Indiana basketball is laying there, belly exposed, hands tied behind its back. The NCAA is standing overhead, holding a very large hammer. About to swing. Here it comes ...
Don't do it, NCAA. Please. Don't hammer Indiana. The Hoosiers have had enough.
|Kelvin Sampson couldn't hide, and Indiana has already paid a big enough price. (Getty Images)|
Indiana has been destroyed.
Indiana has been destroyed, and the NCAA hasn't even weighed in yet. That will come in the next few weeks, when the NCAA is expected to find Indiana guilty of all sorts of malfeasance under Sampson. In addition to his misconduct, the NCAA probably will find Indiana guilty of a "failure to monitor," considering Indiana had hired Sampson fresh off his NCAA bust at Oklahoma -- and then allowed him to break the exact same rules, most of them related to illegal recruiting over the telephone.
For letting that happen, the Hoosiers will deserve every insult the NCAA hurls. Stupid hire. Naïve compliance. Failure to monitor. General idiocy. Whatever the NCAA says, it'll be true.
Just don't do anything about it, NCAA. Please. Indiana has already been through enough -- and Indiana hasn't been through anything yet.
The Sampson scandal took apart Indiana basketball as thoroughly as any NCAA scandal has taken apart any major program since SMU football drew the death penalty in 1987. Indiana was left with a team, yes, but a team in name only -- no players, no coaches, no good reputation. Nothing. It's all gone.
The destruction started last season, when Sampson was forced to resign in late February. At the time the Hoosiers were 22-4, 11-2 in the Big Ten. They were a possible Final Four team.
And then, overnight, they weren't.
Sampson left, and the team nearly revolted. Interim coach Dan Dakich held the program together, but the wound was too deep. The Hoosiers had a 1-4 finish, including losses in the first round of the Big Ten and NCAA tournaments.
And then it got really ugly.
Freshman All-American Eric Gordon turned pro, which he would have done regardless. Big Ten Player of the Year D.J. White was a senior. So were Mike White and Lance Stemler. They left. And then everyone else joined them, rats jumping off the ship.
Jordan Crawford transferred to Xavier. Eli Holman followed former Sampson assistant Ray McCallum to Detroit. Four other players -- Armon Bassett, Jamarcus Ellis, DeAndre Thomas, Brandon McGee -- were kicked off the team for general buttheadness.
You could say the cupboard was bare for Crean, but that wouldn't be fair to Crean. There wasn't even a cupboard. Just two players return, and neither actually plays. Forward Kyle Taber is a former walk-on who has 34 points in 31 career games. Guard Brett Finkelmeier is a walk-on who played 11 minutes last season. All season.
The Hoosiers in 2008-09 will have eight freshmen, two junior college transfers, one senior (Taber) and one sophomore (Finkelmeier). This team isn't going anywhere. It's not going anywhere for a long, long time.
|MJBX: The NCAA showed no mercy to SMU ... so why should IU get any? Plenty of "BCS" programs have cheated more than SMU did, and every time, the NCAA lets them skate away. It's way past time that the NCAA treated other major violators the same way SMU was treated.|
|Gregg Doyel: My, aren't you a merciful one. And let's be clear: As reprehensible as Kelvin Sampson is, he was caught making too many phone calls; SMU was caught buying players. Big difference. A death penalty for Indiana would be the biggest legal outrage since O.J.'s "not guilty" verdict|
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Before the NCAA could throw the book at Indiana, Indiana threw the book at itself. The Hoosiers paid $750,000 to make Sampson go away. They reorganized their compliance department. They docked themselves three scholarships. They limited Crean's off-campus recruiting and kept in place the phone restrictions set for Sampson. They even got rid of the guy who hired Sampson, AD Rick Greenspan, who will be gone in December.
Indiana has paid an enormous price, and the biggest bill hasn't even come due yet. Wait until the games start. One year after sitting pretty at 22-4 in February 2008, the Hoosiers could be an ugly 4-22 in February 2009. Any coach whose team loses to Indiana this season -- especially any coach in the Big Ten -- will have a lot of explaining to do. The Hoosiers simply don't have the tools to compete in their conference. A mechanic would have a better chance fixing cars with a pair of scissors.
The NCAA is supposed to catch cheaters and see that they are punished, so let's do some inventory here. Indiana got caught -- check. Indiana has been punished -- check. But if the NCAA feels the need to flex its muscle later this month when it announces its findings against Indiana, here's an idea:
Show mercy to the innocents left behind at Indiana, and announce that Kelvin Sampson has received the NCAA's death penalty -- a lifetime ban from college sports. Can't coach again. Can't work in administration. Can't even walk into a college basketball arena to use the bathroom.
He's left behind enough crap already.