Okay, so you've seen the well-researched ESPN.com report on Indiana, basketball recruiting, the Bloomington based nonprofit organization called African Hoop Opportunities Providing an Education (A-HOPE), super-recruit Hanner Perea, paid-for trips, cell phone and laptop, and have had a Kelvin Sampson flashback.
Suddenly after three years of misery and rebuilding, when everything seems ready to fall into place so the Hoosiers can return to postseason basketball relevance, comes an investigative piece that suggests Perea, the highest rated of IU’s top-rated 2012 recruiting class, received illegal benefits from A-HOPE and his Indiana Elite travel team coach, Mark Adams.
Specifically ESPN reported that those benefits might mean NCAA rules regarding preferential treatment and extra benefits were broken. The key word is "might" because A-HOPE is a non-profit organization and the NCAA is still formulating rules regarding that kind of entity. A-HOPE provides such benefits for all its players.
Could that mean the 6-9 Perea will never play for IU? Are the Hoosiers about to return to NCAA infamy? And what about the connection with Drew Adams, Mark’s son and the Hoosiers’ former director of basketball operations, and the entire connection between the Indiana program, A-HOPE, Indiana Elite and even adidas (which supplies shoes and apparel to IU and Indiana Elite)?
Keep this thought in mind -- Julie Cromer is very good at what she does.
And another one -– Tom Crean is way too smart to jeopardize three years of hard work.
Still, questions have been asked and the NCAA could get involved.
First, Julie Cromer is IU’s senior associate athletics director for compliance. She was hired from the NCAA to make sure IU follows all the rules. Because there are almost as many rules as there are stars in the universe, this is a complex task. Cromer is up to it. So is her beefed up compliance staff.
Anyway, nothing in the ESPN story suggests that Indiana did anything wrong. It does, however, question the hiring of Drew Adams. He recently left to join the New Mexico program and former IU All-America Steve Alford, and the article, written by Mike Fish, suggests that move had a darker reason, that Adams fled because of the questions about his hiring and involvement with Indiana Elite.
That seems extremely unlikely.
The implication was that Crean hired Drew Adams, who had done some coaching with Indiana Elite, to help form a pipeline between Indiana Elite and the Hoosiers. For instance, all five members of IU’s Class of 2012 -- Yogi Ferrell, Ron Patterson, Perea, Peter Jurkin and Jeremy Hollowell -- play for Indiana Elite. Two players in the Class of 2011, Cody Zeller and Austin Etherington, are from Indiana Elite.
Crean also brought in Kory Barnett as a walk-on player. Barnett is the son of Mike Barnett, who is on Indiana Elite's board of directors.
To some, that smacks of conspiracy and that IU pushed the boundary of what’s acceptable in recruiting.
Look, Crean hired Adams for a lot of reasons. Was recruiting one of them? Of course. Recruiting is extremely competitive and you have to be aggressive. Recruiting is about relationships and the better your relationship is with a player, the better your chances. If Drew Adams could help, well, other programs have hired AAU and high school coaches in part because of recruiting. That didn’t break any NCAA rule, although the NCAA has since amended things so that teams, if they hire someone with an AAU affiliation, can’t sign players that person coached for two years.
As far as Indiana Elite funneling players to IU, well, it also has sent players to Purdue, Butler, Kentucky, Ohio State, North Carolina, Duke and Michigan.
Specifically, Marshall and Mason Plumlee went to Duke; Tyler Zeller went to North Carolina; Terone Johnson, Patrick Bade, Lewis Jackson and D.J. Byrd went to Purdue; Deandre Liggins went to Kentucky, Erik Frohm went to Butler, and so on.
Still, Crean's recent hot streak with in-state players has attracted attention. Crean and Mark Adams suggested in the ESPN.com story that rival coaches were the driving forces behind the story. Crean mentioned Purdue and Baylor (which was heavily involved in recruiting Perea) as possible sources. Fish wrote that neither school cooperated with the story.
Mark Adams told the Indy Star’s Kyle Neddenriep that he had a conference call with the NCAA and the IU compliance staff about his relationship with Perea and the A-HOPE Foundation, and that everything Adams does is above board. He said he uses much of his own money to run the foundation and does it for humanitarian reasons. He also said his son’s leaving Indiana had nothing to do with A-HOPE and everything to do with a better opportunity.
The NCAA might disagree. In the end, its rules are open to interpretation, and its interpretation is the final word. If it finds fault, there will be consequences. Perhaps Perea will never play for IU. And if there were other things going on in which the Hoosiers were directly involved, well, do we really need to revisit that topic.
Breaking the rules would be out of character for Crean. He prides himself on doing things the right way and succeeding through hard work, not cheating. His career has been based on that.
Of course, in this cynical age of Lance Armstrong and Marion Jones, it’s hard to be sure of anything, but it’s harder to believe IU, Crean and Cromer would be dumb enough to ruin everything they’ve spent so much time and effort building.
They are not dumb.