Posted April 22nd, 2006 by Brian
Filed under: Basketball

It looks like the [tag]Oklahoma[/tag] Sooner basketball program is about to be hit with some serious NCAA sanctions for their many infractions dealing with various recruiting violations. The NCAA isn’t exactly an observant organization, but 550 illegal phone calls is sure to draw some interest:

OU broke rules recruiting James

By Berry Tramel
The Oklahoman

We don’t know what the NCAA’s infractions committee asked the Oklahoma basketball brigade Friday. The door to the principal’s office was closed.

But here’s what the NCAA jurists should have asked everyone wearing Sooner lapels: Explain why Damion James should be eligible to play for your school.

OU was in Park City, Utah, on Friday not because of a misunderstanding. Not because of a gray area in the rules. Not because they kept missing recruits on the phone and piled up too many calls.

OU was in Park City, Utah, because it cheated. Kelvin Sampson and his staff broke the rules.

Not a few times. Many times.

Not by accident. Purposely and unquestionably.

Not insignificantly. Significantly.

OU basketball broke the rules and profited, most recently in the form of James, the 6-foot-8 schoolboy star from Nacogdoches, Texas. Transcripts of the NCAA’s investigation show that Sooner coaches began calling James during his junior season.

You can’t call juniors. Not from a box and not with a fox. Not in a house and not with a mouse. You cannot call them here or there, you cannot call them anywhere.

If you call a junior, it had better be to tell him his house is on fire. Otherwise, it’s cheating. Flagrant, blatant cheating. No less cheating than if you handed him $20,000 in cash.

The NCAA found OU guilty of more than 550 impermissible phone calls, including 98 to juniors, over the last several years.

We don’t know who all the recipients were, but we know James was among them.

So how can the NCAA’s enforcement wing possibly allow James to play for the Sooners? Is James not ill-gotten gain?

Every coach in America will tell you that recruiting is about relationships. Building relationships. Nurturing relationships.

How could it possibly not have been a major advantage for OU to be quick on the draw with James? The Sooners jumped the gun and, just like their namesakes in 1889, reaped the bounty.

How can the NCAA pretend to be serious about rules when it asks Texas and Kansas and OSU to compete the next few years against a Sooner team that has James on the roster?

And Sampson’s departure for Indiana should cut OU no slack, for the same reasoning that holds recruits to their letters of intent (ala Scottie Reynolds) even when a coach leaves. Sometimes it’s hard to remember, with the crazy system college basketball has constructed, but the program and the school are bigger than the coach.

In the NCAA transcripts, OU coaches talk of how they thought the phone calls were just a way to outwork opponents. Sampson talks about who turned OU in.

That doesn’t sound like a lesson learned.

None of this is fair to new Sooner coach Jeff Capel. But no one in crimson is in position to talk about fair. And Capel took this job with eyes wide open.

It’s also not fair to James. He was just a kid – a junior, remember – answering the phone. But if the NCAA ruled James ineligible at OU, he would have options and plenty of them (see Reynolds).

And cheating will have gone unrewarded.

I can’t imagine that Kelvin Sampson will escape this without some sort of penalty. He was the one directly responsible for the cheating, he doesn’t deserve to escape punishment just because he skipped town for Indiana. He and his new team should receive equal punishment and Indiana should immediately show him the door. The Hoosiers had to know this was going down, what a terrible hire.

The interesting part of all this for Longhorn fans is that [tag]Damion James[/tag] is an elite small forward who will probably looking for a new school attend soon. The 5-star out of Nacogdoches had Texas on his list of schools before he committed to OU last year and would certainly get a good look from James if he does in fact decide to ask out of his letter of intent. He and Kevin Durant both are best suited for the 3 but could split time at that position and the power forward slot and give the Horns a ridiculously long and athletic team. With LaMarcus Aldridge off to the NBA, PJ Tucker possibly following him, and Craig Winder a transfer possibility, Texas probably would have a scholarship available for Jones if he’s interested.


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