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Sampson and the Hoosiers: A Modern NCAA Fable

Kelvin Sampson is a helluva basketball coach. He also just might be the most arrogant coach in a business filled with egos that rivals those of rock stars and politicians. How else can you account for his stupifyingly willfull abuse of an NCAA rule that he has already been penalized for breaking?

Perhaps it can be explained in the form of a fable. Sampson, a college basketball coach is looking to get across the river back to the NCAA Tournament. He asks the Hoosiers to carry him on their back, give him a chance to reach the other side. The Hoosiers are afraid, however, since Sampson just poisoned his last place of employment with NCAA phone infractions. But Sampson reassures the Hoosers that he is too smart to try anything, since if he stung the Hoosers he would go down with them.

So the Hoosiers agree to hire him. Nevertheless in mid-season, Sampson stings them, dooming both to seasons of misery.

When asked why, Sampson explains, " It's my nature."

Indiana AD Rick Greenspan offers Kelvin Sampson the Indiana hoops job.

Sampson jumped ship at Oklahoma just moments ahead of the NCAA law. He left the Sooners to deal with over 500 improper phone calls to recruits. After Sampson bailed, the NCAA accepted OU's self-imposed scholarship reductions and recruiting limitations.

In it's report on Sampson and OU, the NCAA used terms such as "complete disregard of the rules," to describe the infractions.

Here is part of the NCAA summary of its investigation.

"This case is a result of (Sampson's) complete disregard for Bylaw 13 telephone contact limitations. (Sampson) created and encouraged an atmosphere among his staff of deliberate noncompliance, rationalizing the violations as being the result of 'prioritizing' rules.

"Though he acknowledged that he knowingly violated NCAA recruiting legislation, he did not take the phone contact violations seriously. He considered them to be unimportant in comparison to, for example, the provision of significant material inducements for prospects, even though the end result could have been the same: securing the commitment of a prospective (athlete) by operating outside recruiting rules. (Sampson) preferred to think of what he and his staff were doing as 'hard work' rather than cheating."

The NCAA also didn't appreciate that during some of the time of the 577 unauthorized calls, Sampson was serving as President of the Coaches Association.

The NCAA was pissed off enough that they took the step to make sure the sanctions followed Sampson to Indiana. The NCAA tacked on another year of sanctions on Sampson, ruling that he could not recruit off campus or make recruiting calls for Indiana through July of 2007.

Now less then two years into his tenure, Sampson is accused of the same violations. Just five months after coming off of probation in 2007, an Indiana investigation found Sampson's staff made more than 100 impermissible calls, and that Sampson had participated in at least 10 three-way calls that were prohibited as part of the sanctions during his probationary period.

The NCAA charges that not only did Sampson continue to ignore the phone regulations, he also provided false and misleading information to investigators from both the university and the NCAA. Sampson said in a public statement that he never intentionally provided false or misleading information to NCAA investigators.

The NCAA says Sampson was present when his staff called recruits, had assistant coach Rob Senderoff call a prospect and hand him the phone and knowingly participated in three-way calls with at least three recruits. Sampson contended he was aware of only one three-way call last fall. The report said Senderoff, who has since resigned from the staff, initiated those calls.

You have to admit, it takes a huge set of marbles to break the rules at one school, hop over to another, and break the same rule, all the while knowing that you are being watched over by your employer and the NCAA.

Kelvin Sampson not only thinks he is the smartest man in the room, he thinks everyone else in there is a moron.

Indiana, like OU before it, is trying to be proactive with sanctions. The Hoosiers have voluntarily reduced scholarships by one for next year and has already forced Sampson to forfeit a $500,000 pay raise that was due in his contract.

But the mess is just starting to spread. Sampson turned down a $300,000 buyout offer Thursday night. Then 6 players skipped practice Friday and there was a threat from several players to not play against Northwestern on Saturday if Sampson was fired. Indiana eventually got a $750,000 buyout deal done. And of course there is much wailing and nashing of teeth among Indiana alumni and fans about the shame being brought upon a progam that has not faced NCAA sanctions in 68 years.

But really what did you expect Indiana?

It's his nature.