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Thursday, February 14, 2008
Indiana Caught in a No Win Situation
It was only 19 months ago that I posted on Indiana University's questionable hiring of Oklahoma University's former head basketball coach Kelvin Sampson. Immediately following the ruling of the NCAA Committee on Infractions that Sampson had made 233 of 577 "impermissible" phone calls to recruits while at Oklahoma from 2000-04, IU athletics director Rick Greenspan and then IU President Adam Herbert publicly commented that Sampson is a man of "highest integrity" who simply made an error in judgment. Now Sampson faces more serious allegations of NCAA rules violations, including that he knowingly violated recruiting restrictions and gave IU and the NCAA's enforcement staff "false or misleading information" during their investigations (in other words, that he lied). The NCAA's enforcement staff sent a "Notice of Allegations" outlining five potentially major violations to IU President Michael A. McRobbie on Friday, which was released by the school yesterday.
Mark Alesia of the Indianapolis Star provided all the details in a very informative piece yesterday, which included a timeline of events over the past four months:
What do you do right now if you're the IU president in this situation? IU has until May 8 to respond to the notice of allegations. Do you fire Sampson? It was just announced this evening that IU is launching an internal investigation into the allegations released yesterday in an attempt to accelerate the adjudication process involving Sampson. At a news conference tomorrow, McRobbie will explain the investigation procedure and name those who will conduct the investigation. Greenspan hopes to offer a recommendation within a matter of days.
According to Alesia, among the definitions of “just cause” termination in Sampson’s contract include (1) “a significant, intentional, repetitive violation of any law, rule (or) regulation” of the NCAA; (2) “failure to maintain an environment in which the coaching staff complies with NCAA … regulations”; and (3) in IU's “sole judgment” Sampson’s conduct “reflects adversely upon the university and its athletic program.”
It is in IU's best interest right now to perform a thorough internal investigation, and to do it as quickly as possible. First, if IU delays the process and it is later determined that IU knew or should have known that the allegations are true, it risks being tagged with a "lack of institutional control". Second, if Sampson is fired immediately, and before a ruling by the NCAA Committee on Infractions, it bolsters his claim that IU fired him without just cause. But if prior to firing Sampson IU performs an investigation and the investigation reveals that the allegations are true, it lends support for a just cause termination pursuant to (2) and (3).
UPDATE (2/15/08): Mark Alesia followed up with a good question and answer piece today, Analysis: What it all means.