DECKER: Where Does IU Go From Here?

It wasn't the most sordid and sinister of rules violations that landed Kelvin Sampson and the Oklahoma basketball program in hot water with the NCAA, but the body's Infractions Committee made it clear Thursday it still found the staff's missteps indefensible.

It wasn't the most sordid and sinister of rules violations that landed Kelvin Sampson and the Oklahoma basketball program in hot water with the NCAA, but the body's Infractions Committee made it clear Thursday it still found the staff's missteps indefensible.

In the wake of the 577 improper phone calls made to 17 prospective OU recruits form 2000-04, the NCAA handed down its final ruling Thursday afternoon, slapping the Sooners and Sampson with penalties that will have an impact on both the OU and IU programs.

For Indiana, the most significant penalty is a one-year ban for Sampson that bars him from making off-campus recruiting trips and recruiting phone calls. While Indiana's assistant coaches will be able to make the NCAA allotted number of calls and off-campus visits, Sampson's limitations will undoubtedly have an impact on the Hoosiers' efforts for the 2007 recruiting class.

While IU officials have said they knew there was a possibility of these sorts of additional penalties when they originally hired Sampson in March, let's be honest – it's unimaginable the one-year ban was expected by the IU brass when they tabbed him to replace Mike Davis. Most likely, their inquiries into the matter suggested Sampson would be pretty much in the free and clear once he arrived in Bloomington.

But in announcing its ruling, Infractions Committee acting chair Thomas Yeager made it clear that wasn't the case, pointing out there was nothing minor about what had unfolded on Sampson's watch in Norman.

"I think in recruiting often times the smallest little thing can tip the balance in favor of one school or another," Yeager said. "That's why I said there are no insignificant recruiting rules in the committee's view."

Troubling to the committee was Sampson's approach of "prioritizing" NCAA rules. Sampson said he and his staff didn't necessarily consider the NCAA's recruiting contact limitations as important as some other rules, such as not providing prospective student-athletes with material inducements to come to their school.

In Yeager's mind, though, that philosophy wasn't one it could condone.

"The coaches in the information reported talked about prioritizing rules and that there was basically the approach that some of the more notorious types of recruiting inducements were a line they weren't going to cross, but this was an area related to the phone contacts that obviously they described as unimportant," Yeager said. "We disagree…in our view there is really no insignificant recruiting rules when they have the potential to impact a prospect's decision. If somebody is particularly operating outside of those rules and in the volume of violations that occurred in this case, then obviously that is a very serious case."

The NCAA also wasn't buying Sampson's defense that the Sooners were just doing what many other programs were doing to a lesser extent as well in an effort to get an upper hand in the battle for the nation's elite prep talent.

"When I finish this call, I am going to climb into my car and start driving down I-95 and I am probably going to be going a little faster than the posted speed limit," Yeager said. "But if I am going a whole lot faster and get pulled over by a state trooper, then the fact that everybody else is doing 75 instead of 65 isn't a great defense."

So where does all of this leave Sampson and the IU basketball program?

Certainly it's a black eye for both. Sampson's reputation has taken a hit, particularly when one considers he was the president of the National Association of Basketball Coaches and presided over an NABC Ethics Summit three years ago that was given the charge of dealing with rules compliance – at the same time that he and members of his OU coaching staff were making the improper phone calls.

The hypocrisy of that situation was highlighted by Yeager Thursday.

"The NABC…took a very publicized stand about bringing their house in order and coaches being in control of their program and all those kinds of things and helping to restore to their profession, which at the time had taken a couple of black eyes," Yeager said. "So sure that was a concern that the head of the organization the whole time this was going on was then and continued to violate NCAA rules knowingly."

As for Indiana, it really has no option but to stand by its man. While Sampson's IU contract has a provision that allows the university to "take further action, up to and including termination" if the NCAA imposed more significant penalties than those originally implemented by Oklahoma, that's not a realistic option.

Indiana officials were well aware of the impending meeting with the NCAA, and knew there was the possibility of additional sanctions being handed down by the governing body. They knew the details of Sampson's violations and didn't view them as reason enough to look in another direction when selecting its next basketball coach.

Whether that was a prudent move or not, only time will tell. But for the last two days, Indiana basketball has been in the national spotlight for all the wrong reasons. A cloud has developed over a program that's had a long-standing reputation of doing things by the book.

How severe will the storm be? And how long will it take for the storm cloud to pass?

No one knows for sure at this point. But IU has no options but to ride it out. Top Stories