Friday, June 27, 2008

More on the failure to monitor charge.

First, here's the letter (hat-tip: Inside the Hall). It was faxed to Ice Miller on June 19, so IU has had it for a week. The IU hearing took place on June 13 and June 14, so the Committee on Infractions didn't waste any time in adding this additional charge against IU.

Before discussing the substance, I'll skip to the end. IU has three response options: 1) do nothing, and rest on the earlier presentation; 2) file a written response; or 3) file a written response and request an additional hearing. Based on IU's stated intent to "vigorously" contest these charges, I would guess that IU will choose option 3. The downside of that option is that it could delay the proceedings. And, of course, my track record of predictions concerning this scandal is not good.

The NCAA lists six "particular instances" of failure to monitor:

a) Failure to adhere to the self-imposed corrective actions set forth in IU's August 1, 2006 report to the NCAA (this was IU's adoption of the Oklahoma sanctions, I think, although I can't find the document online, as it predates this blog);

b) the "scope and nature" of IU's violations of E, F, and L of the report sanctioning Oklahoma. E reduced the frequency of permissible calls to high school juniors; F reduced the frequency of permissible calls to high school seniors; L imposed the one-year phone call ban and off-campus recruiting ban against Sampson.

c) the "scope and nature" of the violations set forth in allegation 2 of the case summary, which described the impermissible calls to recruits and their guardians.

d) failure to uncover violations in a timely fashion. This is the issue that has received the most publicity, of course: the phone calls.

e) failure to provide "meaningful follow-through" as to the above violations.

f) failure to provide "extra-close scrutiny" in light of the history of violations, and the university's approach to investigation of secondary violations.

g) atmosphere of non-compliance in the men's basketball program.
I have a tough time with a) though d). The NCAA has known all of those things for months or even nearly a year. As for f) and g), I suppose these are the sorts of items that could have arisen at the hearing. In the absence of new facts, it's hard to know what led to this increase, and the NCAA letter is fairly vague. My amateur assessment is that the NCAA's main motivation is punishing IU for hiring Sampson in the first place. Unfortunately, I think that the NCAA's actions could provide a chilling effect toward other programs. In particular, item d) bothers me. "Better late than never" may seem like a flimsy position, but punishing a school for late self-reporting of a violation creates an incentive to not report late-discovered violations at all.

I'm glad that IU reported the violations as soon as it found them and pulled the trigger on Sampson as soon as the NCAA issued its report in February. Both were the right thing to do. But I'm not sure that the NCAA's actions create much incentive for the next school to do the same thing.

I'll try to check back tomorrow with more detail.

Mea Culpa.

Yep. Busy day, just read the news. Nothing to comment upon, haven't read anything, but obviously my predictions that IU wouldn't be charged with failure to monitor were wrong. More later.

Monday, June 23, 2008

Football odds and ends.

While basketball is dominating the news lately, there have been a couple of new developments with the football team, although nothing new has been reported about the biggest issue, which is the status of Kellen Lewis.
  • IU obtained a commitment from Jeffersonville quarterback Edward Wright Baker. I usually don't write about recruiting commitment-by-commitment, but this recruitment is noteworthy because Baker is a dual-threat quarterback: "121-of-225 passes (53.8 percent) for 1,582 yards and 21 touchdown[s]. He also eclipsed the 1,000-yard mark on the ground, gaining 1,197 yards on 182 carries and 19 TD’s while helping Jeff win the Class 5A Sectional title for the first time this decade," according to the article linked above. The completion percentage isn't great, but per the article Kentucky, Louisville, Michigan State, and Purdue all had offered Baker. It certainly suggests that IU hopes to continue the dual-threat pattern. As I have said before, a quarterback who can run and has legitimate skill as a passer can level the playing field a bit for a program like IU. I might prefer to see a bit higher completion percentage at the high school level, but it will be interesting to see how Baker's senior season transpires.
  • The damages caused by recent flooding will require IU to replace the entire field. It does not appear that IU has found a vendor yet, but removal is underway and IU expects the field to be ready by the beginning of August.

Sunday, June 22, 2008

Malik Story.

