Sampson barred from off-campus recruiting

Kelvin Sampson endured his first major loss at Indiana before ever coaching a game.

The NCAA on Thursday banned the Hoosiers' new coach from calling recruits and making off-campus visits for a year, ruling Sampson and his staff at Oklahoma deliberately broke NCAA rules by making 577 extra phone calls to basketball prospects.

The decision, announced by the NCAA's infractions committee, also requires Indiana to adopt self-imposed restrictions put in place by Oklahoma. Those sanctions include a ban on Sampson being paid performance bonuses for next season, but Indiana will suffer no scholarship penalties.

Indiana said it did not intend to appeal the ruling -- and would not change its decision to hire Sampson.

Infractions committee chairman Thomas Yeager said Sampson's Oklahoma staff "rationalized the infractions as not important."

"While these may not be as notorious as some infractions the committee has seen in the past, they are important and produced the same objective, which was trying to induce recruits to attend the institution," Yeager said.

Thursday's ruling could have threatened Sampson's tenure with the Hoosiers.

When Sampson signed a seven-year deal April 20 to replace Mike Davis, Indiana officials inserted a provision that allowed the school to "take further action, up to and including termination" if the NCAA "imposes more significant penalties or sanctions than the University of Oklahoma's self-imposed sanctions."

The infractions committee did just that, handing down stronger recruiting sanctions than Oklahoma recommended. The Sooners had restricted Sampson to fewer off-campus recruiting days last July and only 19 days last season.

No sanctions were imposed on any of Sampson's Indiana assistant coaches, none of whom was at Oklahoma when the improper calls were made between 2000 and 2004.

Yeager's committee thought Sampson's actions warranted harsher punishment for the calls, which were made at times when coaches were not supposed to be contacting recruits. Sampson made nearly half of the calls -- 233 -- himself.

"I think there are more documented calls in this case than any other I'm familiar with," Yeager said.

But Indiana athletic director Rick Greenspan quickly ended any speculation of a short tenure for Sampson.

"We knew that there could be further sanctions and we accept them," Greenspan said. "While these sanctions do present an immediate challenge, we are excited about the future with Coach Sampson."

Sampson did escape some punishment with his move to Indiana after 12 seasons with the Sooners.

Oklahoma's self-imposed sanctions included cutting two scholarships last season and one next -- but those penalties will not transfer to Indiana. Sampson will also be permitted to contact recruits with text messages, letters and e-mail.

"I have learned an invaluable lesson, and I hope that this reinforces to other coaches the importance of every aspect of NCAA compliance," Sampson, who is traveling in Kuwait, said in a statement.

Yeager used unusually strong language to describe Sampson's conduct. Among the terms he used were "deliberate noncompliance" and "willful violations."

He also said the committee was concerned the infractions occurred while Sampson was president of the National Association of Basketball Coaches as the group was attempting to clean up recruiting.

Indiana officials had a different perspective.

"Obviously, we anticipated some type of sanction, and this one seems to fit these minor infractions," said Patrick Shoulders of Evansville, vice president of IU's Board of Trustees.

The report detailed a series of Sunday night meetings among Sooners coaches to review calls. Coaches recorded the calls on forms that were not supplied by the compliance office and then filed them in a cabinet instead of turning them in.

The committee noted that the logs were never cross-checked against institutional phone records and "the coaches were taken at their word when even a cursory review of men's basketball office, cell phone and calling card bills would have revealed the myriad of
impermissible calls being made by multiple coaches over a period of years."

The results, Yeager said, gave Oklahoma a significant recruiting advantage since six of the 17 recruits involved announced their intention to attend the school. Five actually did.

Oklahoma froze Sampson's salary at $1.01 million last year and prohibited from him receiving performance bonuses. His Indiana contract calls for him to earn $1.1 million next season and $1.6 million each of the next six years. The contract explicitly states Sampson is not eligible for bonuses next season.

The Hoosiers have gone 46 years without having a major NCAA violation, and school president Adam Herbert believes Sampson can help keep that record clean during his tenure in Bloomington.

"We all learn by our mistakes and coach Sampson is no exception in this regard," Herbert said. "We have every confidence in him and in the skills of his outstanding staff of assistant coaches. We are ready to move forward in creating a new era of excellence in IU basketball."

Meanwhile, Oklahoma escaped major sanctions. The NCAA Committee on Infractions moved Oklahoma's self-imposed probation so it would begin on Thursday and end in May 2008. The NCAA also issued a public reprimand and censure but otherwise accepted the university's self-imposed sanctions, which included reductions in scholarships, recruiting calls and trips and visits to the school by prospective recruits.

The university was able to avoid a severe "lack of institutional control" finding that could have resulted in a ban from postseason play. NCAA enforcement staff had recommended such a finding but the infractions committee instead found Oklahoma guilty of a lesser "failure in monitoring" finding.

"We felt a failure to monitor was more appropriate than a lack of institutional control, which usually if you really don't have a clue pops up in different things. You have problems with phones, you have problems with official visits, you have problems with any number of other elements of your program," said Yeager.

The Committee on Infractions strayed from the enforcement staff's recommendation, saying "though seriously flawed, a system for monitoring the phone calls did exist."

"A lack of institutional control finding is more serious than a failure to monitor ...," Yeager said. "It's better to avoid a lack of institutional control if you can."

Oklahoma athletic director Joe Castiglione said the university would not appeal any the infractions committee's findings.

"We accept their report. We believe it is fair and reasonable," Castiglione said.

Yeager said the 577 impermissible phone calls were the most he had encountered in a case in his nine years. A similar case involving Fresno State coach and former Oklahoma assistant Ray Lopes last month included 457 calls over 2½ years.

While the committee felt Sampson and his staff deprioritized the phone call rule, Yeager said "there's really no insignificant recruiting rule."

"Sometimes wrongly there's this great perception out there that lack of institutional control is kind of the magic bullet: If you avoid it, heck, we shouldn't go on probation, we shouldn't do any of this stuff," Yeager said. "But clearly that label is something that the institutions really respect and try to defend if they believe they have grounds to defend the fact that they're not labeled as having a lack of control over their entire program."

Lopes, who last month was given a three-year "show cause" penalty requiring him to appear before the infractions committee before seeking employment with another NCAA school because of violations while he was the head coach at Fresno State, received a second "show cause" order to run concurrently.

Toby Baldwin, an attorney for Lopes, said he was considering an appeal.

The NCAA accepted penalties Washington imposed against former Oklahoma assistant Jim Shaw, who made 107 of the calls.

Former assistant Bob Hoffman, who was not retained by new Oklahoma coach Jeff Capel, made only 28 calls after joining the staff in 2004 and the infractions committee decided not to keep an individual record of his violations.

"Oftentimes you'll see in cases where the phone call limit might have been violated on a couple of occasions," Yeager said. "Here's an instance where were talking about 577 calls. This isn't the benefit of the doubt. ... The sheer volume here distinguishes it from other cases, other than possibly the fairly recent Fresno case that was fairly similar. It was the magnitude as much as the violation here that caught the committee's attention."

In response to the NCAA inquiry, Oklahoma has added compliance staff and started a new telephone monitoring system.

"We take it very seriously -- always have," Castiglione said. "We think our actions again demonstrate the seriousness and we will let our actions speak for the commitment to integrity."

The Committee on Infractions also found Oklahoma guilty of nine secondary violations by the men's basketball program, two by the men's gymnastics team and two by the softball team.

Oklahoma's last major infraction came in December 1988, when the NCAA determined the football program broke recruiting rules and provided extra benefits. There were also findings of unethical conduct and the institutional control violation.