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Tuesday, May 30, 2006
Fired Lopes treated differently than IU's Sampson

By Andy Katz
ESPN.com

So Kelvin Sampson got a one-year ban on making phone calls to recruits and cannot recruit off campus for his role in making extra phone calls to recruits while at Oklahoma. Sampson made 233 of the 577 impermissible calls made by the Sooners' staff.

His top assistant at Oklahoma, at least at the time of the initial violations, was Ray Lopes. Lopes then continued the practice of making impermissible phone calls as a head coach at Fresno State. He made a total of 457 impermissable calls over a two-plus-year period (which includes time at Oklahoma, as well).

Sure, Lopes made twice as many calls, but what was his punishment? He was handed a three-year show-cause penalty (that started when he was terminated at Fresno State) and is out of work. His attorney, Toby Baldwin, has already been quoted in the local media saying he would like to appeal the penalty.

On the surface, it appears to be an inequity. Sampson didn't get a show-cause penalty and his new school, Indiana, only has to show up at a show-cause hearing if it wants to challenge the sanctions handed down, which it doesn't.

Colonial Athletic Association commissioner Tom Yeager, who was the acting chair of the infractions committee for the Sampson case, said Tuesday that there was logic behind the differentiation. He said that if Sampson and Lopes were both employed or unemployed, the penalties likely would have been the same.

"When it's one in each category, it looks like a different deal, but with Kelvin employed, there are activities that can be directly impacted right now," Yeager said. "If Ray were to get a job, then he might face similar sanctions, but the difference is that once [the three years is up], then he's done."

If Lopes were hired during his three-year show-cause, the employing institution would have to go in front of an infractions committee to discuss what sanctions should or could be placed on him. Lopes has been actively trying to get a job. He made an attempt to join Pittsburgh's staff, but to no avail.

"To sit and say that he got three years and the head coach got one year is apples and oranges," Yeager said. "If Kelvin were out of work, it could have been the same, and if Ray was at some place he might have gotten what Kelvin did. That's where the distinction lies. It's all based on whether or not you're currently employed at an NCAA institution.

"The big difference is that Ray Lopes is working as an NBA scout right now. If Ray is in the NBA for another two years [as a year of the penalty has already elapsed], then he comes back in with no impact on his employment. But with a current employee like Kelvin, there is a direct restriction on his activity for a period of time right now.

"If all you're looking at is three years versus one year, [then] yes, it looks like Ray Lopes got a much worse deal, but he's beyond the reach of the NCAA."

Meanwhile, Sampson's presence as one of the chairs at the National Association of Basketball Coaches ethics summit in Chicago in 2003 has prompted an angry response from one head coach in the West.

The coach, who didn't leave his name on the voicemail at NABC director Jim Haney's office and preferred to stay anonymous with ESPN.com, said he was furious. The coach essentially said he left a message saying the summit was a joke, that he's done with any ethics meetings, the whole ordeal is a fraud and that all the NABC has done is open it up for people to do what they want to do with the inequities for the haves and have-nots in the coaching profession.

"What kind of message has been sent here?" the coach said. "Why aren't other people standing up and saying something? Most coaches would be fired for this. Look, I like Kelvin and know him well but this isn't right."

The coach also said the NABC should publicly censure Sampson.

Haney said the ethics committee, which associate director Reggie Minton chairs, would likely look into this issue. Minton was in Kuwait (along with Sampson) the past week as part of Operation Hardwood II and could address it when he returns. Haney said one of the provisions as part of the ethics summit was to ensure that a head coach is held accountable for his assistant coaches. He said that legislation has passed.

Regardless, the events surrounding Sampson caused Haney to say, "No question that it stings. I feel it."

Whether or not the irate coach is willing to go public soon is uncertain. He said he wants to work in the field for the next 10 years and doesn't want to be blacklisted. Still, he said he felt it was unfair the way Lopes was treated in comparison to Sampson.

Haney said, "We all screw up. Obviously the fact that Kelvin was president and helped put the summit together and welcoming as the president, it certainly reflects more poorly on him than it does specific on the importance of conducting ourselves in what we do the right way.

"It only underscores that it's a work in progress. Just because you have a meeting doesn't mean it reaches the destination.

"This is a process [that we have] to stand for and a conduct that we want to achieve, and I wish I could say that there won't be any violations, but that's na´ve and it's not going to happen."

Andy Katz is a senior writer for ESPN.com