It’s a shame to be writing about the Kelvin Sampson era the day after IU Coach Tom Crean and his team seemed to put all that behind the school.
But just after Crean’s team secured sole rights to call itself Big Ten champion at Michigan on Sunday, and exorcised the remaining demons left by Sampson and his staff, Crean—for some unknown reason—conjured the ghost of IU’s ugly past.
After the emotional 72-71 victory at Crisler Center, Crean charged toward Michigan assistant coach Jeff Meyer and shouted, “You know what you did. You helped wreck our program.”
Meyer was an assistant under Sampson and was implicated in the violations, which consisted of Sampson making too many phone calls to recruits and then lying about it. Meyer made a public mea culpa in 2008, apologizing to Indiana University for his part in the violations. In his written statement, however, Meyer said his involvement was “limited.”
Maybe that caveat stuck in Crean’s craw. I’m not quite sure how Crean would have much insight into the matter considering that he was in Milwaukee at the time.
But even if Crean does have inside information, and even if he has a legitimate ax to grind, why not handle the matter in private? Certainly Crean and Meyer have many occasions to bump into one another during the year—and away from the television cameras and microphones.
If not, I’m fairly certain phone lines connect Bloomington to Ann Arbor. Or if e-mail is your thing, there’s that.
Those much closer to the scrum than I on Sunday reported that Meyer said something very nasty to IU officials in the post-game handshake line. But Crean has often counseled his players that they have to keep their composure in the heat of competition and in the face of such things as trash talk. Crean has to set the tone.
During a Monday morning media teleconference, Crean apologized for the postgame dust-up. He said he called Meyer later Sunday to apologize for addressing the matter in the way that he did.
It's a great step that Crean realized the error of his ways. But the apology won't erase all the damage he did. He took the spotlight off his team—and few teams and players deserve the spotlight more than this one—and put it on a former team and coaches that most involved with the school would like to forget.
Everybody involved with IU knows the type of program Sampson and his assistants ran. No one needs Crean to remind them.
Sunday’s postgame display looked like poor sportsmanship. Crean looked for a moment—at least in the WRTV-TV Channel 6 video clip that went viral—like a bully rubbing salt in the wound of an opponent. It was a bad time to make the point and it was certainly done in bad taste.
Crean is beloved in part because he has remained above such nonsense. This is a guy who tweets about his spirituality. He rarely berates his players in front of TV cameras the way so many other college coaches do. This is a guy who appears most of the time to have the school and student-athletes’ best interest at heart. He wins with class.
There’s a saying in sports that when you’ve had a good season and you’re approaching a championship run, go with what got you here.
Crean would do well to do the same.