Commentary

Indiana, Sampson face nightmare hearing on Friday the 13th

Originally Published: June 11, 2008
By Dana O'Neil | ESPN.com

It's called paraskavedekatriaphobia, and it means a fear of Friday the 13th. People afflicted with this specialized version of triskaidekaphobia have been known to alter their day's plans completely to avoid tempting fate. No flying, no driving, no getting out of bed, nothing that could put them in harm's way.

Kelvin Sampson might as well carry a black cat and cracked mirror around all day.

They couldn't possibly make things any worse.

The Documents

• Indiana University issued a 750-page response to NCAA allegations of violations involving former coach Kelvin Sampson. Take a look at the document. Indiana response (pdf)

• What exactly did the NCAA allege happened? Take a look at what the NCAA sent to the president of Indiana University. Notice of allegations (pdf)

•  In a statement that runs more than 70 typed pages, former Indiana coach Kelvin Sampson responded to the NCAA's allegations that his staff committed violations. Sampson response (pdf)

The former Indiana University coach will stand before the NCAA Committee on Infractions on the day when Jason slashed his way to infamy. Sampson and his staff have been charged with making more than 100 improper phone calls with five major violations.

The hearing is the penultimate chapter in a saga ripe with melodrama. Marked by indignation, resignation, work-stoppage threats and sneaker shout-outs, the saga has stained the reputation of a proud university and A-bombed a soaring top-10 season.

Since his February resignation, Sampson almost has become a bit player in the soap opera he brought, along with his bags, from Oklahoma. He recently accepted an assistant coaching position with the Milwaukee Bucks, and though he continues to deny the allegations, his jump to the NBA would indicate he's not expecting vindication at Seattle's Hotel Deca on Friday.

But what of the other characters in this serial mess fit for daytime? The accused accomplice (Rob Senderoff, who the NCAA claims instigated the improper three-way phone calls with Sampson)? The other man (Jeff Meyer, also facing sanctions from the NCAA)? The jilted lover (Indiana, which brought Sampson to Bloomington, believing he had reformed after making more than 500 improper phone calls in Norman)?

And the wide-eyed, earnest new kid in town (Tom Crean)?

Cue the mystery music. Duh duh duh duh … and tune in about six weeks from now, when the NCAA finally renders its decision on all of their fates, which sounds rightly ominous.

How heavy is the air around this hearing? You'd have an easier time getting Barack Obama to leak his choice for a running mate than to get anyone to go on the record. Sampson's attorney, Mike Glazier, said his client would not be available for comment. Neither was Indiana athletic director Rick Greenspan. Senderoff declined to comment on the situation. Meyer declined comment through his attorney, Stu Brown. Even Ray McCallum, the only assistant not charged with a violation and now the head coach at Detroit, did not return phone messages.

The NCAA doesn't exactly like playing its processes out in the media, so the de facto gag order is certainly understandable.

"We continue to take the matter very seriously and look forward to the opportunity to discuss the findings of our investigation with the Committee on Infractions at the hearing," Indiana assistant athletic director Frank Martin said in a statement, adding that Greenspan wouldn't be able to comment.

Despite the radio silence, the past few weeks have been filled with more positioning than the final laps of a NASCAR race, with each side anxious to state its case before formally stating its case.

Senderoff's Future

Kent State athletic director Laing Kennedy hopes the university's proactive measures taken when it hired former Indiana assistant coach Rob Senderoff will prevent Senderoff from getting a show-cause penalty from the NCAA this summer.

Senderoff is scheduled for a hearing with the NCAA Committee on Infractions on Friday. A ruling could take more than six weeks.

If Senderoff receives a show-cause penalty (which requires schools to get the NCAA Committee on Infractions' approval of their hire of a coach under the penalty), Kent State would have to either appeal or let Senderoff go. In his contract with Kent State, Senderoff agreed to a one-year restriction on coaching activities and to attend an annual compliance seminar.

