person in his position to play it coy, control the message and not let things spread in the media. And maybe the NCAA really did tell him he wasn’t allowed to publicly discuss the case.

But if Kelvin Sampson really thinks that the mystique of Indiana basketball resides in the terrific fans — as he often says — doesn’t he owe some sort of explanation to those fans?

If he is so sure of his innocence, can’t he provide at least a few answers to the major questions? Can’t he provide some evidence that will sway the story in his favor? If the reality is that he didn’t do what he’s charged with doing, that reality won’t change between now and when he speaks to the Committee on Infractions in June, right?

Right?

Isn’t the truth just the truth?

That’s just another question that, in this case, won’t have any sort of answer anytime soon.

15 comments

  1. If you caught the Roger Clemens circus yesterday then you see the resemblance. Liars talk in circles and the truth makes them look very bad. Sampson is in a web of lies and wrong doings. The interesting part of this whole deal will be how IU ADministration deals with it. Greenspan made his first stand yesterday. I urge Chris, Doug, or Zak to keep a timeline of significant statements and/or actions. Let’s play it back in one year.

    Ironically, I walked past Tony Dungy behind the bench last night. Quite a contrast to have such an upstanding role model sitting behind the mess in front of him. As an IU fan, I would like to see IU call it what it is and deal with it. The facts could not be any more clear. The only thing left is a pitiful response of “I didn’t do it” So we wait until April and May to submit and the NCAA giggles as they pass the death sentence.

  2. Nice work Chris, we won’t be getting answers from Sampson anytime soon, and when we do, he has given no reason to believe them anyway. Continue the good fight for honesty through your medium.

  3. Now that I’ve finally raised my jaw off the floor and digested the allegations and their ramifications, I’m left wondering about the control mechanisms IU had in place to prevent/detect this sort of malfeasance. When reading IU’s original self-reporting, it seemed pretty clear that Jerry Green, ex-director of bb ops, was the basketball officer in charge of compliance-related maters as they affected the coaches. While hindsight makes it pretty clear that he was thoroughly incompetent in doing his job, don’t you find the timing of his departure a little strange. After his long coaching career, why would he come on with KS’s staff and only stay a year? I thought this was the job he’d retire from. Rather, he quietly exits the program just before the infractions were discovered internally. Seems conveniently coincidental, at the very best. Secondly, why was the compliance staff also completely ineffective in monitoring/controlling these compliance issues? Isn’t that the very job they’re supposed to preform? I understand from talking with persons inside the program that operations were reviewed and o.k.’d several times before the missteps were discovered, by the freaking intern. I understand the asst. coaches were required to track and report all recruiting calls, including those made from home, on the honor system, but did the AD’s office really leave us that exposed to the obvious risk of additional phone violations without instituting more stringent checks and controls? While Sampson clearly has some credibility issues with the 3-way calls and caller-ID assertions, how was he realistically expected to monitor everything the asst. coaches do when he’s not even allowed to be present when they’re on the phone? Lastly, the NCAA’s allegations rely entirely on the words of former recruits (and their families) who, having chose not to play for IU, have everything to gain and little to lose by seeing IU punished over this issue. Please tell me what incentive Hummel and Martin have to support Sampson’s position? Quite the opposite, it gives every former recruit with an axe to grind the opportunity to take a huge swipe at IU and Sampson. Seems like an awful lot to rest on the unsworn and unchallengeable words of former recruits. While I have some serious reservations about the health and integrity of our basketball program right now, I’m still struggling with these issues. Just another reason we should suspend judgment and responsive action until the facts are fully established. Go Hoosiers (& God help us)!!!

  4. If this were treated like a business, and don’t kid yourself Big Ten basketball is a huge business, then quit wringing your hands and fire the boss (Greenspan) and his handpicked hire (Sampson). Take the NCAA medicine, and it will taste very bad (Won’t Myles Brand be smiling his Bobby Knight smile) and then get IU people running IU’s programs.

  5. I still think this is mostly about money now. Sampson will have a difficult time getting a big-time job for a while and IU is afraid of firing him because of what Ohio State had to pay O’Brien when they didn’t wait for the final NCAA rulings. Sampson has a $7 plus million contract and he isn’t going to walk away from that. Unfortunately, I think this means we could still be talking about this during the summer since the NCAA won’t issue final report until after the June hearings.

  6. Actually, while I certainly dont think he’s a great friend, and I personally dont like him, and I think he hates sports: why does everyone assume Myles Brand has such a vindictive attitude towards IU? He got a boatload of money from IU and might have some friends via IU. (Ok, he probably doesnt have any friends, period. Buy, maybe.) Anyway, am I missing something here? Not that, he’ll view us favorably, but I doubt any worse than any other evil athlete-student supporters.

  7. Remember when our biggest problem was an occational temper tantrum…… oh for the good old days and thanks Miles B

  8. In response to Jim
    Employees of IU who were subjected to the random whims of Brand’s implementation of systems that defied productivity and logic assume that he never had the best interest of the university at heart. He killed morale here.

  9. Being on the outside here in the northwest what is the feeling of Bringing Knight in as the AD. He needs to be done with coaching but is there a feeling that maybe the NCAA will go a little bit easy on sanctions if IU brings in a man who for 42 years never had a NCAA rule violation wispered around him. Bring in Alford who should have gotten the job if not him move Datkich to coach. This just shows that you may not want BOBBY back but you want one of his people to run the show. I just have the vision of Knight as the AD, Alford as the coach and the team playinf on robert montgomery knight court.

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