Top Ten Stories of 2008

Bloomington, Ind. - Indiana University Athletics had more than its share of drama in 2008. ranks the top 10 stories from the last 12 months, including all the highs and lows from a stormy period around the basketball program....

1. Sampson Resigns After NCAA Alleges Five Major Recruiting Violations – NCAA investigators listened to Kelvin Sampson's explanation of the impermissible and excessive phone calls that were uncovered by an IU athletic department compliance department intern in the summer of 2007. Their response was to scrap IU's assertion that the infractions were minor, and the governing body instead charged IU with five major recruiting violations.

The NCAA made its findings public Feb. 13, and after nine tumultuous days Sampson accepted a $750,000 buyout to step down as IU's basketball coach. His exit launched even more chaos within the program. Players threatened to boycott games after Dan Dakich was named interim coach and the Hoosiers lost four of their last five games, including first-round exits from the Big Ten and NCAA tourneys.

By the time the dust had settled, Sampson and IU Athletics Director Rick Greenspan were out, and IU was put on three years probation for its first major violations since 1960.

2. Tom Crean Hired – A negative quickly became a positive in most Hoosier fans' eyes when Marquette Coach Tom Crean agreed to become IU's next men's basketball coach on April 1, 2008.

Many doubted IU could lure Crean from the Golden Eagles, a program he'd led to the postseason seven times, including the 2003 Final Four. But an eight-year, $18.4 million deal (which was later upped to a 10-year, $23.6 million package) along with the Hoosiers' tradition helped convince Crean to take on the challenge of rebuilding the program.

3. Eric Gordon's Trip to Champaign – When Eric Gordon backed out of his verbal commitment to Illinois and instead pledged to play for Kelvin Sampson and the Hoosiers, fans of both teams immediately circled Feb. 7, 2008 on their calendars.

That was the date of IU's game at Illinois, which would be Gordon's first (and only) appearance in Champaign. The Hoosier freshman was "greeted" by not only boos, but profane chants. He was given a less-than-friendly shoulder check by Illini guard Chester Frazier during pre-game introductions, and Gordon's family had ice thrown at them in the stands.

Gordon struggled early, but had the last laugh when he banked in a 3-pointer to send the game into overtime and eventually scored a team-high 19 in the Hoosiers' 83-79 double overtime win. The Illini fans' actions prompted an apology from Illinois AD Ron Guenther to the fans of both teams, but not directly to Gordon or his family.

4. Mass Exodus of Players – Tom Crean thought he knew what he was getting into when he took over the IU job in the spring, but he never could have envisioned the mass exodus of players that would follow.

Interim coach Dan Dakich had already dismissed both Armon Bassett and Jamarcus Ellis from the team for disciplinary reasons, and Crean opted to not reinstate either to the squad. Crean also dismissed Brandon McGee and DeAndre Thomas as well, and Eli Holman and Jordan Crawford opted to transfer. Holman added some drama to his exodus, creating a scene in the IU men's basketball office that resulted in the IU Police Department being called.

What was left was only two returning players (Kyle Taber and Brett Finkelmeier), neither of whom began their IU careers as scholarship players. The departed players also left the team in an academic mess, leaving behind a low enough team GPA for the second semester that IU self-imposed the loss of two scholarships for the 2008-09 campaign for its academic deficiencies.

5. Kellen Lewis Suspended – Lost in the midst of last season's basketball turmoil was the biggest story of the football season – record-setting quarterback Kellen Lewis' indefinite suspension from the team.

IU officials announced the suspension on March 6, and he wasn't official reinstated until four months later. The reasons for the suspension were never made public, but Lewis did eventually reveal that he was absorbed by a "party lifestyle" and was regularly missing team meetings and class. He appeared to be close to being dismissed from the team, but was back in time for the start of fall camp.

After shattering nearly every IU passing and total offense record as a sophomore, Lewis suffered through a sub-par junior season that now has his status as a starter very much in doubt heading into his senior year. It's unclear how much of his off-the-field troubles impacted his performance last season.

6. Basketball's '09 Recruiting Class – While there was a whole lot more bad than good for IU Athletics in 2008, one of the best stories was the job IU's basketball coaching staff did in assembling a top-10 recruiting class.

In November, IU signed a six-player class that was ranked No. 7 nationally according to Crean and his staff managed to assemble the group of talent despite inheriting the recruiting restrictions placed on Kelvin Sampson's staff for their recruiting violations.

Not only did IU attract two of the state's top players (Jordan Hulls and Derek Elston), but it also went national in luring elite Christian Watford from Alabama and Maurice Creek from Washington D.C. Add in Ohio's Bobby Capobianco and Mt. Zion's Bama Muniru, and the Hoosiers inked a class that fulfills every need on the basketball court and should quickly get IU back among the conference's best teams.

7. Football FlopIndiana ended a 14-year bowl drought last season with its trip to the Insight Bowl, and expectations were high for a second straight bowl invitation. Not only were the Hoosiers returning big names such as Kellen Lewis on offense and Greg Middleton on defense, but they were playing eight of their 12 games at home.

But things didn't go as planned. After a 2-0 start the season the Hoosiers lost to Ball State 42-20, the first of five straight losses for Coach Bill Lynch's team. The team was beset by injuries as well as the occasional uninspired performance (i.e. 62-10 season-ending loss to Purdue), and it eventually lost nine of its last ten to finish 3-9 overall and in last place in the Big Ten at 1-7.

IU's struggles prompted some IU fans to call for a coaching change less than one year after Lynch had been named the full-time head coach. But AD-in waiting Fred Glass gave Lynch a vote of confidence earlier this month, bringing an end to any thoughts of that unfolding.

8. Fred Glass Hired – Rick Greenspan's decision to step down led to the lengthy search for a replacement, and IU eventually settled on Indianapolis lawyer and IU alum Fred Glass to take over beginning Jan. 1, 2009.

It was rumored that Glass was the choice among a list of three finalists that also included current Oregon State AD Bob DeCarolis and current IU Associate Athletic Director Scott Dolson. While Glass doesn't have any experience in collegiate athletics administration, he was very involved in a number of high-profile sporting endeavors in Indianapolis. That included the construction of the new Lucas Oil Stadium as well as the ability to attract the 2012 Super Bowl to Indianapolis.

9. Rick Greenspan Resigns – The fallout from the Kelvin Sampson resulted in more than the virtual gutting of the entire men's basketball program – it also resulted in the resignation of Athletic Director Rick Greenspan as well.

Four months after Sampson stepped down as the IU men's basketball coach, his former boss, Rick Greenspan, announced his intentions to step down as IU's Athletic Director at the end of the calendar year. While IU President Michael McRobbie remained steadfast in his support of Greenspan throughout the Sampson saga, Greenspan's ouster was likely a result of the "failure to monitor" major violation allegation that the NCAA added to its original list of violations. That additional charge come following an NCAA hearing in Seattle when IU officials as well as Sampson and member of his staff answered investigators' questions behind closed doors.

10. Dan Dakich Speech – Not since the days of Bob Knight could a postgame press conference upstage an NCAA Tournament game, but that's what happened after IU was whipped by Arkansas 86-72 in the first-round of the NCAA Tournament on March 21, 2008.

After the game Dakich was asked to make the case why he should be named the full-time basketball coach at Indiana University, and he proceeded to deliver a five-minute speech about the path the program and its players need to take in the future. He spoke of the program's culture, as well as the need for discipline and accountability on the court and off, all things that were lacking during Sampson's tenure.

IU officials wound up launching a national search and going with Crean, but Dakich's speech was the turning point for cleaning up the program. Top Stories