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February 22, 2008
Indiana heads to Northwestern with full roster
Wetzel: Players must get behind Dakich | IU Coaching Candidates | Who would the experts pick?
BLOOMINGTON, Ind. — The long legacy of Indiana basketball began a new chapter Saturday.
One day after coach Kelvin Sampson accepted a $750,000 buyout and jilted players threatened a boycott, interim coach Dan Dakich found a pleasant surprise at Assembly Hall: Every player, including senior captain D.J. White, was on board the team bus.
The smattering of fans who showed up, shook hands with players and coaches, wishing them well for Saturday night's game at Northwestern. All hoped to move beyond the embarrassment created by Sampson's alleged NCAA violations.
"It's like Sampson said, this program is bigger than one person," 49-year-old fan Ed Anderson said. "I think people realize that. I think even the staunchest (Bob) Knight supporter realizes this is Indiana University."
The 15th-ranked Hoosiers need a victory at Northwestern to stay in contention for the school's first outright conference title since 1993.
Indiana hasn't faced a major NCAA rules violation since 1960, but the five major allegations against Sampson brought many to call for the second-year coach's ouster.
It finally happened Friday night when Sampson agreed to resign in a buyout that includes a provision that he not sue the university for any additional damages. An anonymous donor even gave the school a $550,000 gift to get rid of Sampson.
Now comes the hard part - winning over the players.
It appeared nearly half the team was prepared to sit out Saturday's game in protest after White, guards Armon Bassett, Jordan Crawford and Jamarcus Ellis, and forwards DeAndre Thomas and Brandon McGee skipped Dakich's first practice Friday afternoon.
But sports information director J.D. Campbell said all the players attended Friday night's walkthrough, and Saturday morning they left together for Northwestern.
"I think our young men are respectful and respectful of Indiana University," athletic director Rick Greenspan said. "They have a chance to have a special season, and my hope is that as we heal emotionally and get accustomed to the staff, they'll continue to play for that special season."
Sampson also offered players his support in a statement released by the university minutes before the coaching change was announced.
"While I'm saddened that I will not have the opportunity to coach these student-athletes, I feel that this is in the best interest of the program for me to step away at this time," Sampson said. "I wish my players nothing but the best for the remainder of the season."
Sampson's two-year stay at Indiana ended the same way it began, with an NCAA hearing scheduled for alleged rules infractions.
He took the Indiana job in March 2006 and two months later was penalized by the NCAA for making 577 impermissible phone calls between 2000 and 2004 while coaching Oklahoma.
The second wave of charges emerged in October when a university investigation found Sampson and his Indiana staff made more than 100 improper calls while still under recruiting restrictions and that Sampson participated in at least 10 three-way calls, another violation of the NCAA's punishment.
Greenspan called the violations secondary, imposing a one-year extension of the NCAA's recruiting restrictions and pulling a $500,000 raise. The Hoosiers also took away one scholarship for the 2008-09 season.
What the NCAA found, however, was far more serious. The report, released last week, claimed Sampson provided false and misleading information to investigators from both the university and the NCAA, failed to meet the "generally recognized high standard of honesty" expected in college sports and failed to promote an atmosphere of compliance within the program.
The allegations unleashed a torrent of criticism, and many fans booed Sampson during introductions at the Hoosiers' next three games. University president Michael McRobbie then announced the school would take a second look at the charges, setting a Friday deadline for Greenspan's recommendation.
"I think shortly after our president said those allegations were troubling and deeply concerning and that we'd work through this is when we came to the conclusion," Greenspan said.
The fallout was evident at Friday's practice. While Indiana star freshman Eric Gordon said he expected to play against Northwestern, White and other players never showed. That wasn't the case Saturday morning for the bus trip to the airport.
The 45-year-old Dakich, once considered a possible successor to Knight, will now get a chance to coach his alma mater. He also was an assistant on Indiana's 1987 national championship team.
Dakich is the former head coach at Bowling Green and a former assistant under Knight at Indiana. He took the job vacated when Rob Senderoff resigned in early November. Senderoff also was implicated in the phone-call scandal at Indiana.
Assistant Ray McCallum, whom the players wanted to take over, became assistant head coach. McCallum was a head coach at Ball State and Houston and has 25 years of college coaching experience. Neither Dakich nor McCallum was implicated in the latest scandal, and McCallum was cleared of any wrongdoing while assisting Sampson at Oklahoma.
For more coverage of the Indiana Hoosiers, check out InsideIndiana.com.