SEATTLE, WA—Former Indiana coach Kelvin Sampson emerged with a smile from an eight-hour, closed-door hearing before a NCAA panel that will determine whether he violated recruiting rules.
“Hey, guys. How you doing?” Sampson asked Friday evening when he was surprised in a hallway by an Associated Press reporter while leaving Hotel Deca.
He was with his lawyers after a day full of end runs around public view. Throughout the day, men in suits and ties served as lookouts for inquiring minds from the back service exits of the hotel.
“It went well. It’s a process,” Sampson said of the hearing based on the NCAA’s accusations of Sampson providing false and misleading information to investigators about more than 100 impermissible calls.
The NCAA also accuses Sampson, now an assistant coach with the Milwaukee Bucks, with knowingly violating NCAA recruiting restrictions imposed because of a previous phone-call scandal at Oklahoma.
When asked if the questioning went as he thought it would, Sampson said: “About what we expected.”
“We’ll be back tomorrow,” he added, before sliding closed the side door of a minivan that then drove him away.
Indiana senior associate athletic director Tim Fitzpatrick said the hearing will continue Saturday morning.
Stacey Osburn, associate director of media relations for the NCAA, said the decision on possible sanctions likely won’t be known for at least six weeks.
Indiana officials are trying to avoid additional penalties beyond the scholarship and recruiting restrictions the school imposed when the allegations came to light last year. They will issue a statement at the end of Saturday’s hearing.
Athletic director Rick Greenspan, current Hoosiers coach Tom Crean and Big Ten commissioner Jim Delany are among those attending. Greenspan and Crean refused comment.
When asked whether the day was as long as it seemed as he left the hearing room shortly after 6 p.m., Delany just laughed.
Former assistant coach Rob Senderoff, now an assistant at Kent State, appeared with an attorney and Kent State athletic director, Laing Kennedy. Senderoff, widely viewed as the fall-guy in this case, is accused of making recruiting calls in the presence of Sampson and handing the phone to recruits and recruits’ parents and coaches on recruiting trips, so they could speak to Sampson.
The NCAA banned all those practices when it handed down the Oklahoma punishment in May 2006.
Senderoff faces what the NCAA calls a show-cause penalty, which requires schools to get the NCAA infractions committee’s approval of their hire of a coach. If he receives a show-cause penalty, Kent State would have to either appeal that sanction or fire Senderoff.
Senderoff sneaked out a back door of the banquet room where the hearing was held with Kennedy and an attorney then walked down a back alley during a one-hour break for lunch. He looked spent and bewildered at the end of the day, his face flush.
“Going back to (my hotel) to get some rest,” Senderoff said, sighing. “Long day.”
Sampson has repeatedly denied he was knowingly involved in three-way calls, and Senderoff and Sampson both dispute the NCAA’s contention that they did not tell investigators the whole truth.
But the NCAA cited interviews with seven recruits, some of whom said Sampson, Senderoff and a third person were all on the phone at the same time. Sampson has questioned the credibility of the witnesses because he contends they made mistakes on dates, times and certain events that were discussed.
Questions also have been raised about whether school officials should have known about the phone calls earlier. And many around the storied IU program think Sampson should have been fired immediately when the allegations surfaced last summer.
The question for Greenspan and other Indiana officials is whether they’ve done enough to avoid more serious penalties, such as a postseason ban.
They may have to wait into August to find out.