Pete DiPrimio, sports columnist and college beat writer for The News-Sentinel of Fort Wayne, Ind., takes his best shots on the world of Hoosier basketball.

Thursday, October 18

Case Against Indiana

I'm going to address this in an upcoming column, but in regard to what the NCAA will look at in deciding what to do with Indiana, here are the key elements:

First, pattern of behavior. Kelvin Sampson violated the phone call rule at Oklahoma. The same thing happened at Indiana. Granted, it was his assistants who made excessive calls, but he's responsible for them. Plus, he admittedly broke a condition of his Oklahoma-caused sanctions by participating in a three-way call.

Second, atmosphere of compliance. The absolute No. 1 priority had to be following all the rules and sanctions. No exceptions. The NCAA criticized Sampson for fostering an atmosphere of non-compliance at Oklahoma. I'm sure Sampson talked about following the rules. Obviously, he didn't stress it enough.

Third, the possibility of willfully breaking the rules. Coaches are required to log all their phone calls. They are required to sign those logs, thus taking responsibility if there’s a mistake. If you don’t record all the calls, if some go undocumented, that can be regarded as willful. At some schools, that’s reason for termination.

At least one assistant, Rob Senderoff, did that. But don’t blame this all on him. Maybe he was overzealous. Maybe he didn’t know the rules. Or maybe he was trying to please a demanding head coach who didn’t emphasize the rules enough. And certainly the university should have had a system in place to catch this sooner.

This is why IU imposed the sanctions it did. It’s trying to avoid a bigger crackdown by the NCAA. Will it succeed? You'd better believe Hoosier fans hope so.

Monday, October 1

Time To Let Mackey Go

Okay, there’s no way to sugarcoat this. Bud Mackey’s recent arrest in Kentucky on two felony drug charges for trafficking cocaine and for trafficking within 1,000 yards of a school is a big blow for Indiana recruiting.

Forget Mackey’s obvious skills as a player (he was the 2007 Kentucky state basketball tourney MVP after leading Scott County to the state title; he was expected to be a top contender for Mr. Basketball this season). This hurts the perception that the Hoosiers seek quality people as well as quality players.

And it will hurt their ability to land standout recruit Tyler Zeller.

That’s not fair, of course. Coach Kelvin Sampson is committed to having the nation’s top program in all areas -– basketball, academics, high-character people.

And by all accounts, this was a shock. Mackey, who verbally committed to IU a year ago, seemed personable and charming and mature as well as talented.

Maybe this was a good kid who made one bad mistake. Or maybe this is just the first time he got caught. Or, for those who believe in conspiracies, maybe this was a setup. That’s for the courts to decide.

But the Hoosiers can’t be involved with this. Yes, Sampson is big on helping kids who come from tough situations. In fact, that’s one of his strengths. It’s among the reasons why he’s such an outstanding recruiter and coach. His combination of discipline and compassion brings out the best in players.

But the risk here is too great and, in truth, there are too many outstanding players who would come to Indiana and who don’t get in trouble with the law.

Freshman Eric Gordon is an obvious example.

If Mackey is lucky, he’ll avoid career-destroying consequences (the penalties if convicted are five to 10 years in prison and a fine up to $10,000). He’ll get a chance at college opportunity.

But it shouldn’t be at Indiana.