It should be a tidy ending to a sleazy story, this decision by Kelvin Sampson to accept a $750,000 settlement and flee Indiana University in disgrace. But as one wretched angle fades away, another could take flight tonight in Evanston, of all places, where a number of young, impulsive basketball players might overlook that their coach was a two-time crook and continue to shame a state.
As if the Sampson scandal wasn't twisted enough in all its naked villainy, the possibility looms that some or all of his former players will boycott a game at Welsh-Ryan Arena against Northwestern. Go ahead and joke, if you must, that the entire Indiana team could stay home and still beat a bunch of NU stiffs winless in the conference. But nothing is remotely funny about the continuing fallout from one of the Big Ten's messiest episodes, which started when Indiana recklessly hired an outlaw, watched in horror as he committed the same phone-call missteps that landed him on probation while at Oklahoma, then turned Sampson's final hours into a chaotic circus that suggests a woeful lack of campus leadership. . . .
BLOOMINGTON, Ind. -- The initial damage report from a spectacularly dark day at Indiana University:
A career crashed.
A reputation frayed.
A team splintered.
An administration stumbled.
The result of Black Friday in Bloomington is a 22-4 team embroiled in unprecedented in-season chaos. Rarely, if ever, has a team this good had this much to frown about.
Whether the climax of an excellent season is torched in the backdraft of what's become a five-alarm scandal remains to be seen. That will depend in large part upon who shows up to get on the team bus to the Bloomington airport Saturday morning for the trip to play Northwestern in Evanston. . . .
Years from now, someone should do a training video on how not to handle a situation like this. Among the pointers:
• Don't give yourself a public deadline you have to struggle hysterically to meet.
• Don't let out word that you'll have a news conference at 2 p.m., and then at 4, and then at 6, if you can't get it done before 9 p.m.
·• Don't spend a day the entire state has been waiting for in total silence. There wasn't a blip of official communication from IU until after 8 p.m., when it finally announced its news conference. Reporters were left to loiter around athletic administration offices, waiting for anyone to say anything, with nobody from IU taking control of the situation.
• Don't hire a coach with a track record as a cheater.
• Don't bury a letter charging major NCAA violations in hopes that nobody will find out about it. ESPN.com found out and started asking questions shortly after the letter arrived. The school stonewalled. It only made the allegations public after receiving a Freedom of Information request from ESPN.com, and it did not announce its renewed investigation until a week after it received the letter.
• Don't pay a coach $750,000 to resign when he's committed fireable offenses and you're contractually obligated only to pay him through the end of the month.
Update 10:21 AM
From Bob Kravitz at the Indy Star, a member of the local media who was ahead of the curve every step of the way:
The university had to do what was in its best interest, and that was to cut ties with Sampson as soon as possible. Sorry, Jay Bilas, but if IU had played this out, they would have spent millions of dollars in attorney fees, would have destroyed at least one recruiting class by extending this into the summer, and likely would have been hammered by the NCAA, a group that doesn't have much sympathy for liars.
It took IU a while to get it right, and as I wrote here months ago, Sampson should have been let go when the internal investigation uncovered several violations of the terms of his probation. Instead, they withheld a $500,000 salary bonus and forced the resignation of one of his top recruiters, Rob Senderoff.
The reason was obvious: They had Eric Gordon on campus and a solid chance of not only winning the Big Ten, but advancing deep into the NCAA Tournament.
They sold their souls for a chance to grab the ring. Zero tolerance turned into a little-bit-more-than-zero tolerance. And then a whole-lot-more-than-zero tolerance. It wasn't until the NCAA dropped the bomb on IU that it did the right thing.
From start to finish, it was an unholy mess that the people at IU brought upon themselves. There's no media to blame here. There's no NCAA to blame here. . . .
1. Kelvin Sampson Cheats Again
2. More on the Kelvin Sampson Imbroglio
3. Indiana University's Spin Control. . .
4. The Kelvin Sampson Bomb is Set to Blow. . .
5. Kelvin Sampson: "Time to Cleanse the Slime"
6. In June: Sampson versus Senderoff?
7. Source: Sampson Out, Dakich in at Indiana
8. Commentary on Sampson's Departure