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NCAA spares IU, comes down hard on former coaches

POSTED AT 08:10 PM ON Nov. 25, 2008 

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For months, Indiana University waited in suspense and braced for the worst.

On Tuesday, the school let out a collective sigh of relief when the NCAA Committee on Infractions announced it had accepted IU’s self-imposed sanctions and would only penalize the school in the form of a three-year probationary period.

The case stems from the major recruiting violations committed under former IU coach Kelvin Sampson and his assistant Rob Senderoff. Despite the NCAA finding the University guilty of “failure to monitor,” the committee decided no further penalties were necessary outside of the modest probation.

“It is time to move on and put this episode behind us,” IU President Michael McRobbie said in a press release. “We have a new coach and an almost entirely new team, and they should not have to worry about being penalized for things that happened before they were even here.”

The Hoosiers’ old coaches, Sampson and Senderoff, were not let off as easy as the University. Sampson received a five-year “show cause” order that will most likely keep him from returning to college basketball over the period. Now an assistant coach with the Milwaukee Bucks, Sampson is prohibited from recruiting, making phone calls, receiving phone calls or contacting any recruits over the next three years. The sanctions are slightly reduced over the fourth and fifth years.

“I’m deeply disappointed in today’s findings by the NCAA,” Sampson said in a statement through his agent. “But the accusations at hand are things that happened on my watch, and therefore I will take responsibility.”

He apologized to all of the people “who were hurt in this situation” and added, “it is time to move on.”

Senderoff, now an associate head coach at Kent State, was handed a three-year “show cause” that will keep him from recruiting, but allow him to coach the Golden Flashes.

“We are committed to keeping Rob as an integral part of our staff,” Kent State Athletics Director Laing Kennedy said in a statement. “His impact and long-term value to our program both on and off the court and heading up our academic efforts far outweigh these penalties.”

To the delight of IU Athletics, no further penalties were levied against the program  besides the ones the school had already self-assessed. The University reduced its scholarship allotment by one this season and limited recruiting opportunities for their former coaches and Tom Crean. But beginning in 2009-2010, the program will be free of sanctions with the exception of the probationary period.

“From the very beginning of these proceedings we cooperated fully with the NCAA and, in fact, imposed severe recruiting penalties on our men’s basketball program,” McRobbie said.

On Tuesday, Crean called the ruling “bittersweet.”

“(The ruling) goes to show that the system works,” Crean said outside of the Lahaina Civic Center where his Hooisers are participating the EA Sports Maui Invitational. He said the NCAA looked at the self-imposed sanctions and “respected” them.

“Because the sanctions imposed obviously were very, very hard,” Crean said. “We just have to deal with aftermath…this is what gutting a program and starting over looks like.”

He said he was thankful for all of the work the athletics department and the Ice Miller firm had done, but said he felt sorry for Hoosier fans everywhere.

“Indiana basketball fans deserve credit as much as any in this country,” Crean said. “For fans, and the way they treat this program, they’re sticking with us. They’ve gone through a lot of hard times, we’ve gone through hard times, but now we know we can continue to move this program in the right direction and build it. Without more sanctions.”

Due to increased pressure from the investigation this summer, IU Athletics Director Rick Greenspan resigned on June 26, the same day the NCAA announced the “failure to monitor” allegation.

On Tuesday, Greenspan, whose resignation is effective at the end of the year and will be replaced by Indianapolis lawyer Fred Glass, said he was “grateful” of the NCAAs assessment, but also indicated his resignation might have been inevitable once the investigation began.

“Based on this decision, it appears that anything less than monitoring perfection in this particular case would have triggered a ‘failure to monitor’ finding,” he said in a release.

McRobbie described the violations of the men’s basketball program as a “one-time deviation from a half-century record of having no major NCAA infractions.”

“We are determined never to allow anything like this to happen again,” he said.

Since the University announced its self-imposed sanctions in 2007, the men’s basketball program has been on a steady, but steep, decline. Coaches were bought out, players were kicked off the team or transferred and the team has a completely new roster this season with the exceptions of senior forward Kyle Taber and sophomore guard Brett Finkelmeier.

NCAA Infractions Committee chair Josephine Potuto, a law professor at the University of Nebraska, called the self-sanctions “substantial” in a teleconference with reporters Tuesday. But despite the destruction of the program, Potuto said the committee never took into factor what was going on inside of Assembly Hall during the investigation and deliberation.

“The committee can’t consider a prime focus of penalties on what happens to an institution because of a major change independent of what the committee penalties turned out to be,” she said. “We have to be sure that what the committee does reflects the seriousness of the violations and the nature of the violations, how they were committed and the scope that they were committed.”

Under the terms of the probation, the University will be imposed with heavy record keeping, heightened scrutiny and will be obligated to report to the Infractions Committee yearly, Potuto said.

Following his team’s loss to Saint Joseph’s in the second round of the Maui Invitational Tuesday, Crean said he wasn’t fully aware of the probationary period details, but said he was happy the committee spared the school.

“We were going to do whatever they said,” Crean said. “We didn’t want to lose postseason, we didn’t want to lose scholarships and we didn’t want to lose television.”

“Thank God we didn’t lose any of those,” he said.

IU’s first-year coach, who took over the program in April, said he is looking forward to recruiting without other school’s making innuendos and spreading false rumors about what the NCAA was going to rule.

“And now our recruits can feel good about it, our future class recruits can feel good about it (and) our current players can feel good about it,” he said.

“We can just move forward.”

 

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