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Sampson told OU athletic director Joe Castiglione of his plans and met with the Sooner team Tuesday afternoon.
Sampson replaces Mike Davis, who took over for Hall of Fame coach Bob Knight in 2000.
"I was caught by surprise a little bit," said Taylor Griffin, a freshman forward for the Sooners. "He made the decision. I guess it's better for the program. I guess it's better for him."
Negotiations with Sampson heated up in the past week as the Hoosiers zeroed in on him after making overtures through a search committee to Gonzaga's Mark Few and Memphis' John Calipari.
The hiring of Sampson means the Hoosiers will break away completely from the Bob Knight era, instead of looking at former Hoosiers Steve Alford of Iowa or Orlando Magic assistant Randy Wittman.
Ironically, Oklahoma and Sampson lost to Davis (and Indiana) in his only trip to the Final Four in 2002.
Stephanie Gilbert, who help raised nephew A.J. Ratliff in Indianapolis, told the Associated Press the Hoosiers' sophomore guard called her Tuesday to discuss the change. Gilbert also said it was likely Ratliff would stay at Indiana.
"He's looking forward to meeting him and getting to know him," Gilbert said. "He seems pretty happy."
Ratliff initially declined to comment to AP, denying that a team meeting was held. Later, he appeared to confirm Sampson's hiring to television crews in Bloomington."He's shown that he's a good coach by what he's done at Oklahoma," Ratliff said. "You've got to give him a chance. He's shown that he can win at Oklahoma, so I think he can come here and do the same." Two other key Indiana players had said after Davis resigned that they were apt to transfer: D.J. White, the 2005 Big Ten freshman of the year, and Robert Vaden. Gilbert said Sampson's hiring could change their minds. "Once they meet with him, they'll probably need to see," Gilbert said. "I think, from the looks of it, they have a pretty good coach on their hands."
Sampson's family was being flown to Indiana, including his daughter, who works at the College of Charleston.
Sampson was 279-109 during 12 season at Oklahoma. The Sooners advanced to the NCAA Tournament 11 times, including the third-place finish in 2002 and an Elite Eight trip in 2003.
Oklahoma lost to Wisconsin-Milwaukee in the first round of this year's NCAA tournament.
He has also coached at Washington State and Montana Tech.
Sampson's hiring comes while Oklahoma is waiting to hear from the NCAA on a potential April infractions hearing involving excessive phone calls. The university said in January that from April 2000 to September 2004, members of the men's basketball program made impermissible calls to 17 prospects and made three impermissible in-person contacts with recruits, improperly giving a T-shirt to a recruit and a parent.
The NCAA also said Sampson failed to monitor the staff's phone calls to recruits during this time. The university self-imposed a two-year probation from July 1, 2005 to July 1, 2007; reduced scholarships from 13 to 11 for 2005-06 and 13 to 12 from 2006-07; reduced the number of phone calls coaches could make to recruits; limited off-campus recruiting from July 2005 through the 2006-07 academic year; cut paid visits down from 12 to nine for this past season; froze Sampson's salary increases and postseason bonuses for a two-year period.
According to NCAA rules, if penalties are imposed by the committee of infractions on a coach that are over and above what the institution already has self-imposed, then the new school (Indiana) would have to impose those penalties or else Sampson would have to appear before the committee and show cause why the school shouldn't be required to do so.
NCAA spokesman Erik Christiansen said it's up to the committee on infractions to determine whether any penalties would follow Sampson to Indiana."It's all dependent on what the sanctions are, the severity of the bylaw violations and ultimately it's up to them," Christiansen said.
Oklahoma now must wait for the April hearing to see if any additional sanctions apply to the school. Yet, despite Sampson being barred from July recruiting, he signed one of the top recruiting classes in the country in November.
Sampson is respected as a hard-nosed, defense and rebounding-oriented coach and a tireless recruiter. He's a former president of the National Association of Basketball Coaches. He also led USA Basketball to the gold medal in Halifax, Nova Scotia in the U-21 championships in the summer of 2005.
Sampson replaces Davis, who led the Hoosiers to the national title game in 2002, the NCAA Tournament in 2001 and 2003 and then again this season, losing to Gonzaga in the second round.
Oklahoma's search for a Sampson replacement has no natural favorite.
Andy Katz is a senior writer at ESPN.com. Information from The Associated Press was used in this report.