Sampson Must Go

“Zero tolerance” ended Bob Knight’s legendary 29-year run at Indiana University thanks to an incident that caused violated no NCAA rules, allegedly grabbing and swearing at one of his players, action that may have received no attention had it not been Bob Knight. Ironically, former IU President Myles Brand implemented and enforced the policy, now he sits at the helm of the entire NCAA, the same organization prepared to slap Indiana with its first punishment in almost 50 years. Current IU President Michael McRobbie, a Brand confidant, must follow his lead, terminating Kelvin Sampson immediately.

Everyone gets a second chance, Sampson just lots his. Forced out at Oklahoma due to NCAA rules violations, Indiana marks Sampson’s resurrection, his chance to make good. He blew it. Rarely does a coach bounce back from a scandal with a big time job, Sampson happened to be in the right place at the right time when the Mike Davis-Indiana marriage went south and landed not just with a big program, but arguably one of the top five coaching jobs in the country – alongside Kentucky, UCLA, UNC, Duke, and Kansas.

Shame on Indiana for even taking a chance on Sampson after running a spotless program seemingly forever. Shame on Kelvin Sampson for blowing a golden opportunity to take a storied program back to prominence. He let down the school, the NCAA, his family, and most importantly the kids. The fact he still has his job is only a reflection of the due diligence required before taking action, lest Indiana wind up with the Duke lacrosse problem.

Sampson aside, what about the kids? A legitimate Final Four contender, ranked #12 nationally, playing for the Big Ten lead on Tuesday night, now faces a major off-court controversy. Twenty year old players have to answer for an irresponsible coach, probably adapt to a new coach, a major change even if its a current assistant, on top of preparing for critical games down the stretch. Oh yeah, they also have class. Think about them for a second, about the five seniors who worked hard for four years to turn Indiana around, take a hard look Mr. Sampson. From here, Indiana goes one of two ways, they fall by the waste side, or they make an inspirational run through the tournament, alas the 1989 Michigan Wolverines, who replaced the coach before the NCAA tournament and eventually took the crown. If you ask Michigan State after Saturday night, the Hoosiers are poised to display more character than the soon to be former coach.

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