March 30, 2006
University officials confident in Sampson's commitment to players' academic success
by Steve Hinnefeld
March 30, 2006
Indiana University officials met the academic issue head-on Wednesday when they introduced Kelvin Sampson as IU's men's basketball coach.
"We're convinced our new coach understands and is determined to meet Indiana's high overall expectations," IU President Adam Herbert said.
At the University of Oklahoma, where Sampson has coached for the past 12 years, graduation rates for basketball players haven't been the best. Only 25 percent of those who entered OU between 1995 and 1998 earned degrees within six years, according to NCAA figures.
That compares with a national average of 44 percent for Division I men's basketball programs. IU's graduation rate for the same period was 70 percent.
Herbert said he and Athletic Director Rick Greenspan pressed Sampson about the topic during an eight-hour meeting Tuesday night and early Wednesday.
"He has made very clear his determination that our players will do well academically and will graduate," Herbert said.
Sampson said he disagrees with graduation-rate calculations that give a short-term picture of a single group of players.
"Some kids go out early to the NBA," he said. "And I hope that happens to us; I hope it happens every year. And I hope those kids come back to graduate." Even so, he added, "we should not be satisfied with anything unless it is 100 percent."
Last year, the NCAA developed a "graduation success rate" formula that excludes athletes who leave early to turn pro or transfer.
Using that rate, Oklahoma's 1995-98 rate was still low: 33 percent compared with a national average of 58 percent and IU's 91 percent. But it wasn't unusual in the Big 12 conference, where Iowa State, Nebraska, Oklahoma State, Texas and Texas A&M also graduated fewer than half their men's basketball players.
James Wimbush, an IU business professor and a member of a committee that advised Greenspan on the search, said Oklahoma is a different institution than IU. OU's graduation rate for all students, including non-athletes, is 54 percent, compared to IU's 70 percent.
"He knows that the committee is concerned about the academics of our student athletes," Wimbush said of the coach.
He said committee members liked the way Sampson took responsibility for improper phone calls to recruits that led to an NCAA investigation and self-imposed sanctions at OU.
"What we see is really a history that suggests this is someone of high integrity, someone who did make a mistake, acknowledged the mistake and took corrective measures," he said.
IU trustee Pat Shoulders said he has received negative e-mails about the hire, some of them focusing on the NCAA investigation, but also some support.
"I have a great deal of confidence in Rick Greenspan," Shoulders said. "I'm sure he conducted a thorough search, and if our athletic director believes this is right for IU, then I'm going to support him fully in that."
In Norman, Okla., University of Oklahoma faculty senate chairman Roy Knapp said he has no complaints about the athletics department's support for academics.
Knapp said it's been probably 15 years since he had a basketball player in the petroleum engineering classes that he teaches. He said he has been glad to have Sampson and his wife, Karen, at the university.
"The Sampsons are a really great asset for any community," Knapp said in a phone call. "They're just a great couple, a great family."
Kelvin Sampson could bring a whole new basketball game
by Mike Leonard
March 30, 2006
If Indiana University can't play in the NCAA basketball tournament's Final Four, then at least we can talk basketball this week with the hiring of new coach Kelvin Sampson.
Most fans seem happy with the selection. Some are grumbling.
But at least we can feel reasonably secure that Sampson won't spend his time in Bloomington complaining that the pressure was on him from Day One, that his team hopes to "steal" a road win here or there, or that Indiana "needs one of its own," whatever that meant.
Let's just say that Mike Davis never looked better than he does in the rearview mirror.
I agree with the national pundits who unabashedly mixed their sports metaphors and said IU hit a home run on this hiring. Sampson is a proven winner whose teams play hard and with discipline, and they don't play that NBA-style, high-low set that had Hoosier fans yearning for picks, screens and ball movement.
Hooray for that.
Some fret that Sampson leaves Oklahoma under a cloud, accused of making far, far more calls to recruits than is permissible under NCAA rules. While that is cause for concern, the truth of the matter is that no one seems to care about cheating, quite frankly.
