Anybody who’s really interested already knows what I’m talking about. Kelvin Sampson was let go as the Hoosier head coach after charges of recruiting violations. An assistant coach had already been released, but the scandal finally went all the way to the top. Something about inappropriate phone calls to high school recruits. And the worst part was, he’d done it before.
The Oklahoma program was under sanctions from the NCAA when Sampson was hired. For the same thing. I recall having people ask me “what are they thinking” when he was hired. But I had no idea, really, who Kelvin Sampson was, so I was willing to give him the benefit of the doubt. As Dr. Phil might say … “How’s that working out for you?” Apparently, not so well.
For the first time since sometime in the 1960’s, I read somewhere, IU has an NCAA problem. It’s really sad. And when Bob Knight was coach, for all his problems and foibles, THIS never happened. It was the squeakiest clean program among the majors, and Indiana fans were appropriately proud.
All that’s gone now. And perhaps the most unfair thing about the process is that the NCAA will sanction the school, not Coach Sampson. He gets his buy-out package … at least a silver parachute, and the players and fans will suffer.
How is it fair, in any of these situations, that the kids playing on the teams are barred from post-season play, or lose scholarships, or any of the things designed to financially punish the university. Kids on teams, through no fault of thier own, are the ones that have the chance to win a championship taken away from them. All they want to do is play, and maybe grab that one-in 10-thousand or so chance to have a career as a professional basketball player. I know, that was never a main focus under a Knight program, but a few got there. Players on a team under sanctions probably have a lesser chance to achieve those goals than ones that can play for national championships in High Definition, it would seem to me.
I expect the Indiana is in for some sanctions for hiring Coach Sampson in the first place. That’s probably appropriate, they knew what they were getting going in. But the NCAA should find a way to punish Kelvin Sampson. Instead of punishing the young men currently on the team, who very likely had no part in his violations … or kids who may consider IU in the future … how about barring Sampson from coaching an NCAA Division I team for a number of years? Affect HIS livelihood, and not jeopardize the chances of talented basketball players of achieving their goals.
I know, the purpose of sanctions is to assure schools are meticulous in their hiring procedures, and there is an argument to be made for punishing the school. But it seems that so often, the wrong people are hurt. Kelvin Sampson was able to convince IU that he’d changed his stripes, that the Oklahoma problems were just that … Oklahoma problems. I turned out .. not so much, and now, Indiana finds its self in a very uncomfortable and unusual position. And we, the fans of Hoosier Basketball, are left with a huge sense of disappointment an empty feeling in our stomachs.
How will Dan Dakich do as interim head coach? It’s such a huge job. Dakich played for Knight back in the ’80’s, and was a fair player. We all know the best coaches weren’t necessarily the best players. But since he played for Knight, the comparisons are inevitable. But let’s also hope Coach Knight instilled the values in Dakich that will help them get through the season. Good luck, Dan. You’re being thrust into the national spotlight maybe before your time. But as long as the NCAA doesn’t ban IU from national television … I’ll be watching.