I was going to run this column on Kelvin Sampson in the paper tomorrow, but settled on a more uplifting subject — U of L senior Will Scott, who will head to Oxford for grad school next year. Still, here’s the Sampson piece I had gotten much of the way through . . .
What do you think? Kelvin Sampson, Rod Blagojevich, same public relations adviser?
Sampson, cell phone to ear, drove one of college basketball’s Cadillac programs, Indiana University, straight of a cliff.
Not once, not twice, but three times, Sampson was caught by his employers and the NCAA of violating the organization’s rules on recruiting contacts via telephone. And it was IU that was left holding the receiver when the bill came due. And it’s IU that has lost 10 in a row and is suffering the consequences of his negligence.
But Wednesday, in Indianapolis with his new team, the Milwaukee Bucks, for whom he is an assistant, Sampson told a group of reporters, including the Indianapolis Star’s Mark Alesia, that the NCAA got it “wrong in every way.” And he’s filing an appeal to have everything overturned, chiefly the five-year “show cause” finding that penalizes any college that hires him.
It’s like a guy standing in front of a burning house, gas can and lighter in hand, singed from the flames, footprints leading out of the house, looking you in the eye and saying, “Wasn’t me.”
What, exactly, was it that the NCAA got wrong?
Were they mistaken about the three-way calls he took part of that he said he didn’t realize were three way calls — even though there were two other people on the line?
Were they mistaken about the number of contacts or what IU later found to be willful deception on Sampson’s part?
But there’s more. Sampson said he shouldn’t have been penalized because, “When someone makes a mistake, the first thing you have to ask is the intent of it. There was never any intent to do anything wrong.”
Didn’t anyone tell Sampson the road to NCAA probation is paved with good intentions?
Ah, but he gives us the I-didn’t-mean-it defense. One of the lynchpins of our due process system. “My client didn’t mean to do anything wrong, your honor.”
Oh, well case dismissed.
Right? Not hardly. Though I will say, this approach explains a lot of the disciplinary issues that came to light after Sampson left.
Here’s a text-message flash for Sampson — U got off EZ. You’re still coaching basketball. Kind of.
Because sports aren’t like the real world.
Good old Blagojevich can get drummed out of the Illinois governor’s mansion, but the FBI’s still going to be on his tail tomorrow.
Sampson was gone before the heat came down at IU, got to coach one (underachieving) season with former Illinois commit Eric Gordon, and all the NCAA could do was let Indiana throw the book at itself and threaten any school that hires him with a list of sanctions longer than Sampson’s phone bill.
Though there is this — people in Illinois are probably still more ticked at Sampson than their soon-to-be ex-Gov. They’re used to politicians acting sleazy. But if you snatch an NBA-caliber guard from them — well, let’s just say I wouldn’t want to get caught anywhere along I-57 at night alone.
In the end, Sampson just didn’t know when to keep quiet. Not when they told him to stop making illegal calls, not when he was able to duck and cover and let his old school take the heat.
The crazy part is, there are coaches out there who have done things that would make Sampson look like a choir boy. But this play to “clear is name” only further serves to drag it through the mud.