The beginning of the end came for Hoosiers head basketball coach Kelvin Sampson Friday afternoon. He could either be fired or resign from the top post at Indiana University. Sampson chose the latter, resigning the position in the wake of an alleged cheating scandal involving improper contact with a student-athlete. At the least, he chose the high road. I respect that decision, in spite of the allegations.
Now comes the tougher parts. Several IU players skipped practice yesterday and threatened to boycott their Big 10 match-up with Northwestern Saturday in Evanston. I am not sure what their fate will be with regard to interim head coach Dan Dakich. At least they chose a non-violent approach to this thing, something that Dr. King would have been proud of.
Athletic director Rick Greenspan and university president Michael McRobbie have even bigger problems on their hands. They have to convince the NCAA that there was no wrongdoing on either Sampson's part or theirs and they had "institutional control" of the matter at hand. They have to sell the fact to their players that this was the right thing to do at the right time. Most importantly, they have to convince their boosters and fans that they do not have a dirty program and Sampson did not "coach dirty." There were some fans that questioned the decision by IU to hire Sampson and still question that choice to this day, even going so far as to boo the coach when the team was introduced at their last three games in Bloomington.
Dakich issued a statement, “I want nothing but the best for these players and the institution.” That's what every Division 1 program wants. I can't fault him for making that comment. I really can't fault the players for wanting to boycott the game Saturday afternoon. They chose to exercise their right to freedom of expression, as stated in the Constitution. But something had to be done. Someone had to be the sacrificial virgin. Kelvin Sampson drew the shortest of the straws. At least they part on good terms. Sampson agreed not to sue the Big 10 school for wrongful termination in exchange for a $750,000 buyout.
Indiana University has a tradition of basketball that has not been tarnished until now. They are now in the midst of doing some major damage control to restore some of the luster that has been lost. Will they succeed? Hard to say. One can only keep their fingers crossed and pray.