August 29, 2011
Buried in the fourth paragraph of an otherwise mundane Associated Press story about Oklahoma's alumni game on Saturday was by far the most interesting detail about the event.
The coach of one of the alumni teams was Kelvin Sampson, now in year three of a five-year show-cause penalty for committing major infractions at Oklahoma and Indiana. The coach of the other team was Dave Bliss, now in year six of a 10-year show-cause penalty stemming from his attempt to cover up violations he committed by defaming the character of a Baylor player murdered during his tenure as the school's coach.
Inviting either of these scandal-tainted ex-Sooners coaches to participate in an alumni game is certainly a far cry from trying to hire either back on staff, but the message it sends still isn't wise. The mere fact Oklahoma had no qualms about asking either of them to return to campus fuels the perception that the Sooners aren't committed enough to being vigilant about who's associating with their players.
The timing of Sampson's and Bliss' return is especially poor since Oklahoma basketball is still on probation from a previous case involving Sampson and has another case pending with the NCAA.
Oklahoma has asked the NCAA to place its basketball program on two years probation, to revoke a scholarship and to vacate all wins from the 2009-10 season due to violations committed during the recruitment of former Sooner Tiny Gallon. The NCAA will determine in the coming months whether those penalties are sufficient or whether Oklahoma deserves harsher sanctions.
Even dismissing the potential NCAA implications, any school that chooses to associate with Bliss is exhibiting poor judgment. Yes, Bliss has expressed remorse for his past transgressions and is coaching again at a Texas high school, but it would probably be best for everyone if he's no longer involved with college basketball in any capacity.
(Thanks, Bryan Fischer)