Saturday, February 23, 2008
Bloomington, Ind. Kelvin Sampson tainted the Indiana basketball program's cleancut reputation. Now the Hoosiers are hoping the fallout doesn't do any further damage.
Sampson agreed to Indiana's offer of a $750,000 buyout Friday, waiving his right to sue the university for further damages, and turning the program over to interim coach Dan Dakich.
The athletic department's response to an NCAA report charging Sampson with five major NCAA rules violations may create an even bigger mess for the 15th-ranked Hoosiers, starting with today's game at Northwestern.
Some players threatened to sit out the game as a protest. However, athletic director Rick Greenspan, who asked for Sampson's resignation, said he expected the players to participate at Northwestern and the program to move forward after one of the darkest chapters in program history.
"I feel a significant disappointment, first and foremost, for our players," Greenspan said.
Senior captain D.J. White, guards Armon Bassett, Jordan Crawford and Jamarcus Ellis, and forwards DeAndre Thomas and Brandon McGee skipped Dakich's first practice Friday afternoon. By Friday night's scheduled walkthrough, Greenspan said most if not all of the missing players were back and he expects them to leave for Chicago with the rest of the team this morning.
Sampson also offered players his support in a statement released by the university minutes before the official announcement was made.
"While I'm saddened that I will not have the opportunity to coach these student-athletes, I feel that this is in the best interest of the program for me to step away at this time," Sampson said. "I wish my players nothing but the best for the remainder of the season."
Sampson's two-year tenure at Indiana ended the same way it began, with an NCAA hearing scheduled for alleged rules infractions.
He took the Indiana job in March 2006 and two months later was penalized by the NCAA for making 577 impermissible phone calls between 2000 and 2004 when he was coaching Oklahoma.
Given the pending charges, many Indiana fans and some trustees thought it was a mistake even to hire Sampson.
And when the phone calls and accusations continued, it only created more angst among the fan-base.