At least they are right now. After decades upon decades of running a clean program under the legendary Bobby Knight, Indiana basketball fans are embarrassed and ashamed.
Now, don’t get it twisted, I don’t like Indiana University…at all. I’m an Illinois fan and frankly, I’m enjoying this whole fiasco immensely. First, IU fired Knight. Maybe it was justified, maybe it wasn’t, I don’t know. I’ll be honest, even though it’s sacrilegious to say around here, I respect Bobby Knight. Yes, he’s intense and over the top, but he’s a great coach and he always, I repeat ALWAYS, did it right. He was replaced one of his assistants, Mike Davis. Davis kept the tradition going, even taking Indiana to the Final Four, but he too was fired. Again, I shouldn’t admit it, but I liked Mike Davis. You had to respect the guy. He was put in an impossible situation by having to follow a legend and he handled it with class and dignity.
Enter Kelvin Sampson. Once the president of the National Association of Basketball Coaches (NABC), Sampson was presiding over the organization when the Ethics Committee of the NABC was formed to address the disturbingly high amount of NCAA recruiting rules violations that were occurring nation wide. That same committee reprimanded Sampson after he was placed on three years probation by the NCAA. Seems that while he was the head coach at Oklahoma, Sampson thought it would be a good idea to make roughly 550 illegal calls to recruits. As a result, the NCAA barred Sampson from recruiting off campus and making phone calls for one year, ending May 24, 2007. Sampson left Oklahoma for Indiana on March 29, 2006, thus he was still on probation when he became the head coach for the Hoosiers.
February 8, 2008 – The NCAA informed Kelvin Sampson and Indiana University that they had evidence that Sampson not only violated his probation by making more illegal phone calls and participating in conference calls with recruits, but they had evidence that he lied to the NCAA about it. On February 14, 2008 Indiana announced that Sampson’s job is on a game by game status.
That stuff above doesn’t even include the rather dubious recruiting of Eric Gordon, an Indiana phenom who had originally committed to Illinois, but magically changed his mind after Kelvin Sampson hired several people close to the Gordon family as assistants. Did Sampson cheat when it came to recruiting Gordon? I don’t know. It certainly looks like it though doesn’t it? Here’s a guy who cheated, got caught, knew what would happen if he did it again, cheated anyways, got caught again and lied about it. Hard to believe the Eric Gordon situation is on the up and up. Expect Sampson, and most likely Indiana’s Athletic Director who hired him, to be fired by this time next week. Expect the NCAA to place Indiana on probation for at least three years sometime this summer.
All of this speaks to a much larger problem though. College coaches are under so much pressure to win, and to win right now, that they resort to cheating to land the best players and forget what college is supposed to be about. These kids are supposed to be there to get an education first, but that’s just not the case anymore. Frankly the system needs an overhaul. When it comes to College Football and Basketball, the truth is that it’ll always be more about winning than education, but the NCAA must overhaul the recruiting process. No more “Soft Verbal” or “Verbal” commitments. To me, if you commit to someone, you follow through. That’s what a man does. Now if a kid goes to a school, realizes that they just don’t fit in there, or don’t like it there for whatever reason and want to transfer, that’s fine. I have no problem with that, but a kid shouldn’t be allowed to commit to a school, have another coach recruit them even harder after they’ve made their verbal commitment, de-commit, and go to the other school. In fact, sometimes, kids will continue to be recruited after they sign a letter of intent, which is supposed to be the final word on which school they’ll attend. More often than not, that only happens when a coach is fired or resigns. Still though, I think that sets a bad precedent for these kids. We’re telling them: “hey, it’s ok to back out of promises.” That, to me, is just a terrible lesson to teach.