"One of the conditions of employment were some self-imposed sanctions on Rob," said Kennedy, who wouldn't say specifically what sort of restrictions Senderoff was under. "We felt like by taking these steps -- although there's still a risk -- we were being proactive."

Senderoff's situation isn't unprecedented. Fresno State coach Ray Lopes, a Sampson assistant at Oklahoma, resigned from the Bulldogs after the NCAA tagged him with a three-year show-cause ban for his involvement as an assistant coach in the same investigation that exposed Sampson at OU. In the same year, Wright State and its coach, Paul Biancardi, reached a mutual agreement to part ways after Biancardi received a recruiting ban after his involvement in a scandal when he was an assistant at Ohio State.

"I'm confident, but this is a crazy business," said Kennedy, who will be at Friday's hearing in Seattle. "It's like the night before a game. You think you're prepared. You think you're going to win, but you just don't know."

-- Dana O'Neil, ESPN.com
First, Indiana released part of its 750-page response to the NCAA's case. Then Sampson released his response to the NCAA, in part to deflect the release from IU.

Finally, the NCAA issued its case summary.

Bottom line: Sampson is the lone voice in the wind saying he did nothing wrong.

Indiana already has slapped its own wrist. The university extended by one year a limit on recruiting and phone calls, handcuffing Crean even though he had nothing to do with it. The university also has taken away a scholarship for the 2008-09 season.

In IU's response to the NCAA's charges, Indiana officials argued the school already has done plenty to make up for Sampson's indiscretions.

Crean agreed. The new Hoosiers coach was so taken aback by the sanctions IU imposed on itself that he questioned whether he could make the job work when he considered jumping ship from Marquette.

"Indiana was so proactive in what they did," Crean said, while stumping at an IU gathering recently. "When I looked at the sanctions that were self-imposed, that's where you catch your breath and say, 'Can we go do this?'"

The Hoosiers' program has been in a full-bore hemorrhage since Sampson's dismissal. Along with the recruiting restrictions and scholarship reduction, IU lost its top recruit for this season, Devin Ebanks, who is now going to West Virginia. Crean also upheld interim coach Dan Dakich's dismissals of both Armon Bassett and Jamarcus Ellis, and he recently dismissed Brandon McGee. After throwing a tantrum in Crean's office that warranted a call to campus police, Eli Holman announced he was transferring.

To keep this thing as messily inbred as possible, Holman is going to Detroit, where McCallum is the coach.

Throw in Eric Gordon's early defection to the NBA draft, and Indiana is down to three returning scholarship players.

Crean said that aside from potential problems with the team's academic progress report because of the transfers and Gordon's departure, he doesn't expect any more shoes to drop.

Still, there is always a chance the NCAA could hit the university with more penalties or, worse, charge it with lack of institutional control.

"I think about that all the time," Crean said.

Doubtless, there are a few wheels turning right now for Senderoff and Meyer, as well. Forced to resign in October when Indiana first self-reported its violations, Senderoff is back at work at Kent State as an assistant coach. Along with being charged with making some of the improper phone calls and initiating the three-way calls, he is charged with providing "false or misleading information to the NCAA."

Meyer remains in a holding pattern. Of the IU coaches on last year's bench, he and Dakich are the ones still unemployed. The longtime assistant did receive some good news recently. He originally was charged with five major infractions, but the NCAA recently reduced one of those charges -- that Meyer gave a recruit a backpack and T-shirt -- to a secondary infraction.

Finally, of course, there is Sampson. He will be represented at the hearing by Glazier, an attorney who specializes in NCAA litigation and usually represents universities, not individual coaches.

Coincidentally -- and perhaps appropriately in this twisted fairy tale tailor-made for a Friday the 13th showing -- Glazier is an Indiana grad.

ESPN.com senior writer Pat Forde contributed to this story.

Dana O'Neil covers college basketball for ESPN.com and can be reached at espnoneil@live.com.

Dana O'Neil | email

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