The Indianapolis Star and other sources report that IU recently received a commitment from Malik Story, a 6-5 guard from Los Angeles. Story, like four other of Tom Crean's recruits, will join Matt Roth and Tom Pritchard as scholarship newcomers who are eligible to play immediately. Counting former walk-on Kyle Taber, IU now has eight scholarship players for 2008-09. Story, as the article notes, originally committed to USC as a sophomore and changed his mind a few weeks ago. This LA Times blog describes Story as:
one of the most sought-after prospects in the nation back when he was a junior at Artesia.
Story transferred briefly to Oak Hill Academy in Virginia before returning to California. This article suggests that Story was asked to leave Oak Hill for some sort of incident that was "not of a criminal nature." In any event, the Star article certainly indicates a strong family background, so we shall see. The big mystery to me is why he didn't sign with USC in November.

So, here's where that leaves us:

Returning scholarship players: former invited walk-on Kyle Taber (Sr.).

Incoming scholarship players who will be eligible in 2008-09: Tom Pritchard (F/C from Ohio, freshman); Matt Roth (G from Illinois, freshman); Devan Dumes (guard from Decatur Central/Eastern Michigan/Vincennes, junior); Nick Williams (guard from Alabama, former Marquette recruit); Verdell Jones (guard from Illinois); Tijan Jobe (center from Olney Central JC, junior).; Malik Story (guard from California).

Incoming scholarship players who will be eligible in 2009-10: Jeremiah Rivers (guard from Georgetown, two years of eligibility)

Returning walk-ons: Brett Finkelmeier (sophomore guard).

Incoming walk-ons: Daniel Moore (guard from Carmel); Kory Barnett (guard from Rochester); Broderick Lewis (guard from Lafayette Jefferson)

Incoming freshmen, 2009-10: Derek Elston (forward, Tipton); Bobby Capobianco (forward, Ohio); Maurice Creek (guard, Connecticut); Jordan Hulls (guard, Bloomington South).

Saturday, June 21, 2008

Preseason trash talk.

The IU blogosphere has been all abuzz about Bruce Weber's recent comments about IU. At some sort of Illini circle-jerk a few days ago, Weber said:
The league should be wide open and we can be right in the middle of it. I do know one thing, though. I think Indiana will suck. Don’t put that on the Internet.

I have made clear on many occasions that I don't like Bruce Weber. He was right to be miffed about losing a recruit as talented as Eric Gordon, but as I have said many times before, Weber's inability to shrug it off has done real damage to the Illinois program. After IU's double overtime win at Champaign last year, in that toxic atmosphere created and abetted by Weber and the Illinois administration, I said this about Bruce:
For a college head coach, Weber just doesn't seem to relish competition.
That line, perhaps more than any other, led some Illinois fan to write a Unanbomber-style manifesto about how wrong I was about everything. Certainly, Weber can say whatever he wants to say. And of course, IU coaches have been known to take shots at opponents, albeit with a bit more creativity.

I thought Weber's approval of Chester Frazier's tech-worthy chest bump of Eric Gordon said something about Weber's character and supported my contention. I think his current willingness to talk trash about a team that doesn't return a single recruited scholarship player is exhibit B. Wow, Bruce. Takes a big man to say that you'll have IU's number this year. Weber took over a program that had NCAA championship-caliber talent on hand and drove the program into the crapper. Hopefully the trajectory of Crean, who was Illinois's first choice in 2003, will be the opposite.

Monday, June 16, 2008

BTN-Comcast impasse at a close?

The Chicago Tribune reports today that a deal between Comcast and the Big Ten Network is imminent. The deal sounds similar to what was reported back in March--the BTN will get its wish and will be on "expanded basic" everywhere within the Big Ten footprint except Philadelphia and will be on a sports tier everywhere else. The Trib also reports that the price will be something in the range of 70 to 80 cents per subscriber (I presume this means inside the Big Ten footprint, which is where the $1.10 figure had been discussed). If true, this means that the Big Ten will have prevailed on its placement demands and will have ended up with a 65 percent of what the BTN has long described as a "sticker price." That's a win.

Saturday, June 14, 2008

Judgment day, part II.

The Hoosier Scoop guys traveled to Seattle to cover IU's hearing before the NCAA's Division I Committee on Infractions. It seems unlikely that there will be much to report, otehr than Kelvin Sampson's determined but unsuccessful efforts to avoid the cameras, but the H-T does report that the hearing has carried over into day two. I have no idea whether that is good, bad, or neutral.

Thursday, June 12, 2008

And then there were none.

As has been reported everywhere by now, Jordan Crawford will not return to IU for his sophomore year. Crawford would have been the team's leader and the only established scoring threat, but for whatever reason (and it's unclear whether this was desired or not by Tom Crean) he's not coming back. Because of Brandon McGee's departure a couple of weeks ago, that leaves Kyle Taber, who came to IU as a walk-on, as IU's only returning scholarship player.
Here's where that leaves us:
Returning scholarship players: former invited walk-on Kyle Taber (Sr.).