Eddie Sutton left Kentucky, the land of the $100 handshakes, and enjoyed a great run thereafter at Oklahoma State. People didn't call him "that cheater, Eddie Sutton." And even after his recent drinking-and-driving arrest and admission into an alcohol treatment center, the pundits aren't calling him a drunk.
To the media, he was a nice guy.
Purdue was slapped with two years of probation and required to forfeit 18 games from the 1995-96 basketball season. But did anyone label former coach Gene Keady a cheater and a crook?
Recently retired Temple coach John Cheney once threatened to kill then-Massachusetts coach John Calipari. Yet when Cheney stepped down, you'd think, from what was said and written, that the fiery coach was Captain Kangaroo.
No, it seems the nation's pundits only get angry when a coach barks at reporters and occasionally behaves like a boor.
A columnist for the Oklahoman wrote this week that Sampson is likely laughing all the way to Bloomington. After 12 years of winning basketball in one of the nation's top conferences, Oklahoma fans consistently failed to fill their basketball arena, and fans never seemed to appreciate the tremendous job Sampson had done.
"North Carolina. Duke. Kentucky. That might be the complete list of jobs better than Indiana," Berry Tramel wrote. "Indiana's a place you go and win big if you know what you're doing, and Sampson knows what he's doing.
"That's why Sampson must have awakened this fine spring day with a wide grin," the Oklahoma columnist wrote. "He's in the land of the backboard on the barn, the land where basketball reigns, after years of wishing Oklahoma would turn passionate about the roundball sport."
My Oklahoma colleague is right about all of that. We care so passionately about our basketball that Kelvin Sampson is the topic around water coolers from South Bend to Evansville and everywhere in between. Not to mention on message boards and e-mail lists from coast to coast, given IU's large and loyal alumni base.
It's honeymoon time for new coach Sampson. And it's spring, when rebirth is the universal theme. We have lots to look forward to and even the unknowns are better than the known quantity no longer coaching at Assembly Hall.
A new era begins; Kelvin Sampson named 26th IU men's basketball coach
By Doug Wilson
March 30, 2006
Kelvin Sampson walked onto the Assembly Hall floor Wednesday to a standing ovation from hundreds of Hoosier basketball fans.
He stepped to the microphone and said he hoped they'd feel the same way a year from now.
"We'll still be playing," a young man yelled in response, drawing a smile from the new Hoosier coach.
While people may not actually expect Sampson to have the Hoosiers in the Final Four at this time next year, there wasn't much doubt about the level of expectations at the news conference to announce IU had hired Sampson.
"With the support of the entire IU family, all of you here today, and those watching the press conference around the country, the next decade will be one marked by the resurgence of Indiana University to the ranks of the very best basketball programs in America," IU President Adam Herbert said.
Sampson will sign a seven-year contract with an average compensation of $1.5 million per year, IU Athletic Director Rick Greenspan said.
That compensation package will put Sampson close to the salary levels of some of the best-known college coaches in the country.
According to published reports, Kentucky's Tubby Smith earns $1.9 million per year. A few other coaches who make more than Sampson will include Marquette's Tom Crean at $1.65 million, Louisville's Rick Pitino at $1.64 million and Michigan State's Tom Izzo at $1.6 million.
Greenspan said IU will use private donations to help pay for Sampson's contract and that a significant sum already has been raised.
Greenspan wouldn't identify how many candidates he weighed before choosing Sampson, saying only it was "between two and 20."
Sampson was the best coach for IU because of the strengths he brings, Greenspan said, even though there are concerns about a pending NCAA investigation at the University of Oklahoma and about player graduation rates there.
Greenspan said he spoke with numerous colleagues in college and pro basketball to get input about Sampson.
"Those I trust kept telling me the same thing," Greenspan said. "He is one great guy. He's got a great family. He's a heck of a coach.
"He will bring toughness and team discipline to our program. I think we need that to compete in the Big Ten."
Herbert tackled concerns about Sampson head-on in his remarks to the crowd. He said IU trustees Steve Ferguson and Jeffrey Cohen helped in conducting an extensive analysis of Sampson's background, including the NCAA investigation and graduation rates.
That review, and hours of conversation with Sampson, convinced Herbert that IU's new coach will meet all expectations.
