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 didnâ€™t end very well.
You see, I was already in a bad mood after watching the IU football squadâ€™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 heâ€™s already been sanctioned by the NCAA on, I started to realize that this just wasnâ€™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 canâ€™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 didnâ€™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 nationâ€™s faith in its basketball program. Oh, and it didnâ€™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 Fridayâ€™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 â€œKelv-in Samp-son, Kelv-in Samp-sonâ€ 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 Sampsonâ€™s apology he issued during a teleconference with reporters.
â€œWhen you get a call and a recruit is talking, you just start talking with him,â€ Sampson said. â€œWe were under the impression that this was over. We thought we had complied with all the rules.â€
Well they didnâ€™t. Sampsonâ€™s a smart guy, and he shouldâ€™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 youâ€™re put under an NCAA investigation, you make absolute certain that you donâ€™t break any more laws. You never leave that in question. Never, never, never. You donâ€™t break the same rule twice. And itâ€™s jour job, as the head coach, to make certain that none of your coaches violate any rules as well.
Apparently, this didnâ€™t happen. When recruits called Sampson, he spoke with them. Thereâ€™s no way around it. It doesnâ€™t matter if it was a direct call, a three-way call or a teleconference with 100 people, Sampson shouldâ€™ve known better. Why risk it? Why risk a job like the menâ€™s basketball coach at Indiana for 10 phone calls? Was it really worth it?
Added Sampson: â€œOur 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.â€
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 wouldnâ€™t happen again?
Unfortunately, and IU fans will be slow to acknowledge this, this helps explain Sampsonâ€™s excellent recruiting classes heâ€™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 â€œcheaterâ€ mantra that has plagued other great coaches and ruined careers.
Sampsonâ€™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, Sampsonâ€™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.