Top 10 Stories of 2006 - No. 6-10

From Kelvin Sampson to Mike Davis to Eric Gordon, it's been a big year in IU Athletics. What were the biggest stories from the last 12 months? In a two-part series, ranks the biggest stories from the last year - both good and bad...

10. Kellen Lewis

The hopes for the immediate future of the Hoosier football program are as high as they've been in more than a decade, and a big reason for that was the emergence of quarterback Kellen Lewis. The 6-2, 175-pound redshirt freshman began the season as the team's No. 3, but injuries to Blake Powers and Graeme McFarland gave him his opportunity, and he didn't look back.

Lewis announced his arrival with a 15-of-28, 228-yard, one touchdown effort against Ball State, orchestrating a huge second-half comeback against the Cardinals. Other big performances later in the season (19-of-25, 255 yards, 3 TDs vs. Iowa; 15-of-26, 261 yards, 5 TDs vs. Michigan State) showed he wasn't a one-game wonder, and instead appears to be the quarterback for the foreseeable future in Bloomington.

With three years of eligibility remaining, Lewis gives IU Coach Terry Hoeppner a dual-threat quarterback that will give IU foes fits. Lewis doesn't have the escapability that former IU standout Antwaan Randle El did, but he's a gifted runner in the open field, and he has a better arm and is more accurate than Randle El was during his All-America career.

9. Recruiting About Face

Kelvin Sampson's honeymoon in Bloomington was short-lived. After being introduced as the Hoosiers' new head coach he immediately began to try to piece together IU's 2007 recruiting class, and things didn't get off to the best of starts.

IU fans had grown weary of watching in-state players bypass Bloomington on their way to destinations out of state. The one redeeming fact was they weren't headed to West Lafayette to play for Purdue, either. But that changed during the summer months when a handful of in-state players spurned late pushes by Sampson's staff and committed to Matt Painter's Boilermakers. The first to go was Franklin Central center JaJuan Johnson, and he was followed by East Chicago's E'twaun Moore. Soon afterwards Valparaiso teammates Robbie Hummel and Scott Martin followed suit, giving Painter one of the nation's top '07 classes and seemingly shutting IU out with in-state recruiting.

But Sampson managed to turning nothing into something. He landed top-100 forward Brandon McGee after his trip to IU's Elite Camp, and then secured a commitment from another Chicago area standout, JC combo guard Jamarcus Ellis. Next came California big man Eli Holman – another top-100 player. Then came the biggest catch, North Central guard Eric Gordon, whose decision to spurn Illinois for Indiana gave the Hoosiers the state's best player and a top-five class nationally as well. IU wrapped things up with Jordan Crawford, another top-100 player with plenty of potential.

8. Will they Stay or Go?

Once it became clear Mike Davis was stepping down, there was plenty of trepidation among IU fans and administrators that a slew of players would either follow Davis to his next destination, or look for opportunities elsewhere.

For everything some fans might have disliked about Davis, he did command tremendous loyalty from his players. As those players watched Davis struggle with the scrutiny he was under throughout his tenure, some grew resentful. The most out-spoken about that were sophomores D.J. White and Robert Vaden.

The team's two marquee returning players, White and Vaden were extremely close to Davis and voiced their interest in leaving after Davis' announcement.

"I'm a Coach Davis guy. That's why I'm here," was White's response to whether he'd stay.

Vaden, meanwhile, was even more direct. "I came here because of Mike Davis. I love Indiana and I love Indiana basketball, but right now Coach Davis is the only coach I know. Hopefully, I can go with him wherever he goes."

Vaden followed through on those words, transferring to UAB over the summer. White, meanwhile, stayed in Bloomington. Handcuffed by the fact he'd sat out most of last season with a pair of broken bones in his foot, transferring would have meant a second season on the sidelines for White. That certainly helped IU's cause in keeping him in an IU uniform.

7. Facility upgrades

It didn't create the sort of uproar that coaching searches and recruiting battles did, but there's nothing from 2006 that will have a more lasting impact on the long-term stability of the IU Athletics Department than the IU Board of Trustees' approval of the $55 million facility enhancement plan in September.

The trustees gave IU Athletics Director Rick Greenspan the green light to begin work on a project that will have a lasting impact on all of IU's sports programs, but the most significant impact will be felt on football, men's and women's basketball, baseball and softball. The baseball and softball programs will be getting new facilities, while the basketball programs will soon have a new practice facility that will bring an end to scheduling conflicts and will serve as a recruiting enticement to prospective student athletes who will have 24/7 access to work on their games.

Football, meanwhile, will derive the greatest benefit. IU is going to enclose the north end of Memorial Stadium, build a new state-of-the-art weight room facility and construct additional meeting rooms for the program, among other things. It's a huge shot in the arm for a football program that had fallen well behind its Big Ten counterparts in facilities.

This project will help IU's programs get back on a level playing field with the rest of the conference, and it sends a message to fans, recruits and current student-athletes that there's a commitment from the athletics administration and the university to provide IU's sports programs with what they need to compete for Big Ten titles.

6. Sampson's sanctions

It's hard to believe Rick Greenspan or Kelvin Sampson saw this coming.

In May, the NCAA Committee on Infractions issued its final ruling on the Oklahoma basketball program and Sampson in the wake of nearly 600 impermissible phone calls Sampson and his staff made to prospective recruits. The punishment was significant, as the NCAA barred Sampson from making any recruiting phone calls or participating in any off-campus recruiting for one year.

Sampson, who had already been named IU's head coach, would be saddled with those restrictions during his first year in Bloomington. The language of the ruling was harsh as well in regards to Sampson, a coach who had previously headed the National Association of Basketball Coaches and presided over an NABC Ethics Summit in 2003.

"This case is a result of the former head coach's complete disregard for NCAA guidelines for proper telephone contact with recruits," said Thomas Yeager, acting chair of the committee. "The former head coach created and encouraged an atmosphere among his staff of deliberate noncompliance, rationalizing the violations as being a result of ‘prioritizing' rules."

IU officials were well aware of the imminent NCAA ruling when it hired Sampson, so the prevailing thought was the matter had been looked into by IU Athletics Director Rick Greenspan and he felt confident that,

a. Sampson wouldn't let those type of infractions occur again at IU, and

b. the NCAA wouldn't handcuff Sampson – and thus IU – with any sort of restrictions.

Obviously the second part of that assumption proved incorrect.

Based on IU's '07 recruiting results, the impact of the restrictions on Sampson's recruiting efforts was negligible. But it was a shock to just about everyone around the IU program when the NCAA issued its ruling in May. Top Stories