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I always suspected that former Indiana University star center Kent Benson was the anonymous donor of $500,000 to buy out Kelvin Sampson as IU’s men’s basketball coach five years ago.
IU then hired Tom Crean, someone Benson reportedly heartily approved of.
It took Crean a while to rebuild IU’s program after it was decimated by an NCAA probation resulting from Sampson’s transgressions.
But since Crean had IU ranked in the nation’s top 10 all last season, I thought if Benson had been the anonymous donor to get rid of Sampson, maybe he would be willing to admit it now.
So when I got a chance to talk to him a few minutes Saturday during the Indiana Class Sports Classic All-Star games that he co-founded, I casually mentioned that I thought maybe he had been the anonymous donor.
“Definitely not,” he said matter of factly. Then he added, “I don’t blame Kelvin Sampson for what happened to IU. I blame every member of the board of trustees and the president and A.D. at the time.”
He did say, though, that he went to the athletic director’s office when there were reports that IU might hire Sampson and told him that Sampson was “someone you shouldn’t even be considering.”
When Sampson was hired, Benson said he went to IU’s athletic office and “turned in my tickets. And I haven’t been back since.
“I’m going back now, though, because the president, AD and board of trustees from then are all gone now.
“Fred Glass (the current IU athletic director) has done a good job restoring the integrity of IU’s athletic program. And not just the basketball program—the baseball team is in the College World Series now.”
Like most IU fans, Benson thought the Hoosiers would go further in last spring’s NCAA basketball tourney than they did, though. “They should have been in the Final Four,” he said.
Benson cares about more than just the IU basketball program for several reasons. One of his daughters, Ashley, was a two-time All-American in volleyball for IU (she made first-team All-America as a senior in 2010 and third-team in 2009, when she became the Hoosiers’ first All-American in that sport).
Kent Benson proudly noted that Ashley now plays volleyball professionally in Germany and has made the U.S. national team, which she hopes will be a stepping stone to making the 2016 U.S. Olympic team.