I have talked with Kelvin Sampson on many occasions during his first year at Indiana and one of the things I always came away with was how overly conscious he was to anything that had to do with the sanctions. Here's an example. I do know that coach Sampson said on numerous occasions that he didn't make a single outgoing phone call on his cell phone during the sanction period because he didn't want to take any chances. Recruits could call him, and his assistant coaches would call and give him any other information that he needed. But he was committed to abiding by the rules and refused to make any calls. He told me one time that as far as incoming calls he had gotten to the point where he didn't even look to see who was calling him. He said when you're on phone restrictions for a full year and you're not allowed to call anybody, when the phone rings you just answer it. He said he told his wife many times over the year of the sanction that he was looking forward to a time when the sanctions were behind him so he could start looking at the incoming call number again to determine who he did and didn't want to talk to. And so I must admit I was surprised -- maybe even shocked -- when I learned that he had telephone issues again.
- Regardless of what Sampson did personally, the 35 calls seem to be the same sort of improper calls that were made by Sampson's Oklahoma staff. That's really, really bad, and plainly inexcusable. The assistants themselves bear some blame, as do Sampson, in his capacity as the head of the basketball program, and Rick Greenspan and his compliance staff.
- Why in the world, when the head coach is on probation, did the compliance staff not audit the telephone records monthly, or even weekly? What if IU had caught this after one call? Sure, it would have made the news, but people will accept one mistake. Ten calls are tougher to explain away, particularly months after the fact.
- I'll echo what I said yesterday: why isn't IU putting all of the information on the table? They have reported to the NCAA, and the NCAA will do as it pleases. I would like to draw my own conclusions, but as far the the official IU athletic department site is concerned, none of this ever happened.
- To further elaborate, we need to know when the NCAA issued its "interpretation" of conference calls as forbidden by the terms of Sampson's probation, and when and how the compliance staff passed that information on to Sampson and/or his assistants. I assume that if the timing were favorable (i.e., if the interpretation were issued after the calls), we would have heard that by now. But suppose that IU received the information early on and clearly transmitted that information to the entire basketball staff. If that happened, how in the world is Rob Senderoff still drawing a paycheck from IU?
So, where am I on this? Pretty damn depressed. I wasn't thrilled when IU hired Sampson, but the more I saw of him, the more impressed I became. My hope was that after a rough start and some bad publicity, Sampson would have a successful 15-year run at IU, with one or more championships, and would leave with a clean NCAA record and with his personal reputation and IU's reputation intact. Now, that's never going to happen. Sampson is always going to be under the umbrella of suspicion, and so, by extension, will IU, for as long as he's here. I, like most IU fans, took great pride in IU's status as one of the slim minority of major athletic programs without any major violations in recent decades. It's not clear that IU will be put on probation for these offenses, but it's going to be a close call. My estimation of Sampson's ceiling at IU is much lower than it was two days ago. As it stands, I would be surprised if Sampson is still at IU five years from now. As I may have said yesterday, and as I have thought many times in the last 18 months, all we really wanted was for IU basketball to be fun again. This isn't fun. I'm not going to call for Sampson's termination at this point, but if the inevitable NCAA investigation reveals more, I certainly may come around to that viewpoint.