"There is no question that wins and losses are very important to the Hoosier family," Herbert said. "Equally important to us are very high academic expectations and the core character values of the university."
The ongoing NCAA investigation involves Sampson and other Oklahoma coaches making more than 550 impermissible phone calls to recruits from 2000-04.
For these violations, the university has adopted self-imposed penalties that include freezing Sampson's salary between July 2005 to June 2007 and a reduction in scholarships last season and next season.
The NCAA will hold a hearing next month to determine if it will impose any additional penalties.
When asked about the infractions, Sampson said his staff didn't take the rules about phone calls seriously enough and the embarrassment that's come from committing an NCAA violation prompted him to re-evaluate and improve Oklahoma's entire system for complying with NCAA rules.
Greenspan said the NCAA infractions are a red flag, but he and others involved with the coaching search were able to overlook them because they aren't a pattern throughout Sampson's career.
"There's some aspects of his program where he needs to prove himself at a higher level perhaps to meet the expectations that we have," Greenspan said. "There are also a lot of places where his level of capability and success is absolutely terrific."
Sampson said that while most coaches will be at a national coaches' convention and the Final Four in Indianapolis over the weekend, he'll stay in Bloomington to hold individual and group meetings with his new players.
"The young men that I met in that room today become my sole piece of work," Sampson said. "I want to spend every waking hour with them.
"I need to coach a team, and this team needs a coach. I came to Indiana for one reason. I think we can win championships at Indiana."
Like it or not, Sampson the face of Indiana basketball
by Stan Sutton
March 30, 2006
As Gene Hackman's character said in the movie, "Hoosiers," "Welcome to Indiana basketball."
In the next few months Kelvin Sampson can expect the same type of treatment Norman Dale encountered as a new coach in this state.
"Coach, a motion offense is the only thing that's ever worked, and it's the only thing that will work now."
Indiana basketball fans are, above all else, traditionalists. Sampson undoubtedly will be told that putting names on jerseys will result in a savagery equal to Tutankhamen's curse. He will be reminded that warm-up pants must be striped.
Changes supposedly are taboo in Indiana basketball. We have the recent disbandment of the pom squad as an example.
The microscope already is focusing on Sampson the coach, Sampson the recruiter, Sampson the academician.
Sampson, the cheater, a few even are saying.
If anything has become evident in the past 36 hours, it's that the chasm across the Hoosier Nation remains. At least for the moment, Mike Davis' resignation hasn't united the faithful.
The initial reports after Sampson's name surfaced as the new coach only fueled the skepticism.
Many Indiana fans are aghast that IU hired someone who admittedly violated NCAA guidelines. Indiana basketball has prided itself in being squeaky clean.
Some IU fans are concerned about Sampson's record of graduating players.
Indiana's graduation rates have been glorified; yet, the method of figuring such successes are as transient as a golfer with an eraser and a scorecard.
One caller complained that Indiana needed to hire a coach who has proved he could win an NCAA championship. If that is an acceptable guideline, then Steve Fisher is a better coach than Gene Keady.
A well-respected New York writer flew into Indianapolis Wednesday and was stunned by the controversy surrounding Sampson's appointment.
"I know this is a conservative state, but I was amazed at the ire," he said.
Guess what? Indiana fans remain divided between Bob Knight supporters and those pleased that Knight's footprints have been washed out of the athletics department.
Many in the former column are angry that former IU players Steve Alford and Randy Wittman were bypassed. They believe athletic director Rick Greenspan owed them a courtesy call.
Like it or not, this was Greenspan's choice, and it now is Sampson's team.
To his credit, Sampson is a man with enough charisma to deflect a lot of the criticism. Winning 23 games a year, as he did at Oklahoma, also would help bridge the chasm.
"I'm one of you now. I'm a Hoosier," Sampson said.
More specifically, he is the Hoosier, a man who will be quickly recognized on every corner and criticized for every burp in the program.
Let us not forget 1971, the year the Hurryin' Hoosiers brought in a new coach from another state. He changed the style of play, changed some recruiting practices and even changed the nickname. The IU traditionalists were aghast, but the coach won three NCAA championships.
