Sampson sanctions hardly substantial
The NCAA hampered first-year Indiana coach Kelvin Sampson's recruiting ability for the class of 2007 and '08 but stopped well short of taking him out of the recruiting process.
Indiana accepted Sampson's penalty that he cannot recruit off-campus or make any phone calls to recruits from May 25, 2006 to May 24, 2007.
But Thomas Yeager, commissioner of the Colonial Athletic Association and the interim chair of the infractions committee, said Thursday that there are no rules against Sampson receiving phone calls, e-mailing or using text messages. Yeager did say that he expected Indiana to uphold the "spirit" of the penalty.
So, technically Sampson could e-mail or text a recruit and have the recruit call Sampson back. Also, an assistant coach could have the recruit telephone him, and the assistant coach could conceivably hand the phone to Sampson as long as Sampson didn't make the call. Sampson could also receive phone calls on an 800-number, which most major schools have coming into their office.
Indiana still needs clear interpretation whether Sampson can phone high school, AAU and junior college coaches or if he is only forbidden from phoning prospects.
Banning Sampson from going on the road might not be a major hit, as well. This will be the second straight summer that Sampson won't be on the road, and the third in a row where he misses all or part of the July evaluation period.
As part of Oklahoma's self-imposed penalties, Sampson sat out last July's recruiting period yet he still hauled in what he termed the top recruiting class in his 12 years in Norman. Once he left Oklahoma for Indiana, three of the five recruits asked for a release and have since gone to Texas, UAB and Villanova. In the summer of 2004, Sampson was out for most of July while he coached the USA Young Men's qualifying team to a gold medal in Halifax, Nova Scotia.
With Indiana having three seniors on the 2006-07 roster, the Hoosiers could have as many as three to six scholarship openings since they are presently at 11 players on scholarship for the 2006-07 season. Indiana still is pursuing two more players for next fall to get to the maximum of 13. If it does then the Hoosiers would have three to give, but that number could go up to four if rising junior D.J. White decides to declare for the NBA draft in 2007.
The state of Indiana has three top 50 players for 2007 and six in the top 100, according to scout.com. One of the top guards, Eric Gordon, already has committed to Illinois.
But, once again, Sampson can visit with high school juniors and seniors and junior college players on campus.
The lure of playing at Indiana, Sampson's national name, and the proximity of the Bloomington campus to a number of Midwest cities could make it easier for players to visit the IU campus while Sampson is under NCAA recruiting house arrest for a year.
Yeager said had Sampson (he did refer to him as the former head coach instead of by name) stayed at Oklahoma, then the same penalties would have applied. Had Sampson stayed, it's unknown how the Sooners would have handled him.
Paul Biancardi essentially was fired at Wright State for a similar one-year ban for his violations at Ohio State while Quin Snyder actually survived his one-year ban of off-campus recruiting at Missouri and signed players during that time. He subsequently was forced out four months after his off-campus ban was lifted.
In the end, the public censure of Sampson and calling him out for being the head of the National Association of Basketball Coaches during the ethics summit in 2003 while also committing violations is probably the highest price he'll pay. Sampson already was embarrassed when he had to stand in front of hundreds of people at his news conference in Bloomington and say he made a mistake.
Yeager said during the conference call Thursday that he differed with Sampson on the severity of phone call violations. Yeager believes the violations were an advantage and essentially didn't see the point in saying that it wasn't as severe as paying players.
Sampson, who is in Kuwait this week with Operation Hardwood II (college coaches coaching soldiers), said he would build a "basketball program which all Indiana fans can be proud -- one that is successful on the floor, in the classroom and is active in the community."
Indiana athletic director Rick Greenspan backed Sampson, too, saying the sanctions do "present an immediate challenge." But he remains excited about Sampson heading the program.
Based on Sampson's ability to recruit at Oklahoma (a tougher sell than at Indiana) with a summer ban, recruiting for IU without making phone calls or going off-campus for a year might not be as tough as it seems. Sampson hired a veteran staff at IU with former head coaches Ray McCallum, Jeff Meyer and Jerry Green, making it one of the more experienced staffs in the country. Sampson still will be visible when the prospects come to campus and there are ways around the penalty that will allow him to communicate with recruits without violating his sanctions.
Andy Katz is a senior writer at ESPN.com.
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