Nuclear Winter

There is no more need for theoretical conceptualization, we now know what it looks like.

This is nuclear winter in Bloomington.

10 months after IU detonated the K(elvin)-bomb, Carl Sagan's toxic nightmare has unfolded at Assembly Hall. In the wake of the team's decimation- Crean referred to it as "gutting" tonight- Branch McCrackin Court has become a barren wasteland for Hoosier basketball. Its recent inhospitable conditions are producing unheard of numbers for the boys in candy stripes.

Lowest temperature ever recorded at home: IU-42 (12.22.8)

Largest lead ever surrendered in a home loss: 21 (12.28.8)

Highest turnover ranking in history: 327th out of 330 (12.9.8)

Home free throw avg.: 50% (12.28.8- any night lower?)

Now that the solstice has passed and winter officially arrived in Indiana, it seems Hoosier basketball, too, couldn't be any further from the sun. These are cold, dark days, indeed.

So much for that whole thing about mutually self assured destruction as a nuclear deterrent (it does, however, seem to work as NCAA repentance).

Student Athletes & The Paper Chase

Add to the long list another story about NCAA athletes chasing paper. This one's got all the usual elements: vast sums of money, additional benefits, highly coordinated programs developed by AD's and financed by boosters; we've heard it all before. This time, however, the paper chase isn't about Benjamins, but rather college degrees.

Chris Talbott of the AP dropped this article Saturday, with some contribution from local AP writer, Michael Marot, about the increasing use, cost and success of the academic support services provided to NCAA athletes. The AP polled 65 schools from the six major conferences involved in the Bowl Championship Series plus independent Notre Dame and obtained at least some financial information from 45 schools about the resources they devote to graduating athletes.

Not surprisingly, the AP found that overall spending on academic support services has increased dramatically since the NCAA implemented the APR. The AP's survey also revealed that most schools are spending in excess of $1 million annually on academic support services, and that many schools are spending tens of millions of dollars to upgrade their academic support facilities.

Yep, sounds about like 17th St. to me. Nothing surprising about national trends being reflected in the actions of IU athletics.

And with most cases involving athletics administration, this one has the usual criticism from faculty members about the disproportionate costs of the services for athletes compared to non-athletes, the oversight of the academic support staffs, and the continued isolation of the athletes from the rest of the university community.

For years, these same faculty folks have argued (legitimately) about the failures of the academic support programs in serving the student-athletes' needs and, in many cases, cheating them out of an education. Add to these arguments the astronomical sums of money being spent on the athletic programs which could otherwise provide untold numbers of scholarships for deserving students in dire need of financial assistance. I get these arguments and tend to agree with their proponents.

On the matter of athletic departments heavily investing in academic support infrastructure, however, I must diverge, greatly, from the faculty line. For all the ills of intercollegiate athletics, any movement which emphasises scholastics and advances the athletes' pursuit and achievement of a college degree should be welcomed with open arms.

Better still, how about the fact that these academic support centers are being built largely on the backs of the athletes for whom they're intended to serve. Without the athletes, there would be no ticket sales, tv contracts, booster donations, bowl berths, March dancing, etc...

With all the money that's being made by the schools, coaches, networks, and everyone else displaying the schools' logos, I can't see why the athletes shouldn't get a slice of the action; if not in dollars, degrees should suffice, at the very minimum. Especially considering that many of the football and basketball athletes (the real money makers) arrive on campus significantly disadvantaged from their peers, this one should be a no-brainer.

While it would be infinitely naive to think the faculty and athletics administrators will ever live in complete harmony with one another, the issue of academic support centers should not strike a sour note with the faculty (issues of oversight and academic integrity aside). It makes one wonder if they're not tone deaf to all things athletic anymore.

As if Lynch needed more on his plate

Just breaking from the Scoop:

An Indiana University football player was arrested Thursday on preliminary charges related to a strong-arm robbery reported Wednesday night.
Courtney “Cortez” Alan Smith, 18, faces preliminary charges of robbery and burglary, both B-felonies.
Great. Turn off the Eazy-E and give the wallets back because you never know when you'll come across a real BMF.