Sampson can get away with fewer accomplishments, especially if he can charm fans on both sides of the chasm.
Some ex-players felt left out of hiring process
by Lynn Houser
March 30, 2006
Not only will Kelvin Sampson have to win over the IU fan base, he will also have to get some former IU players on board.
Before Sampson officially accepted the job Wednesday afternoon, there were IU players debating the hire, some of them fiercely.
Ted Kitchel, a former IU broadcaster and member of the 1981 national champions, went so far as to tell The Indianapolis Star the hire was "an absolute disgrace. I wouldn't hire that guy to coach my fifth-grade girls' team."
Joe Hillman, member of IU's 1987 NCAA champions, told The Star, "I thought part of this was to bring the IU basketball tradition back together, and I'm not sure this is the guy to do it."
Those strong sentiments reflect the level of the disconnect between former players, many of whom felt left out of the decision-making process.
One player who was contacted by IU for his input was Brian Evans, a member of IU's 1992 Final Four team. It probably would have helped to include more former players in the process, Evans said.
"Why wouldn't you use guys who care about the place and who know the game of basketball? If the search had been done in a certain way, there was an opportunity to reunite a lot of guys. Now, certain players feel further from the program than they did three weeks ago. That's not what we wanted."
Greg Graham, who played with Evans on the 1992 team, tried to look at it from the other side.
"Former players are welcome to their opinion, but our opinion really doesn't mean anything," he said. "This is a decision by the university. Of course you would like it to be somebody from within the family, but hey, when you are going in a new direction, this is the best way to handle it right now."
Wayne Radford, a member of IU's 1976 national champions, felt some of the players are overreacting.
"You want to respect your former teammates, but I also think you need to step back and take a breath," Radford said. "There are a lot of emotions riding on this. People already are shooting holes in him, firing before they aim."
"It's too bad we live in a world of cynicism," said Dane Fife, who, as a 2002 grad, is not so far removed from the program. "I trust Indiana University and the administration to make a good decision. I'm certainly not going to count anybody out until given a chance."
Fife knows more about Sampson than most former players, having played against Sampson's Oklahoma team in the 2002 Final Four. Although IU won that game, 73-64, Fife gained a lot of respect for the way Sampson's Sooners played.
"They played hard, played disciplined, played together," he said. "They competed every second they were out there on the floor."
The success Sampson has had in the Big 12 Conference and in making the NCAA 11 of the last 12 years indicates he can coach, Radford said.
"That conference always has four to six teams - Oklahoma, Oklahoma State, Kansas, Texas - that beat up on each other and he is always at the top. To do that, you have to be a decent coach, a decent recruiter and a guy who can motivate his players. He seems like he cares for his school and his kids."
Of larger concern to some players is the possibility of NCAA sanctions following Sampson to IU.
"The last thing we need is a time bomb ready to go off," said Radford, who at the same time thinks the university already is satisfied such a thing won't happen.
"The work these guys put into it, I don't think they just went downstairs and came right back up," Radford said. "I'm sure they had criteria. I know a lot of guys out there are upset, but you can't please everybody. There are only two or three names out there everybody would want as coach, but those guys are locked up and sealed. A lot of guys are loyal to the IU family and that's fine, but the university is a business. You have to open up avenues and bring in the best candidate."
"I would think Mr. Greenspan and the search committee were very thorough," Fife said. "My guess is everything will come out fine and dandy."
Only time will tell, Radford said.
"I think when all is said and done, no matter who you hire, it will take a couple of years before you can begin to gauge whether a program is where you want. This guy is our coach. He's going to try to open doors and embrace some of the past, mend the bridge between current and former players."
Evans put it best when he said, "At the end of the day, the hire has been made. A new chapter of Indiana basketball starts today. If you truly love Indiana basketball, you will get on board and hope he leads it back to being one of the elite programs in the country."
Sampson gave OU his heart and soul
March 30, 2006
NORMAN, Okla. - Kelvin Sampson's success at Oklahoma was never much about flash. A denim-shirt sort of guy, it never took long for Sampson to shed his sportcoat on the Sooners' sideline.