Incoming scholarship players who will be eligible in 2008-09: Tom Pritchard (F/C from Ohio, freshman); Matt Roth (G from Illinois, freshman); Devan Dumes (guard from Decatur Central/Eastern Michigan/Vincennes, junior); Nick Williams (guard from Alabama, former Marquette recruit); Verdell Jones (Illinois); Tijan Jobe (center from Olney Central JC, junior).

Returning walk-ons: Brett Finkelmeier (sophomore guard).

Incoming walk-ons: Daniel Moore (guard from Carmel); Kory Barnett (guard from Rochester); Broderick Lewis (guard from Lafayette Jefferson)

Incoming freshmen, 2009-10: Derek Elston (forward, Tipton); Bobby Capobianco (forward, Ohio); Maurice Creek (guard, Connecticut); Jordan Hulls (guard, Bloomington South).
That leaves IU with seven scholarship players. Freshmen will be the core of the team and it seems likely that the walk-ons all will receive significant playing time. IU still is in the hunt for the few high quality players still on the market, including former Arizona recruit Emmanuel Negedu, but all seem to be leaning elsewhere. So, there's a decent chance that this will be the team.

Wednesday, June 11, 2008

Mark Alesia really wants the NCAA to add charges.

As has been standard in the run-up to Friday's NCAA hearing in Seattle, the Indianapolis Star is reporting long-known facts as if they are breaking news. As I write this post, the banner headline on the Star's website reads: "Bills: IU compliance staff missed calls." No shit? You mean that when IU held that press conference in October 2007, and admitted that an intern discovered improper calls in a year-end audit, which led to the discovery of the three way calls, that meant that the compliance staff had missed those calls earlier? Really? You needed to see the bills themselves to know that? Certainly, it's nice that the Star requested the bills themselves and has provided us with a look at them. But we have known this for as long as we have known that there was a problem.
Alesia, in what nominally is a news article, engages in some blatant editorializing by describing "easily identifiable three-way calls." Indeed, this article and the article that I discussed three weeks ago lead to the impression that Alesia is practically begging the NCAA to add an institutional failure to monitor charge against IU. Much as Mark might want that, and with the constant caveat that I'm not an expert on NCAA procedure, that seems unlikely. As I discussed in the post linked above, Long Beach State received notice of the Committee on Infractions's revision of the charges in time to provide a written response and in time to address the issue at the hearing. Not only has the Committee not done that, but in recent weeks the Committee actually reduced one of the charges against IU (the Derek Elston t-shirt/backpack issue) to a minor violation. Certainly, I suppose (again with the caveat) that the Committee could add charges and schedule another hearing. But again, what the Star reports today has been obvious since day one. The three way calls were detectable earlier than they were actually detected.
Certainly, the compliance office should have left no stone unturned. But I do think it's important to remember that what is obvious in hindsight isn't always apparent in the moment. Senderoff wasn't prohibited from making three way calls. He wasn't prohibited from making three way calls with recruits. He was prohibited from making three ways calls involving Sampson and recruits. Obviously the prudent thing to do would be to identify the third party on each of the three ways calls. Yet, it's also understandable that the compliance staff's main objectives were 1) reviewing Senderoff's records to make certain that he was complying with sanctions and NCAA rules; and 2) to review Sampson's records to make ceretain that he was complying with the sanctions and NCAA rules. Again, given the stakes the compliance staff should have left no stone unturned. But it is understandable that they fell into the trap of checking Senderoff's records for Senderoff's compliance and Sampson's records for Sampson's compliance but not Senderoff's records for Sampson's compliance.
Alesia again raises the specter of the Long Beach State case. As I have noted before, the LBS case is quite different factually and was in a different procedural posture when the Committee added the "failure to monitor" charge. But it seems to me that the far more relevant precedent would be the case against Oklahoma, the case involving Sampson's similar violations at his former school. In that case, the NCAA did find OU guilty of failure to monitor. Why isn't the Star talking about the OU case, which seems to be the most facually analogous recent NCAA proceeding? Here's what the NCAA Committee on Infractions said about OU's call monitoring (emphasis added by me):
The enforcement staff took the position that the facts of this finding demonstrated a lack of institutional control. The institution asserted that the facts of this finding demonstrated a failure to monitor the telephone contacts with prospective student-athletes. The committee finds that the facts establish a failure to monitor by the institution.