Up in Smoke

And just when I felt it was safe to assume last year's season went down the tubes largely because of Sampson's ouster, Rabjohns gets EJ to correct me and say the season went up in smoke.
No real shocker that some boys in candy stripes were chronically challenged. I think most people suspected drug use was behind the early-season suspensions of Bassett and Crawford. EJ's dad had already said as much.
I do find it surprising, however, that so many people can easily link the drug use on last year's team to the reason for their tragic downfall.
Newsflash: the boys from Chi-town weren't the only ones on the team partying last year, and they're now merely in the company of countless former players to partake in such behavior while in Bloomington. I can personally tell you Smallwood has seen at least one NBA draft pick, not named EJ, passing the bong- I've seen the pics to prove it.
Sampson's boys were no less susceptible to these indiscretions than were Davis' or Knight's. Jay Edwards ring a bell? Sherron Wilkerson? How about that time Moye was stumbling about Kirkwood Ave., yelling loudly how he loved to "drink, smoke weed, and (fornicate)?" I had the pleasure of witnessing that one with my own eyes. Classy.
The fact of the matter is that our athletes are no less human than the average IU student. They'll drink, smoke, pop some study pills, bed-hop, and blow off a class occasionally. The only meaningful differences here are our unyielding expectations of them and their complete lack of anonymity around campus. Everybody knows who they are, and everyone wants to be their buddies. Hence, unlike the average IU student, athletes are always being lavished with booze, blunts, blow(?), and even boobies.
Remember that adage about the corrupting influence of power? It applies to student-athletes, too. Should we really expect anything else from a bunch of 18-23 year olds?
I'll agree with TacoJohn that this new revelation has significantly increased my respect for EJ. If anyone had strangers beating down their door to become their next best friend (or bed-mate), it was EJ. I've always felt the kid was unreal, but his off-the-court decisions truly bolster this perception of him.
I am wondering, however, what compelled Gordon to put the team's demise on the backs of the partying crew, and, thereby, defend the coaches' responsibility for the matter. If drugs were such an issue with this team and ultimately caused its destruction, why did this spectacular implosion commence only after Sampson was canned? Were they just not as stoned until Feb. 22nd? And when EJ says, Sampson “tried to stop it,” but the coach “was just so focused on basketball and winning and everything,” isn't that really just saying Sampson was so preoccupied with keeping his job that he put winning above everything else that's valued at IU?
Yeah, that's about what he's saying, but in a way that doesn't hold Sampson to account for his players' drug usage, failing grades, and general disciplinary issues. No foul in sticking up for an old coach, but I gotta wonder why AB's departure from UAB must now open the flood gates for more piling on the guys that left.
Oh well, better to leave this roach unlit and let the boys attempt to get on with their lives. Lord knows they didn't hold up so well under the scrutiny Sampson's misdeeds placed upon them.
Wait a minute! Come to think of it, was Crawford really stoned all those times on defense last year?!? I seem to remember he frequently would lose his man and only realize it about the time the ball was passing through the net. That might explain some things....I wonder...

Conference Me In

*This is a re-post, originally on the Scoop 11/26/08, to test my fledgling blogging abilities. Enjoy & let me know whatcha think!

As many things were left unsaid in the Committee on Infraction’s report (and preclusive press conference) as were stated. For all the mitigating and exacerbating factors specifically cited in support of the committee’s decision, just as many factors were specifically ignored or generally danced around.

By this point, most people in the free world know how Indiana University and Kelvin Sampson arrived where they are today.

Kelvin Sampson was on the hot seat, and Indiana knew what it was getting into when it hired Sampson. He knew what he had done was wrong, and Indiana knew what it was supposed to do after hiring a wrong-doer. He intentionally did it again and then lied about it. Indiana wasn’t ready or eager to catch him, but they gave him a phone anyway.

Once the fit hit the shan, Sampson was allowed to coach more than half a season before IU pressed the self-destruct button. The whole program was nuked. Only 2 players would remain (a current and former walk-on). Everybody else associated with the team was drafted, kicked off, flunked off, or, most commonly, paid off.

