Tuesday, October 31, 2006

Jay Bilas on Sampson's illegal phone calls

Jay Bilas (IMO the best college basketball analyst in the business) had this to say in a recent Insider article on ESPN previewing the Hoosiers:

The penalties that were levied on Sampson as a result of the phone calls are still being talked about, and my sense is that they will be talked about all season. Here is the final word from me on the phone call rule, and Sampson's violation of that rule:

I have seen much written about the situation, and precious little of it accurate, in my judgment. While I respect any informed opinion on the matter, it seems like too many are too quick to repeat what they have heard or what has been reported rather than to undertake some independent investigation of the matter. Here is what I know: Sampson has been reported to have made 577 impermissible phone calls. What is not reported is that the 577 calls were for Sampson's entire staff, and they were made over a 48-month period. That adds up to 12 phone calls per month, or three phone calls per week for the whole staff. Less than half of those calls (233 over a 48-month period) were made by Sampson himself. That adds up to five extra calls per month, or just over one per week.

Remember, Sampson and his staff recruited dozens of players. Some of these calls were when there was a lack of communication between staff members, some of them were when a cell phone call was dropped and the call was resumed, some of the calls were when the recruit called Sampson and Sampson called back, and some of the calls were from a lack of attention to detail. Instead of sending a text message telling a recruit to call him (which is permissible), Sampson just called the recruit. It was a violation of the rule, and that is not to be taken lightly, but it was not the sinister plot it is made out to be. This is not to excuse the violation of the rule, but to explain it.

My point is this: These phone calls were not part of some evil effort to cheat. Those who want to cheat the phone call rule will never be caught because they use a cell phone that is not in their name, or phone cards that are not traceable. If the NCAA looked into any program, it is likely that a violation of the phone call rule would be found, perhaps just in lesser numbers. This was a minor violation that has been overblown. The way the NCAA handled this matter had less to do with the violation of the rule than with how Sampson and Oklahoma responded to the matter. Instead of dropping to their knees and giving the NCAA a tearful mea culpa, Sampson defended himself. That is a no-no in NCAA territory, and the Association hit him hard for it. This is not the last time you will hear of this rule; others have violated it, and we will see whether those cases are handled in a similar fashion.

Interesting take from a guy whose opinion I respect -- and who certainly doesn't have a history of looking the other way when he thinks something unethical is going on.

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