You might have heard about how over the past week, Indiana University has been pleading its case to the NCAA, trying to stay away from some kind of death sentence. The trangressions by Kelvin "Are You In My 5?" Sampson were pretty sickening, especially considering that he had similar problems at Oklahoma, but I would offer up that the school's basketball program has already went through as big of a fall as has ever happened to a major power in the sport and shouldn't face more. Between players leaving early, leaving for another school, or just being dismissed, the Hoosiers have been left with one 1 scholarship player on its roster. This is one of the Top 5 hoops schools in NCAA history and they will be lucky to win 5 games in 2008-09.
When I moved to Indianapolis in 1990, I was pretty neutral to the Hoosiers. I'm an Iowa Hawkeye alum, but I always had a respect for the way IU played. In the early 90's, every IU game was shown on local TV and these games drew crowds in sports bars like it was Monday Night Football. After just one-year of living around the mania that most of the state felt for their Hoosiers and Bob Knight, I developed a strong hatred for the team. The stories that I heard about Knight's behavior behind the scenes were my greatest reason to despise the Hoosiers, as his mental abuse of everyone around him reminded me strongly of my own father.
While the Hoosiers continued to be a Top 20 team during the decade, they generally underachieved in the NCAA tourney, which gave me great delight. My hatred for the school was so great that I became a Purdue fan, just because it was their biggest rival. Knight's fall from grace has been well-documented and his the struggles by his replacement, Mike Davis were very real, as Davis was above his head.
For the past decade, most of the top prep players from the state have been signing elsewhere. Greg Oden, Mike Conley, Zach Randolph, Justin Cage, etc. have went elsewhere, causing the school's hardcore fan base to dwindle. Combine this with the explosion of interest in the Indianapolis Colts and Hoosier Nation hoops barely resembles its former self. They had become so mediocre it became difficult to really want to muster the energy to hate them.
For a brief moment, it appeared like things were going to change. The school brought in Kelvin Sampson and he was very aggressive in his recruiting. His biggest coup, also was a moral dilemma to some fans. The best guard to come out of the state since possibly Oscar Robertson, Eric Gordon, had already given a verbal committment to Illinois. In the Big 10, there seems to be a gentlemen's agreement that you don't try to get players to break their committments from another conference school. Well, Never Let Them See You Sweat* Sampson is obviously no gentleman and he went hard after Gordon when he got the gig in Bloomington.
*Check out fellow cheater, Jim Harrick in the commercial.
The fall-out initially was Gordon ended up at IU and the team thrived, while Illinois ended up having a very disappointing season. It all began to fall-apart for the Hoosiers towards the last month of the year, when the illegal recruiting issues became more known. Sampson ended up getting bought out of his contract and the team fell-apart under the interim leadership of Dan Dakich. Now a basketball school has a team that will be made up mainly of walk-ons and second-rate recruits. New coach Tom Crean is top-notch, but he has an extremely high mountain to climb.
Indiana University has been punished enough for the transgressions of Sampson. I don't think the NCAA should add anything to their sentence. I'm rooting for Crean to turn the program around by 2010, as I will miss having someone to legitimately hate in college basketball.