The whole world watched as IU’s once-mighty moral towers were crumbled as minor infractions turned major. Half a century coming, the Sampson saga was the Halley’s Comet of hoops infractions.

This much we knew before the conference and report’s release.

Now, we know that no one should ever think about crossing the COI. Failing to comply with the Committee is about "as serious as it gets.” When it comes to the NCAA, probation violations are now a capital offense.

Sampson’s argument that “they were just phone calls” at OU didn’t hold up so well in 2006. Saying the same thing and, in the alternative, adding that IU “should have caught him sooner,” went even worse in 2008.

And by the way, Rick, the NCAA wants to see more parole officer and less palling around from A.D.’s who hire offenders. Ideally, you should assume this role the minute you sign the parolee to contract and not go by the honor system for the first several months of the offender’s employment.

Speaking of Rick, we knew forcing Senderoff and Sampson to resign would likely lessen the NCAA’s blow on IU, but will we ever know what factor Greenspan’s forced resignation played in the Committee’s mitigation equation? No one asked this question of Potuto yesterday. Moreover, would the matter have escalated to the point it did had IU fired Sampson (and possibly Greenspan) upon first discovering the violations? Again, unasked.

Add the above questions to the list of things that we’ll probably never know. Under the NCAA’s kangaroo courts, state employees can be terminated for violating NCAA rules, yet the transcripts and records surrounding their investigation are not public record. Just like amateurism has been made into a farce by the NCAA, so too is the premise of open government when it involves NCAA-governed sports at public institutions.

In all fairness to the fans of IU basketball and the taxpayers of Indiana, we have a right to discover all the evidence which was gathered as a part of these proceedings. The highest paid employee of the State of Indiana was fired for breaking rules, the evidence supporting this conclusion is only available to the extent that the NCAA wishes it to be. This is a travesty.

How much clearer would the picture be were we to learn exactly what Jerry Green had to say about the matter? As far as I can tell, he was the only one who regularly met with Sampson and compliance. He was the staff liaison for compliance. With 30+ years of coaching experience, I’m guessing he knew a rat when he saw one. Tell me again why he left IU after only 1 year?

What did our compliance officers say in regards to the support they received from the administration in holding Sampson accountable to his enhanced enforcement? It seems Greenspan wanted everybody to be friends, not necessarily effective overseers. What led the committee to this conclusion?

I’m less concerned about holding people’s feet to the fire on these matters as I am reluctant to see us repeat the mistakes in the future. (See Sampson’s hiring process for further illustration of this point.) Likewise, I believe the public has a right to know why we’re paying millions of dollars of public money in severance to people who knowingly and purposefully violated the terms of their employment. We paid millions to guys who were either cheats or complete incompetents. Where is the oversight and accountability for these indefensible decisions?!?

Save me the argument about a cost savings in avoiding protracted attorney expenses. You postpone any wrongful termination hearings until after the governing body (NCAA) has adjudicated the matter (guilty 11/26/08) and tell the guy to jump off a cliff when afterwards he says you were wrong to fire him and now owe him more money.

Top to bottom, this has been a travesty, a complete debacle. Hoosiers have been bled nearly to death as the NCAA extracted its pound of flesh from the most revered institution in the state. If the NCAA were truly concerned with putting the interests of the student-athlete first, they would use this situation as a case study in how not to protect student-athletes from the indiscretions of the adults around them. We can never feel sorry enough for those (few) players last year who went to class, gave their all on the court, and generally sacrificed their private lives for us, only to be undercut at the finish line by the NCAA and their own administration. Their losses can never be redressed.

Now it is finally over. We’ve come Crean. The wounds have been closed and the healing can commence. We will scab and, eventually, scar. With any luck, it will be the next time Halley’s Comet comes around before the words “infraction” and “Indiana” are ever muttered in the same sentence again.

Maybe if we knew a little bit more about how we got here in the first place, we could ensure this would only be a once in a lifetime occurrence.