As shown by over 500 impermissible calls made over four years going undetected, the system in place to monitor phone calls made by the men's basketball coaching staff was wholly inadequate. The coaching staff got together on Sunday nights, reviewed the calls they had made and recorded a countable call on forms different than those supplied by the compliance office. The completed forms weren't turned in to the compliance office but were instead stored in a filing cabinet in the basketball office.

However, review of the records by compliance personnel was sporadic at best, occurring approximately once per year. It wasn't possible to say with certainty when the reviews took place, as no records were maintained by the institution. Compounding the problem was that the reviews were conducted by interns rather than by trained and experienced compliance personnel. But perhaps the most glaring deficiency was that the logs produced by the basketball staff (which were incomplete since the coaches failed to record all calls made) were never cross-checked against institutional phone records; 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.

Though seriously flawed, a system for monitoring the phone calls did exist. The coaches were regularly educated regarding phone contact rules, written policies were in place and forms to record the activities were supplied to the coaching staff. It was the monitoring of the calls that contributed to the problems; the phone logs compiled by the coaches were not checked on a regular basis and the reviews that took place did not involve cross-checking the logs with available institutional records. Finally, the violations involved only one aspect of one sport. For these reasons, the committee finds that the facts establish a failure to monitor the men's basketball program by the institution rather than a lack of institutional control.
Hey, NCAA, don't knock interns! The point, however, is that IU's compliance program did all the things that Oklahoma's did not do. The coaches turned their logs in rather than maintaining them in the basketball office. IU maintained detailed records. Compliance staff cross-checked phone records with the phone logs. That monitoring failed to detect the violations in a timely manner, but it ultimately did detect the violations, obviously, because IU reported the violations itself. I don't mean to apologize or rationalize for IU's compliance staff or athletic department, which failed at an important task. But failure to detect a particular violation isn't necessarily "failure to monitor." If it were, every NCAA case would include the allegation.
The NCAA isn't always a predictable organization, so there's a decent chance that I will be eating my words. But based on the facts of IU's case, consideration of the LBS and OU cases, the current procedural posture of the case, and the Committee's recent downward revision of one of the charges, I think it's highly unlikely that IU will face an institutional failure to monitor charge. The NCAA being the NCAA, Alesia may turn out to be right, but he hasn't made a convincing argument that a last-minute "failure to monitor" charge is a real risk for IU.

Tuesday, June 10, 2008

Summer content.

From me? Nah. But more industrious bloggers do make a good effort to keep their audiences engaged during the offseason. A new IU blog to check out is Cannot Falter. It appears that the intent is to cover both football and basketball. If this funny but insightful series on "IU Fan Factions" is any indication, CF is a must-read.

Sunday, June 8, 2008

Argh, I can't resist.

