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Published: Monday, 2/18/2008

Basketball plot thickens at Indiana

Idle thoughts from an idle mind, while wondering how and why Roger Clemens vs. Brian McNamee and the debate on banned substances morphed into a partisan political issue:

•Saturday night's win over Michigan State didn't change anything. Neither would a win tomorrow against Purdue.

Indiana University basketball coach Kelvin Sampson is an

alleged cheat at a school where cheating is frowned upon with more disdain than at most.

He was a cheat when he was hired. He's an alleged cheat today. We can presume he would be a cheat tomorrow.

IU is in the midst of a quote-unquote internal investigation - one that came with a self-imposed, seven-day time limit that expires on Friday - of NCAA charges that Sampson committed five major rules infractions.

That, of course, is not what it's all about. Indiana already investigated, which led to a self-reporting of the violations. An assistant coach was already sacrificed to the altar of the NCAA. Not much of this is new, other than the NCAA adding charges of Sampson lying to, and misleading, investigators.

Imagine that.

No, this internal investigation deals more with what to do about Sampson. Do the Hoosiers fire him and risk a costly Ohio State-Jim O'Brien-type situation of wrongful termination? Do they suspend him until the NCAA hands out sanctions, and then fire him with just cause? Do they ride out the 90-day period the NCAA allows for rebuttal and, in the process, give a very good team the chance to compete for Big Ten and NCAA tournament titles? Do they go the distance to an NCAA infractions hearing in June, which would risk more serious sanctions?

The NCAA embraces expressions of contrition. It likes examples of institutional control. It likes it when a school acts decisively in dealing with a wrong-doing coach and enacts its own punishment, such as loss of grants-in-aid, recruiting restrictions, ruling itself ineligible for postseason competition, etc.

First things first, though. For IU to escape the wrath of the NCAA, Sampson's days have to be numbered. And, if they are, look for former Bowling Green coach Dan Dakich to take the Hoosiers' helm if only on an interim basis. He has the Bob Knight seal of approval that so many IU fans still covet, and is new enough to the situation that he isn't buried in Sampson's dirt. Regardless of your opinion of Dakich formed over his 10 years at BG, the NCAA has never banged on his door.

Stay tuned. It's bound to get more interesting come Friday.

•St. John's Jesuit swimmer Jake Epperson called his team's win over St. Francis in the district swimming and diving championship "something you really can't compare." No truer words were ever spoken.

There's nothing to compare with beating St. Francis because there's nothing to compare with the record the Knights compiled by winning the district crown for the previous 42 consecutive seasons. It is a standard of domination unequaled by any high school team in any sport at any time or any place.

"It's an incredible legacy that will always be remembered, regardless of winning or losing this year," Knights coach Keith Kennedy said yesterday while preparing six swimmers for the upcoming state meet, which St. Francis has won four times.

So, congrats to the Titans of St. John's. But a big tip of the hat to St. Francis and four decades of champion swimmers, and to coaches like Ron Balatore, Butch Graves, Tom Wolff, Ann Urschel, Chris Wolford and Kennedy, who presided for so long over something so special.



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