Hoosiers consider options with Sampson, but could face big payout Print
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Friday, 15 February 2008 07:05
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 INDIANAPOLIS (AP) -With students and alumni demanding the ouster of coach Kelvin Sampson, Indiana University will begin an investigation into the NCAA's accusations of recruiting violations.
School president Michael McRobbie was to address the allegations publicly for the first time Friday at a 3 p.m. EST news conference.
When Sampson was accused Wednesday of five major NCAA infractions, it set off widespread debate over what the university should do and whether Sampson should continue coaching at Indiana, which hasn't had a major NCAA rules violation in nearly half a century.
The NCAA released a report Wednesday that said Sampson and his staff violated telephone recruiting restrictions imposed because of his previous violations at Oklahoma, then lied about it to the school and NCAA investigators.
as some difficult decisions, including whether firing Sampson would reduce potential NCAA penalties that could include a postseason ban.
``The thing I'm disappointed with is that the allegations have come out, and I feel we have to react in some way that's in the best interests of the team and the best interests of the university,'' trustee Philip Eskew Jr. said. ``I think there are options.''
Another factor is money. The university has spent the past decade paying millions of dollars to fired coaches and athletic directors.
According to the contract signed in April 2006, Indiana pays Sampson an annual base salary of $500,000. With five years left on the deal, the cost could reach at least $2.5 million.
Sampson's deal includes termination clauses for violations of university or NCAA rules that eliminate the payments. Attorneys, however, have differing views on whether the accusations, which include providing false or misleading information to investigators, would allow Indiana to fire Sampson with cause and get off the financial hook.
Athletic director Rick Greenspan acknowledged Wednesday these are only allegations since the NCAA has not yet made a ruling, and the distinction could be important.
a who works in contractual law. ``That's the issue. I'm sure that's what they're meeting about today.''
The university has until May 8 to respond to the NCAA report. Sampson and university officials are scheduled to appear before the infractions committee June 14, with a final ruling expected within a month.
University spokesman Larry MacIntyre confirmed Thursday that McRobbie was still consulting with the school's lawyers, trustees and administrators. MacIntyre would not provide details on those discussions but acknowledged both sides have to abide by the rules set forth in the contract.
MacIntyre said Dorothy Frapwell, the university's counsel, declined to discuss Sampson's contract.
Milton Thompson, also an Indianapolis attorney, believes there's another caveat.
While he contends Indiana's report and Sampson's acceptance of the school's penalties in October amount to an admission of significant and repetitive violations, the coach may still have legal protection because he wasn't fired four months ago.
``There can always be a liability issue,'' Thompson said. ``If they accepted the sanctions and didn't fire him then, that may be an area he could pursue.''
Other potential clauses that could absolve the university of a hefty payout include those for moral turpitude and conduct seriously prejudicial to the university.
Both attorneys believe they are broad enough provisions that the university could use either one to make its case for firing Sampson with cause.
But even that can be tricky.
``In my opinion, yes, his conduct has been prejudicial to the university,'' said Backer, who was against Sampson's hiring from the start. ``But the provision says it has to be seriously prejudicial, and the question is has it risen to the level of being seriously prejudicial?''
When Sampson was hired by Indiana two years ago, he was already facing NCAA allegations of improper recruiting phone calls at Oklahoma. That ended with Sampson and the program being sanctioned by the NCAA.
 

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