I have sworn, many times, that I would not give this guy the time of day. But it's the middle of the offseason, I haven't posted much lately, so here it is. Bob Kravitz continues to suck. The supposed point of his column--that Rick Greenspan should be fired--is a perfectly respectable position argued in a completely disrespectable way.
Really, all that anyone needs to know about Bob Kravitz is contained in the first sentence:
After reading all 96 pages of the Tolstoy-esque case summary regarding Kelvin Sampson and Indiana University....
Here, Kravitz is attempting to impress us with a literary reference. "Wow, Bob Kravitz has heard of Leo Tolstoy, who wrote War and Peace, a really long book!" The NCAA's case summary was 96 pages, long, including a list of the participants, a table of contents, and many charts. If Bob Kravitz thinks that this document is "Tolstoy-esque," he really has no idea how the world works outside of the toy section. The rest of the article removes any doubt about that proposition.
Again, I can get on board with the idea that Rick Greenspan should be fired. But here's a quick sampling of where this column falls short:
  • The article implies that Kravitz didn't know that IU received an e-mail clarification from the NCAA in May 2006. That's been known since IU released its self-report last October. Of course, if Kravitz thinks that 96 pages is Tolstoy-esque, let's take bets on whether he read IU's self-report.
  • Kravitz suggests that an institutional "failure to monitor" allegation is on the table. As the Star reported a few weeks ago and as I discussed in this post, the NCAA Committee on Infractions did add a failure to monitor charge against Long Beach State even though it had not been charged by the enforcement staff. As I noted earlier, the Long Beach State case is quite different from the IU case. LBS involved the institution's willful blindness to the sudden academic excellence of its borderline recruits. IU's case is different. But in any event, the Committee on Infractions informed LBS long enough before the hearing that LBS had the chance to brief the issue before the hearing. The hearing is five days away, and not only has the Committee not done that to, IU, but the Committee actually reduced one of the charges, the T-shirt and backpack given to Derek Elston, to a minor violation. I'm not an expert on NCAA procedure, but if Kravitz has reason to believe that IU is facing an institutional monitor charge, he should present us with the evidence.
  • Kravitz just lies when he says that Sampson was on a "Bob Knight Zero Tolerance Program." Not true, not analogous.
  • The context of the statement is that IU should have fired Sampson immediately upon discovering the evidence of three way calls. Hiring Ice Miller to investigate was overkill, according to Kravitz, as was waiting until the spring to fire him. I'm not going to defend every step of IU's process here, but Kravitz's easy answers are what should be expected from a guy who has never done anything for a living other than run his mouth. Kelvin Sampson wasn't an at-will employee. Had IU canned him in July 2007, IU would have owed Sampson over $3 million absent sufficient evidence to terminate him for cause. In Kravitz's world, IU would have been making that decision based only on ten three-way calls: no witness interviews, no coaches' home phone records, no Derek Elston backpack, nothing else. By the time IU actually pulled the trigger, IU was in a strong enough position to get Sampson to sign away his rights for 30 cents on the dollar. Now, maybe Kravitz would argue that money was no object, and IU should have done whatever was necessary to rid itself of Sampson at the first hint of trouble, no matter the cost. But that's much easier to say with hindsight, knowing today what the investigations by IU and the NCAA revealed. More importantly, that would have been an honest and nuanced article, and Kravitz isn't big on honesty or nuance.

To be clear, I would shed no tears for Rick Greenspan. I still hope that Kravitz, Hutchens, or someone will someday be able to tell us exactly what happen in February and March 2006. But absent that, some clear-headedness would be nice, but I know I'm looking in the wrong place.

Within 75 miles of downtown Indianapolis are an NFL team, and NBA team, two Big Ten universities, another Division I-A football program, four more Division I basketball programs, and the two largest one-day sporting events in the world. The state's largest paper can trouble itself to hire only one general-interest sports columnist...and it's this guy.

Saturday, June 7, 2008

I did not have telephonic relations with that recruit.

Inside the Hall has been all over the recent release of the "case summary" from the NCAA. The summary doesn't include all of the underlying evidence, but does provide excerpts of the transcripts of interviews with former recruits such as Demetri McCamey and Dujuan Blair and Yvonne Jackson, the mother of former IU signee Devin Ebanks, and former IU director of basketball operations Jerry Green. The case summary is an interesting read, but the quick summary is that if Kelvin Sampson is telling the truth, he is the victim of a very elaborate conspiracy.

Field problems.

The construction in the north end zone continues, but IU's Memorial Stadium now requires a bunch of work before the Hoosiers can take the field on Labor Day weekend. As the Indianapolis Star and others reports, the torrential rains that have been hitting much of central Indiana somehow compromised the field and caused a sinkhole in the football field and various other damage to the rest of the field. IU's artificial turf field was installed in time for the 2003 season. IU played on the old-style artificial turf from the early 1970s through 1997. As was the trend then, IU went back to natural grass in 1998, but really could never get the field to drain properly or grow properly and aborted that experiment after five season. Somehow, I have retained from my sophomore year geology class that the part of southern Indiana where Bloomington is located is characterized by karst topography, which can be susceptible to sinkholes.
As the Hoosier Scoop notes, the resolution could be complicated because the company that installed IU's field is no longer in business (that doesn't mean there wouldn't be a successor-in-interest who would be on the hook for any defect in construction, but it's a complication nonetheless). But regardless of who pays for it, obviously IU needs to begin its efforts to repair the field or (more likely) install a new one before the season. Adding yet another wrinkle is a major event scheduled for early August in Bloomington. As part of its effort to attract a variety of musical and fine arts events to the city, Indianapolis secured a long-term commitment from the DCI Drum and Bugle Corps championships from August 7-9. While the Colts' new Lucas Oil Stadium will be the long-term host for the event, part of the deal was that Bloomington would host the 2008 competition if the new stadium were not ready in time. A few months ago, the city made clear that they could not guarantee that the new stadium would be ready, and so the event was moved to Bloomington. Now, IU is eight weeks out from that event with no usable football field. Not good.