DECKER: Sampson's Story Doesn't Hold Water

When IU appears in front of the NCAA Infractions Committee next month, plenty of fingers will be pointed by IU Athletic Director Rick Greenspan and former Coach Kelvin Sampson. While there's blame to go around, Sampson's own actions call into question his line of defense...

Rick Greenspan and Kelvin Sampson will be reuniting next month in Seattle in front of the NCAA Infractions Committee, and they figure to make the Hatfields and the McCoys look like bosom buddies.

On one side there's the IU athletic director, who will be claiming Sampson is entirely to blame for the variety of recruiting infractions uncovered last fall. He'll argue that the athletic department had a system in place to monitor the basketball staff's recruiting calls to ensure compliance with NCAA rules and the sanctions put in place following his troubles at Oklahoma. Greenspan will say Sampson and his staff knowingly and intentionally circumvented those safeguards.

Of course, the NCAA might counter that IU's protective measures were easy to outwit, since all it took was a little dishonesty on some phone logs and some deceit about where all the recruiting phone calls originated. But that figures to be IU's defense.

On the other side is Sampson, who will likely insist that any rule that was broken was done so without his knowledge. He'll point his finger at his assistant coaches for disobeying his instructions to play by the rules (and sanctions) and at IU's compliance department for not having a system in place to uncover the problems before it ballooned into a fire-able (or resign-able) offense.

Now, blaming IU's compliance department for not catching your crime earlier is akin to blaming a security guard for not stopping you from robbing a bank, but that's his defense, and he appears to be sticking to it.

It's all going to boil down to this - who do you believe? The coach who had run afoul of the NCAA at his previous coaching stop, or the athletic director who hired him despite those issues?

There's probably a healthy helping of blame on each person's plate, but from where I'm sitting, Sampson looks guilty as charged.

Forget about the fact that his explanation of the three-way phone calls is questionable, since a handful of prospective recruits recalled that they talked to both Sampson and IU Assistant Coach Rob Senderoff on the line at the same time. Forget about the fact that his suggestion he didn't check his caller ID when a call came in – which would presumably show Senderoff's number if he was patching through a call – is downright laughable.

I'm saying he's guilty as charged due to his own words and actions.

In Sampson's recently released response to the NCAA, he suggested that after his troubles at Oklahoma, he never wanted to put himself or his family through that experience again. To supposedly avoid similar problems he hired an experienced staff, and he said he was emphatic that the rules and sanctions would have to be obeyed, no questions asked.

But those rules weren't obeyed, and the sanctions were disregarded. Sampson contends he had no idea of that fact until it was brought to his attention by Greenspan after his one-year recruiting ban had come and gone.

"Given how strong and frequently I had communicated to my staff that I expected 100 percent compliance – I could not believe that NCAA rules and Committee on Infractions' imposed restrictions had apparently been disregarded," Sampson wrote in his response to the NCAA.

This is where Sampson backs himself into a corner, and here's why.

If Sampson was as emphatic about rules compliance as he suggests and his assistants blatantly disregarded his instructions, then why didn't he dismiss those that were involved last fall?

Sure, Senderoff resigned soon after the issue was discovered, but sources close to the situation said Sampson fought for his assistant to keep his job. The decision to let him go allegedly came from higher up the IU food chain. In addition, assistant coach Jeff Meyer was identified in the initial Ice Miller report as having made excessive recruiting calls as well as a handful of unreported calls from his home, and Sampson didn't opt to dismiss him.

If Sampson was as insistent as he suggests about rules compliance, then surely he would have opted to sack anyone on his staff who thumbed their noses at his instructions.

But he didn't do that, which provides damning evidence that his defense is defenseless.

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