DECKER: Sampson Blew It

Bloomington, Ind. - Kelvin Sampson blew it. The IU coach had a chance to do some special things in Bloomington as IU's basketball coach, but got in his own way and prevented it from happening...

Bloomington, Ind. – Kelvin Sampson blew it.

That much was obvious first thing Saturday morning, when several thousand students shook off Saturday morning hangovers to greet ESPN's College Gameday cast at Assembly Hall, some 12 hours before the game's tip-off.

That much was obvious when 17,000-plus set aside 72 hours of turmoil and roared for the Hoosiers for two straight hours as they battled Michigan State.

That much was obvious when this Hoosier team managed to overcome a first-half knee injury to D.J. White and embarrass a 10th-ranked Spartan team that desperately needed a win to remain in the Big Ten race.

Sampson had one of the crown jewel jobs in college basketball, and he let some combination of arrogance, naiveté and stupidity get in the way of keeping it.

How else can anyone explain the fact he participated in some three-way calls that he wasn't allowed to, or that his staff placed a few extra calls that you don't have to make to win at a place like IU?

He didn't know it was going on? I don't think so. That explanation didn't pass the sniff test in October, and the NCAA said as much with its finding of five potential major violations earlier this week.

He didn't think he was going to get caught? That's more likely. Sampson probably thought he could find a couple of loopholes, locate enough wiggle room and ultimately take enough liberties to pretty well neuter the spirit of the NCAA sanctions he was saddled with in the wake of his Oklahoma problems.

That was all working well enough until he got caught, and as a result he put himself, his team or his institution in jeopardy.

Now he's going to pay the price.

IU launched a seven-day investigation Friday that will all but certainly lead to his ouster as IU's basketball coach. Perhaps that decision will come next Friday, when IU AD Rick Greenspan is supposed to give his recommendation to President Michael McRobbie. Maybe it will come 10 days later, after Sampson's contractually stipulated 10-day appeals window comes to a close. But it's coming.

And he's going.

Sampson coached the Hoosiers to an impressive 19-point win Saturday night, an evening that started with the crowd booing him and ended with it cheering him. While Sampson said he didn't necessarily take any great solace in their change of heart, he was comforted to think what it did for his wife and daughter, both of whom were courtside.

"I felt good for my wife, that's what I felt," Sampson said. "I felt good for Karen, I felt good for Lauren."

And the crowd felt good about him, at least until the euphoria wears off in the morning. That's because this is a special place, with special fans, somewhere that provides a special opportunity for someone to win at a grandiose level if they don't mess it all up.

Yep, Sampson blew it alright.

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