Sampson Tries To Avoid Questions About NCAA Infractions

Thursday, October 18th 2007, 3:12 pm
By: News On 6

BLOOMINGTON, Ind. (AP) _ Indiana coach Kelvin Sampson tried to talk basketball Thursday.

Instead, he spent much of a 30-minute news conference answering more questions about his latest NCAA infractions.

At times, Sampson appeared frustrated, saying, ``This is the last thing I'm going to say about this, period.''

At another point, when asked about making phone calls to Roderick Wilmont, now playing in the National Basketball Development League, Sampson drew laughter when he humorously cut off the question by saying ``be careful with that word.''

Sampson tried talking about practice, the progress of highly touted freshman Eric Gordon and how good this year's Hoosiers might be. Still, the questions about more impermissible phone calls would not go away.

``There's no distractions, we practice every day,'' Sampson said. ``I can assure you there's no distractions. If anything, our practices have probably been a little harder than last year and there's been no mention of it since the first day.''

This is the second time in 17 months that Sampson has been the subject of an NCAA investigation. In May 2006, the NCAA prohibited Sampson from calling recruits or making off-campus recruiting trips for one year after it found he had made 577 impermissible phone calls from 2000 to 2004 while coaching at Oklahoma.

Sampson said in a brief opening statement that he could not discuss the specifics of the latest violations because the investigation was ongoing.

He did acknowledge that players were told of the infractions during a team meeting Sunday, before school officials made a public announcement.

As a result, Indiana will lose one scholarship in 2008-09 while Sampson forfeits a $500,000 pay raise. Assistant coach Rob Senderoff, at the center of the controversy, also will forgo his pay raise and was banned from calling recruits and off-campus recruiting for one year.

A university investigation found that Senderoff connected Sampson to 10 three-way calls. Three-way calls are permitted under NCAA rules but were banned as part of Sampson's previous sanctions.

It also found that Senderoff made the majority of 35 undocumented calls from his home.

On Tuesday, university spokesman Larry MacIntyre said there may have been as many as 100 undocumented calls, more than the 35 that were originally announced Sunday.

Senderoff also talked to the team about the violations, Sampson said.

``We ... explained what was happening and what was going to be reported and here's what we're going to do _ we're going to coach,'' Sampson said.

The latest infractions were discovered in July by a compliance department intern. IU officials have said they occurred during Sampson's previous ban, which ran through May 25.

Sampson also said he has contacted incoming recruits to discuss this week's controversy.

``We've talked to all of the incoming kids and their families, that's all I'm going to say,'' Sampson said.

Later, Sampson said he could not discuss whether they were still interested in attending Indiana because of NCAA rules.

Senior forward D.J. White, a team captain and former Big Ten freshman of the year, was not in town for the team meeting because he was attending his grandfather's funeral in Alabama.

But Sampson called to explain the situation before he flew back to Indiana, and White has spent this week answering questions from friends and classmates.

``Of course you get that from outside people,'' he said. ``They read the papers, they want to know what's going on, but I don't know a lot about the situation.''

It's the third straight year White has entered the season with a cloud over either himself or the future of the program.

Two years ago, many wondered if then coach Mike Davis, a close friend of White's, would keep his job. Last year, White was coming back from two foot injuries that cut short the 2005-06 season.

Now it's NCAA violations, and it's something White appears to be getting used to.

``It's part of it,'' he said. ``Things happen, so you take it as it goes and you keep playing. That's all you can do at this time.''

But for Sampson, the questions simply will not go away.

Fans have expressed their displeasure this week by suggesting the program's clean image and that of the school, which hasn't had a major NCAA violation since 1960, has been tarnished. Some have even called for Sampson's ouster.

Administrators and trustees continue to believe that the penalties were strong enough.

Sampson found solace in some unusual places Thursday.

Asked about the NCAA's new bench decorum rule, he responded: ``Did I have any technical fouls last year? No? Well, finally some good news, I didn't have any technical fouls last year.''

While Sampson would like all of this to go away before the season begins, the news conference made it clear that wouldn't happen any time soon.

``My responsibility right now is these kids,'' he said, ``And I'm coaching this team 100 percent. That's all I can do.''