His players were known more for their toughness than for their talent. You might be able to run faster or jump higher than Sampson's Sooners, but you weren't going to outwork them. Now he will take that brand of basketball to Indiana, where he was introduced Wednesday as the new head coach of the Hoosiers.
Sampson built his program by supplementing a handful of high-school recruits like Eduardo Najera, Hollis Price and Kevin Bookout with a bevy of junior-college transfers including Aaron McGhee, Quannas White, Ebi Ere, Daryan Selvy, Taj Gray and Terrell Everett.
He never produced an NBA superstar, but that didn't stop him from getting the Sooners to the Final Four in 2002 and the NCAA tournament just about every year. He won three straight Big 12 tournaments and had nine consecutive 20-win seasons.
"We've got to congratulate him, wish him the best. He gave us his heart and soul," Oklahoma athletic director Joe Castiglione said Wednesday. "I don't feel at any time that Kelvin shorted us on effort or intensity or passion or commitment. I thought all the way up to the point in time that Indiana made that call, I thought he gave it everything he had for 12 years, great years."
Sampson's next recruiting class, featuring guard Scottie Reynolds, was supposed to be his best.
But the switch to recruiting top-caliber prep players was what resulted in the only smear on Sampson's record at Oklahoma. He blamed more than 550 impermissible recruiting calls on the increased effort needed to pursue the best high-school talent. An NCAA panel will meet with school officials soon to seek a resolution.
"You know, junior college kids, they call you," Sampson told an NCAA investigator. "The coach calls you, puts the kid on the phone all the time. Those high-profile, high-school kids, nobody calls you. That was different."
Sampson will leave behind a university where season basketball tickets are a way to earn "priority points" toward getting seats at the Oklahoma-Texas football game and where many of the 12,000 seats sold remain empty unless there's a T-shirt giveaway or Texas is in town.
In recent weeks, Sampson had sidestepped rumors that he was interested in the opening at Arizona State, even suggesting that there was no reason he should have been asked about going to the Sun Devils. But that was no Indiana.
"It's really flattering when other schools call and ask permission to talk to you and you listen to them. I think you owe it to yourself to listen to people," Sampson said last week.
"I've been here 12 years now. This is the University of Oklahoma's program and I'll never forget that. I think all coaches are temporary. Like that was Roy's (Williams) program at Kansas for a long time but Kansas will be there a lot longer than Roy and Oklahoma will be here a lot longer than I am."
As it turns out, that wasn't very long at all.
IU grad students march for better health-care plan
by Steve Hinnefeld
March 30, 2006
Indiana University graduate students rallied Wednesday against cuts in their health-care benefits, calling on IU to fully fund a 57 percent increase in costs.
"What they're doing to us is something that we absolutely can't afford," said Ursula McTaggart, a doctoral student in English and a leader of the Graduate Employees' Organization.
Particularly hard hit, she said, are graduate students who rely on IU benefits to cover health care for their spouses and children. With the increase in costs, a graduate-student employee could pay almost $6,000 to cover a spouse and child - on an IU stipend of as little as $12,000 a year.
"We're worried it's basically going to price people out," said McTaggart, adding that some students are turning to government-funded Hoosier Healthwise to provide health care for their children.
About 40 student academic appointees - graduate students who are paid to teach, conduct research and assist faculty - took part in the rally in front of Sample Gates, holding signs that read "IU works because we do" and "No health-care cuts." They marched through Bryan Hall, the IU administration building, chanting "Health care cuts make us sick!"
According to Neil Theobald, the IU Bloomington vice chancellor for budget and administration, the campus will continue to pay the full cost of health-care premiums for graduate-student employees.
The campus will increase what it pays by 40 percent, he said, from $3.2 million to $4.5 million. To make up the rest of the 57 percent increase in costs, he said, there will be reductions in coverage or increases in deductibles or co-payments.
A committee of graduate students, faculty and administrators met Wednesday to discuss what changes to make. They plan to make a decision April 20.
Theobald said the brunt of the cost increases will fall on international students, who are required by law to carry insurance and who pay for it themselves.
"The international students have to pay for that out of their own pockets," he said.