Seven Years Later, Indiana in Free Fall Once Again

Posted by Alex Moscoso (@AlexPMoscoso) on November 4th, 2014

A little less than seven years ago, Indiana basketball was in free fall after head coach Kelvin Sampson admitted to numerous NCAA violations stemming from extra phone calls to recruits. We would learn soon afterward that not only was the coaching staff behaving inappropriately, but that there was rampant drug use among the players and some of them had altogether stopped attending classes. The last few days in Bloomington have felt eerily similar. First, news broke over the weekend about a car accident involving two Indiana basketball players, sophomore Devin Davis and freshman Emmitt Holt. According to details from the crash report, Holt hit Davis with his car after dropping him off when Davis unexpectedly entered the roadway. Both players are under the age of 21 and had been drinking, but only Holt was cited for illegal consumption of alcohol after registering a blood alcohol content of 0.021. Meanwhile, Davis is still in the hospital with a fractured skull. On Monday afternoon, ESPN’s Jeff Goodman reported that two more Hoosiers — sophomores Troy Williams and Stanford Robinson — have been suspended by the school for failed drug tests. For Tom Crean’s program, these most recent events total four off-the-court incidents involving almost half of his roster since February.

If it wasn't the case before, after this weekend it is apparent, Tom Crean is fighting for his job. (Getty)

If it wasn’t apparent before, it’s pretty clear after this weekend: Tom Crean is fighting for his job. (Getty)

With the spate of recent off-the-court incidents combined with questionable on-court finishes the last couple of seasons, Crean’s future in Bloomington is in serious question. The blowback from these events reached a tipping point in the media yesterday. First, Indianapolis Star’s sports columnist Gregg Doyel stated that the Indiana administration should explore releasing its head coach if another incident occurs. Dan Dakich, the interim head coach at Indiana before Crean, expressed even more indignant frustration across his Indianapolis-based radio program’s airwaves. Dakich was upset by the lack of institutional control apparent, stating, “These guys decide it’s more important to go out drinking than prepare for a scrimmage and compete for a job. Indiana basketball stands for nothing. Absolutely nothing.” And this was all before the Williams/Robinson news broke out. (Doyel has since said that Crean can’t survive). Finally, as if his day wasn’t stress-filled enough, the Indiana head coach had to fend off the anger on his weekly Monday night radio show. When a caller said he blamed the head coach for all the recent transgressions, he responded, “You’re more than welcome to put it on me.”

Here’s the issue for Crean: He was brought in to to rebuild the program and clean up the mess Sampson left behind. During his early on-court struggles, Crean pointed to the disarray he was left with to plead for patience. To their credit, Indiana fans waited four long seasons until their team made another NCAA Tournament in 2012. But the Indiana head man has always resented the previous staff for the mess they left him, even going so far as to confront Jeff Meyer, an Indiana assistant under Sampson, telling him he had “wrecked the program” after a game. Now it appears that the program has sunk again, only this time it has happened on Crean’s watch. To be fair, Indiana is not facing the same level of dysfunction the program experienced seven years ago. For one notable thing, there is no hint that the coaching staff has committed any NCAA infractions. That key fact and a $14 million buyout is what will likely save him from termination before the season starts. And while that buyout can be waived if the coach is fired for cause, doing so is a rather high bar to reach (even Sampson was paid some of his buyout after he threatened to sue for being unjustly fired — this was a man with five NCAA violations alleged against him at the time).

In the near future, I’ll disagree with Doyel’s position and argue instead that Indiana fans are stuck with Crean. However, if the season turns into as much of a dumpster fire as the last few days have been; or if more allegations of improper behavior by his players come to light, then Indiana has deep enough pockets to put things in motion to start over again. It is truly a make-or-break season for the embattled head coach in Bloomington.

Alex Moscoso (170 Posts)

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