Monday, August 31, 2009

Coach Bobby Knight Should Tell Indiana to Kiss His Backside

Really, where was the loyalty?
A little over a week ago, Indiana University announced it would be inducting Bob Knight into its Hall of Fame. In the nine days since then, there has been no shortage of discussion around the state of Indiana, message boards, newspapers and local talk radio. Normally, the induction of someone with Knight's accolades wouldn't cause such a stir. He won three national championships, 12 Big Ten titles and went to the Final Four fives times in 29 seasons at Indiana. He's currently the winningest coach in Division-I history.

But that doesn't tell the whole story, of course.

Everyone who follows college basketball knows the general story of Knight's ugly divorce from Indiana, as he was dismissed by then-President Myles Brand in September of 2000. Since then, Knight has refused to acknowledge anything about Indiana University or his time there in any public forum. Thus, it's pretty easy to see why there is such a debate on whether or not he'll attend his own induction.

Who stood up to Myles Brand? Who stood up and said that Coach Knight should have stayed at Indiana? The fans certainly did. But did the University officials, who will benefit from any appearance by Coach Knight, stand up for him? Or were they rolled by the ESPN-fed shark frenzy that created a tsunami of phony outrage? I can guarantee you that if ESPN were running stories, quotes, and recurring highlight reels critical of a Coach Knight appearance, they would be hiding like terrified bunnies under their well-appointed desks.

Who will point out that Brand's tenure as head of the NCAA has allowed programs, coaches, schools, and amateur athletics to run wild and commit offenses far worse than anything Coach Knight could have ever cooked up on his own? You have schools being forced to give up wins. Okay, that's great. Why are they still playing? There used to be a thing called "the death penalty." How about we have one for Indiana, Kentucky, Memphis, UConn, and whoever else has been running fast and loose with the rules?

Do you know why Coach Knight should laugh in the face of Indiana University? Because that great disciplinarian, Myles Brand, allows Rick Pitino, John Calipari, Bob Huggins, and a host of others to continue coaching in his vaunted NCAA. Because Brand allows college football programs to continue to run wild and get away with all but murder.

I'll let Dr. Boyce D. Watkins explain why Coach Knight was never the problem, but was, to put it mildly, a rare and unique example of how the NCAA is supposed to work:
...I believe that Myles Brand, in spite of the propaganda exercise performed by he and CBS Sports last year (in an attempt to refute my analysis), knows that he would never allow himself or his coaches to operate under the same constraints, penalties and exploitation placed on athletes and their families (especially if his mother were getting evicted, as many of these players come from poverty). In fact, I found it quite ironic that nearly every participant in the CBS sports special was earning at least a few hundred thousand dollars per year while simultaneously explaining to athletes and their families why they shouldn’t get any of that money.

Beyond paying the athletes, I would make a decision: either the NCAA is going to be a professional organization or an amateur one. It’s not going to be a hybrid. A truly amateur organization doesn’t have coaches earning as much as $4M dollars per year. Coaches earn no more than, say, $80,000 per year.

-- An amateur organization doesn’t fire losing coaches with high graduation rates and reward winning coaches with low graduation rates -- any coach hired by the NCAA is expected to not only teach at the university, he/she is expected to ensure that academic achievement is first and foremost in the life of each athlete.

-- The rules should disappear: why can’t players transfer to other schools without being penalized? Coaches leave in the middle of the season all the time. Why is it illegal for athletes to receive compensation from outside entities? Coaches take money from whomever they please. Athletes are given the same responsibilities as adults, told to behave as adults, yet we put rules in place that treat them like children. Again, anyone who exploits another human being, whether it’s the NCAA or a corrupt warlord in a third world country, is going to place constraints on you and then guise his/her motivations by claiming that the rules are in place for your protection. That is the consistent theme of the NCAA’s justification for controlling their student athletes. But their desire to protect the athlete goes out the window when an athlete gets into trouble, loses his/her eligibility or loses his/her scholarship for not being able to perform on the field.

-- The NCAA needs to redefine its mission and be honest with the world. Right now, it is an elephant with bunny ears, swearing that it’s nothing but a harmless little rabbit. The truth is that the NCAA is exactly what it appears to be: a professional sports league. So, rather than allowing me to become the head of the NCAA, I would rather be the head of the House Ways and Means Committee, which initiated an investigation into the NCAA and began to question its non-profit status. A bureaucratic beast that has grown so deformed with contradictions needs to be deconstructed and rebuilt in a model of fairness. As it stands, the NCAA exists in stark contrast to the values most of us embrace as Americans. I’ve seen it up close over the past 15 years and it bothers the heck out of me.

Coach Knight graduated student athletes, kept his program clean, played by the rules, and got run out of Indiana for nothing but political correctness and for being everything the Myles Brand detested in a coach--a competent educator and disciplinarian who could teach, mold young men into something, and blast the ridiculously incompetent and narrow-minded sports media establishment while enjoying the hell out of himself.

Coach Knight, tell them to kiss your ass.

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