NCAA report on Senderoff raises many questions Print E-mail
Monday, December 01 2008
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ImageWhen the NCAA released its findings in the Kelvin Sampson-Indiana case, I was shocked at the harsh language contained in the report towards former Sampson assistant, and current Kent State assistant, Rob Senderoff.

Basically, the NCAA says that Senderoff lied to them -- and says it three different times!

Since Senderoff was never charged with lying to the NCAA, his attorney Scott Tompsett, is fighting to get those passages removed from the report. This comes after Tompsett's request that the NCAA remove the passages prior to the release of the report to the public was ignored. The hope is that by getting the passages removed, some of the penalty imposed on Senderoff might be reduced. Senderoff was hit with a three year show-cause penalty that includes a one-year ban on any and all recruiting activities.

"Once I finally read and understood what they were saying -- that he lied during the course of the investigation and they based their penalty on it -- I was astonished," Tompsett said. "That was never part of any discussion. It was nothing that was ever alleged, that we had ever prepared a defense to.

"Not only did they not accuse Rob of lying, the enforcement staff told us at the end of the investigation that they appreciated how much Rob had cooperated with them and appreciated his truthfulness," Tompsett told

Tompsett has 17 years experience representing schools and coaches in NCAA infractions cases, so Senderoff's case is in capable hands.
Current KSU assistant coach Rob Senderoff (above middle) during his brief stint as an assistant at Indiana.
Kent State's athletic director Laing Kennedy has kept his word about keeping Senderoff on even if the NCAA ruled against him. Kennedy sees Senderoff as a young coach with both character and talent that got caught up in the Sampson stained environment at Indiana. Both Kennedy and new coach Geno Ford basically saved Senderoff's career by hiring him mere months before the NCAA ruled against him. Of course, Senderoff had built a trustworthy relationship with both men throughout his previous term at Kent State.

The NCAA has never been a bastion of truth. Think back to Jerry Tarkanian's career and what comes to mind for most basketball followers? That Tark was a cheater who went out of his way to get every school he ever coached put on probation. Nobody seems to remember that the NCAA had to pay Tark the Shark a record settlement of $2.5 million when it became apparent that their strategy of hounding him at every stop -- mostly because he was critical of them in newspaper columns he wrote in 1972 -- was on its way to being proven as harassment. When the NCAA's scheme to do anything to keep the case out of a courtroom was about to end, they folded like a cheap suit.

So Tompsett's quotes about them never even alleging that Senderoff was untruthful, and in fact praising him for his honesty, before hammering him in their report, come as no surprise. The NCAA has almost all the power in these cases and it sometimes wields that power without any regard for those it might harm unfairly.

Look, I'm not foolish enough to believe that Tark -- or Senderoff for that matter -- were always angels. Recruiting is a tough business often played out on a gray, murky landscape most of us would just prefer to not know about.

Many coaches have prepaid/anonymous cell phones on which they make extra calls everyday, something Senderoff's attorney points out in the argument for his client's honesty. I am, however, intelligent enough to question ANYTHING the NCAA claims when it comes to the investigations it conducts.

Senderoff made a jump up the coaching ladder that every assistant in the MAC would give their left pinkie for. That jump was orchestrated, ironically enough, by current Indiana coach Tom Crean, who recommended Senderoff to then-close-friend Kelvin Sampson. Depending on who you believe, that jump was wasted when Senderoff: A) followed the orders of a serial cheater pressuring a young assistant with a previously clean record or; B) cut corners in such a haphazard way that he deserved whatever he got. The truth, as always, is probably somewhere in the middle.

Rob Senderoff still has a job, plus a skilled attorney trying to fight for his once sparkling reputation.

For that, he can be thankful.

College hoops insider Ray Mernagh is the basketball contributing editor/writer for The Pittsburgh Sports Report, a writer for the Basketball Times and author of "1 Chance to Dance: A Season inside Mid-Major Hoops in Mid-America." Mernagh will be contributing a weekly column to MAC Report Online and is also the publisher of
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