So the day has arrived

I collected baseball cards as a kid.

By June or so of each year, I would have a card for almost every player on the Phillies that year. After finding each one, I would take it home and lovingly place it in my special Phillies binder. Even the card depicting John Kruk.

There always came a day when I needed just one more card to complete the team set, and my impatience to find it would tear at me. One season, I remember, it was Von Hayes. I simply could not find him. As a result, I refused to watch Von Hayes bat. Or field. If I saw Von Hayes today, it would be difficult for me not to sock him in the nose in retribution for the angst he caused me. Yes, I have been waiting my whole life to write the phrase “sock him in the nose.”

Eventually, I found the Von Hayes card. Had I not, I doubt that I would have survived the summer. When I did, it was instantly the happiest moment of my life. If I ever have a child, he or she will probably have to be content with knowing their miracle entrance onto this world will come second in significance to the day I found a particular baseball card.

Anyway, today is my adult Von Hayes moment. For today the NCAA will release its public report and finally bring to a close a case that has, as one IU source said earlier, “not been good for one single person.”

(Although IU’s response to the failure to monitor not-so-obliquely makes an appeal seem more than probable should the punishments be harsh. So maybe today is not the day. We’ll see.)

Let us ask: what punishments may come later today?

I’ve said repeatedly that I expect the report to be harsh. To Kelvin Sampson. To Rob Senderoff. And to IU. Believe me, I hear you when you scream, “But it was only phone calls!” or “We’ve already been punished enough!” or “But we self-reported!”

Because you scream those things loudly and repeatedly.

I just don’t think in the NCAA’s eyes that any of those things has much bearing on the ruling. First, the NCAA vigorously chases and prosecutes any infraction it can pin down with sufficient evidence. Phone records make that easy; payments from agents or runners who aren’t bound by NCAA rules are harder to prove (also, it should be noted that since schools began hiring prestigious law firms to represent them the NCAA has seemed a bit more gunshy in levying charges where evidence might be sketchy). Second, much of Indiana’s early punishment (a lost post-season last year, the player exodus, the cost in time and energy to the university that this has extracted, etc.) is likely seen as collateral damage by the NCAA. With its rulings, it usually sets precedent (thought it is often difficult to interpret that precedent). From what I have gathered in talking to various sources, I think the COI will try to be clear in defining why it punished Indiana the way it did. This case is clearly a landmark. The media attention paid to it has been almost unprecedented. The COI can make a statement and probably will. And finally, the NCAA sees self-reporting as the duty of the schools, and in a way it is the tie the binds; if all the schools voluntarily police themselves the spirit of ethical conduct will flow throughout them all. This concept is obviously hysterically naive. But so, too, are the concepts of amateurism and the student-athlete in some cases.

How will IU be punished?  A long probation period during which the school is expected to operate at a heightened level of compliance (and to show documentary evidence repeatedly) is almost a guarantee. Sampson will likely receive a “show cause” that effectively bans him from coaching for an NCAA school in the near future and Senderoff’s “show cause” will hamper his recruiting efforts at Kent State for several years.

But those are just my guesses. From what I hear, people where shocked by how severely the committee punished Sampson back in 2006. Maybe we’re in for another surprise today.

That being the case, let us delve into some of the finer points of IU’s 54-page narrative refuting the failure to monitor charge so that we can rehash the main argument as it relates to the university’s handling of the situation. I called the response “feisty” in my story when it first was released. In other words, it attempts to sock the NCAA in the nose.

  • Indiana sort of begrudgingly goes about the business of actually showing that it succeeded in monitoring. Early in the document, it takes issue with the way the FTM charge was added. IU points out that the NCAA’s enforcement staff — “which is comprised of trained investigative professionals” — chose not to levy the charge. Then, it takes issue with the way the hearing before the COI unfolded in June. The university was “taken aback” by the COI’s early focus on its compliance measures and also says that “the Committee’s toughest question generally appeared reserved for the University and not the coaches.”
  • IU also says that the way the FTM charge was asserted “raises significant procedural and due process issues involving the University’s right of adequate notice and right to a fair hearing.” This relates to the COI declining “several requests” by IU for a later hearing so that President Michael McRobbie could attend (he participated via video conference, as his duties prevented him from leaving Bloomington that weekend.) The COI, however, stated at some point in the June hearing that IUs case could have been heard at a later meeting.
  • Indiana’s response challenges the COI on the vagueness of the FTM charge, saying “it is impossible for the University to know exactly which facts the Committee believes support a failure to monitor claim.” Then, it says this: “To the extent the Committee intends to rely on facts or arguments not specifically addressed in this Response, the University respectfully suggests that the Committee should solicit further input from the University before making a final determination.” You know what the key word is in that sentence? Suggests. A happy lawyer showing trust in the system uses the word “asks” in that instance. A pissy lawyer with qualms about whether justice will be served uses “suggests.”
  • OK. Let’s get to the meat of it. IU claims the FTM is innapropriate for three main reasons: 1) its compliance measures were more comprehensive than peer institutions; 2) they worked, eventually and 3) Kelvin Sampson and Rob Senderoff are bad. Let’s take a look at these claims, one by one. I’ve number them.
  1. Two-tiered. That’s thing thing to remember here. Oh, and redundancy. That’s another one to remember. Indiana put in place a special monitoring system that instituted a system in which the coaches recruiting logs and cell phone records were checked monthly (tier No. 1) and audited at the end of the academic year (tier 2). This effort included significant restructuring of personnel, IU says, including the hiring of a director of basketball operations (Jerry Green) to work with compliance and restructuring so as to allow the director of compliance (Christian Pope at first, Ian Rickerby later) more time to be devoted to monitoring and educating the basketball coaches. This system, in all its two-tiered and redundant glory, went far beyond what other schools were doing.
  2. The second tier caught the problem. Well, it caught one part of the problem, which led to further investigation, which led to a few hundred trees worth of paper used for letters and responses, which led to me writing about Von Hayes. An intern discovered 3-way calling patterns during the year-end audit in July of 2007, and IU hired Ice Miller to do a thorough review of the basketball staff’s records.
  3. After originally standing by both Kelvin Sampson and Rob Senderoff for what the school originally deemed mistakes, IU turned full force against the former coaches and has sought to characterize them as ethically bankrupt since. Their point? Bad people will find ways around any compliance measure.

IU’s biting response was seen by some as a daring move. NCAA member schools have generally shown reverence for the enforcement process. IU pushed back a little bit.

Today, we find out how well Indiana did in its response to the failure to monitor charge.

And today, hopefully, healing begins for all involved.

3 comments

  1. Football cards here- Lyle Alzado rookie. I’d sock him in the nose for killing himself with steroids.

    You’re wise beyond your employment station, Chris, for you spot a pissy lawyer as well as the best of them.

    We took a huge risk in being so combative with the procedural merits, rather than addressing the elephant in the (compliance) room, the factual evidence against us.

    How about that 4-month black-out on cell phone monitoring? Couldn’t have come at a better time for a coach trying to make up a lot of ground very quickly. Just like the rest of us, IU can’t get things done with their cell carrier, I guess.

    Nonetheless, it’s all moot now. I’m curious how Kelvin and Rob end up from here. Many careers will have been irreparably ruined by this sordid episode. But, at last, it’s all history now.

    On with the Crean & Crimson.

    And by the way, does anyone want to buy an autographed Alzado rookie? Near mint!

  2. I think for me, it was the eric lindros rare rookie card. Today, he is a bum. Michael Jordan also comes to mind, as does Ken Griffey Jr. GOod times!

Comments are closed.