Fans And Alums Upset With Sampson

By MICHAEL MAROT, AP Sports Writer
October 16, 2007

BLOOMINGTON, Ind. (AP) -- Indiana coach Kelvin Sampson will live with his penalties.

Some Hoosiers fans and alumni may not be so inclined to accept them.

Sampson's second brush with NCAA violations in 17 months has created a stir. There are those who contend his actions have harmed the university's reputation so badly that taking away his $500,000 raise and a future scholarship do not go far enough.

"There are certainly some fans who believe the coach should have been fired," said Patrick Shoulders, vice president of the university's board of trustees. "But I don't think it should hurt the school's image, and I don't think it will in the long term."

Trustees president Stephen Ferguson said the sanctions were clear and sufficient.

"What I think is happening here is that there is a much clearer message being sent by the administration that this will not be tolerated," he said.

But the punishment has not eliminated the consternation expressed by some with ties to the program about a university that has not been found guilty of a major NCAA violation since 1960.

Sampson was prohibited from initiating calls with recruits and off-campus visits after the NCAA ruled in May 2006 that he had made 577 impermissible calls over four years while coaching Oklahoma.

Those sanctions followed him to Bloomington and caused some within the Hoosiers' community to question whether Sampson should have been hired two months earlier.

Then, just two days after Indiana officially opened its second season under Sampson, another phone call controversy had him and his staff in trouble again.

On Sunday, university officials announced Sampson would forgo the raise for violating the NCAA sanctions placed on him a year ago. The scholarship will be eliminated for 2008-09.

Assistant coach Rob Senderoff is prohibited from calling recruits or visiting them off-campus for a year.

A university investigation found that Senderoff connected 10 three-way calls, which were banned as part of Sampson's sanctions, and that Senderoff made the majority of 35 undocumented calls from his home.

One report on the probe has already been sent to the NCAA infractions committee, while a second is being prepared. Both could lead to additional sanctions from the NCAA.

University spokesman Larry McIntyre said Tuesday that an intern on the compliance staff uncovered the offenses and credited the staff for diligently reviewing phone logs.

But it didn't take long for fans to express their concerns, which Shoulders doesn't buy.

"At Indiana University, we pride ourselves not only on abiding by the rules but by the spirit of the law," he said. "I don't think there was any criminal intent here, I think there was sloppiness."

Others have a different perspective.

Stephen Backer, an Indianapolis attorney and a former Indiana trustee, said Monday he had worried that Sampson's hiring while still under NCAA investigation had harmed the university's reputation.

Sunday's announcement did nothing to allay that fear.

"What I am concerned about is that we're right back to making excuses because he's recruiting good players," Backer said, referring to freshman guard Eric Gordon, the state's reigning Mr. Basketball. "We're right back in the situation we were with Bob Knight. For years people glossed over the imperfections because he was winning and I hope that's not going to be the same situation again, but I am a little worried."

Knight, who won three national championships at Indiana, was fired after being given many chances by the administration after temperamental outbursts.

Sampson defended himself Sunday, saying he was aware of only one of the 10 three-way calls. That one call was intended to clear up arrangements for a recruit to visit the school, he said. He blamed the violations on clerical errors, poor cell phone reception at his home and outright mistakes.

But in just the past few months, the Hoosiers have had other problems. Senior swingman A.J. Ratliff was declared academically ineligible for the first semester and Bud Mackey, who had orally committed to the program, was arrested on drug charges he has since pleaded not guilty to.

But it's the NCAA infractions, Backer said, that has prompted friends and alumni to suggest it's time to fire Sampson. While Backer wouldn't go that far, he did acknowledge that the program's image has taken a hit.

"I was very bothered by the baggage he brought with him, and I thought it tarnished the program then," he said. "I think this further tarnishes the program. ... It adds to the perception that Indiana University no longer runs the program we should be running. He's a good recruiter, but it's not worth it."

Shoulders contends the university's reputation will not be harmed.

"It's not the end of the world or the end of the program. I think it's one of those ugly coincidences," he said. "These were not violations of any kind of moral turpitude and I think we should put it behind us because we're going to have a good season."

McIntyre believes nothing else will surface following an investigation by Indianapolis law firm Ice Miller.

"The attorneys ... spent two months reviewing all the records and I believe they've turned over every rock they possibly could," McIntyre said.


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