Just as I started this blog, and began to get excited again about IU basketball, the coach of the Indiana Hoosiers, Kelvin Sampson, was discovered to have betrayed the trust that Hoosier Nation placed in him. Never in my life as a fan of sports have been more ashamed and disappointed in an individual in sports. As a fan, I have always taken pride in the integrity of the programs that I love.
Notre Dame is, in my mind, the pinnacle of collegiate athletics. Their viewpoint on collegiate athletics was summed up in the following quote from former President Theodore Hesburgh:
There is no academic virtue in playing mediocre football and no academic vice in winning a game that by all odds one should lose. ... There has been a surrender at Notre Dame, but it is a surrender to excellence on all fronts, and in this we hope to rise above ourselves with the help of God.
This commitment to excellence has been the cornerstone of the cleanest and winningest program in the history of college football.
As an alumnus and fan of Indiana University, I also took pride in their commitment to this same kind of excellence. Say what you will about Bobby Knight, but he always ran a clean program at Indiana. And when his behavior violated the standards that Indiana had set for him, they had the courage to fire a hall-of-fame coach who was revered in the state.
But the hiring of Kelvin Sampson was a disgrace to the University. Hiring a coach who had already violated NCAA rules, with only a promise that he would never do it again. I was upset at the hiring, but I tried to give Sampson the benefit of the doubt. When he violated NCAA guidelines again, he robbed the Hoosier Nation of their best chance in decades to contend for a national championship.
I stopped blogging about Indiana basketball as a protest of sorts (weak as it was, as I had probably one reader at the time - thanks, Mom). But I couldn't in good faith promote a program that had cheated.
With today's press conference announcing the hiring of Coach Crean, formerly of Marquette, I am willing now to forgive the program and the athletic director that hired Sampson in the first place. But I, much like the rest of the country, will never forget. This hire, worthy as it was, was the hire they should have made a couple years ago.
Coach Crean is as forthright and ethical a coach as there is in the game, and he's no slouch when it comes to coaching them up on the hardwood as well. He is a Big Ten product, having coached under Tom Izzo (and had been widely believed to be waiting in the wings as Izzo's eventual replacement). He has a respect and understanding for the tradition and history of Indiana basketball.
And, for the first time in a long while, I am proud to say on this day that I am a proud supporter of the Indiana basketball program.
Welcome to the Hoosier State, Coach Crean.