Posts Tagged Bobby Knight

Knight no longer news for Indiana

For those of you addicted to front-page news stories and television, I just wanted to give you a brief update about some Bloomington area news that might have been overlooked: Mike Davis was hired as the men’s basketball coach.

Yeah, that news has been swept under the covers of the latest scoop about Bob Knight — he has been hired by Texas Tech University, a once highly regarded school.

Based on the news coverage around here, it’s hard to tell we’re in Indiana. At least two of the three major network stations out of Indianapolis bothered to send a reporter 1,000 miles to provide live reports back to those of us here in Indiana telling us about the hiring of Knight at the home of the Red Raiders.

Such obsessive behavior even extended to the Sunday Hoosier Times (the Sunday publication of the Bloomington Herald-Times), in which an exclusive Knight interview from Lubbock, Texas, by Lynn Houser appeared. One can only surmise that this Bloomington-based newspaper will soon be stationing a sports reporter in Lubbock so it can remain the leading source for all Knight news.

Knight has shown a clear and unmistakable pattern of behavior over the years — one that really isn’t worthy of front-page coverage in any newspaper. He’s a jerk, we all know it, and if we did not know it before, it was certainly confirmed in the March issue of Playboy magazine.

The situation is a bit unbelievable: Knight thrives on headlines, and I am sure that he is extremely happy that his hiring in Lubbock has managed to overshadow the hiring of his former assistant here in Bloomington.

So toward this end, I have a special message for the professional journalists around this area: Give it up!

Let’s wipe Knight off the front pages and relegate him to the inside pages of our sports sections — if there at all. For people who truly are obsessed with Knight, they are more than welcome to spend time on the Internet visiting, Sports Illustrated and Texas Tech-related Web sites to learn the latest Knight news.

Meanwhile, there are a few Bloomington news and sports stories worthy of television coverage in Indianapolis. Davis is one, but so is the woman sitting in the tree on the west side of Bloomington who is protesting development.

Or how about contestant No. 3 on the America’s Messiest College Apartments Contest, a senior named “Matt,” who from the pictures seems to like Pizza Express but doesn’t know what a trash can is. (And if you vote for him, he might win $10,000.)

The local newspaper could also show us more detailed photographs of this guy’s apartment (in all fairness, 6News did the story, and it sent chills down my spine when Matt showed us the cheesecake spouting green things). The local newspaper could also redeploy its Knight correspondent in Lubbock to Bloomington and have more coverage of lesser-known IU sports teams, such as women’s crew, women’s water polo or any of the club sports on campus. There is no point in wasting good money sending reporters to Lubbock to cover a man who no longer coaches in this state.

I doubt the local media will pay any attention to my pleas. I suspect I will have to jump over pages of Red Raider coverage over the next year before I can learn about the Hoosiers. It’s sad; the current IU basketball players deserve better.

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Bye, bye Brand

I believe it is time for Myles Brand to step aside and allow IU to seek new leadership. To lead effectively, University presidents must inspire confidence in those whom they are leading — the faculty, staff, alumni and students. Yet many of IU’s stakeholders no longer have confidence in Brand, creating a leadership vacuum that threatens IU to the core. It is time for Brand to go.

I came to this realization during Thanksgiving Break, when I took time to consider Brand’s behavior and the troubles at IU. It is clear he is no longer an effective leader — he is too bogged down in questions and doubts about IU’s rankings and his performance as president.

Let me make a couple of points right off the bat. First, a university does not need to be ranked one of the top institutions in the country to provide its students a top-notch education; in fact, a top ranking for a university might actually be an indicator the school is too interested in research to adequately educate its undergraduates.

Secondly, Brand’s behavior has been reprehensible, but that does not necessarily mean he’s a bad president. Many of our nation’s greatest leaders have not always conducted themselves in desirable manners — take Richard Nixon and Bill Clinton as examples.

What is at issue here is public dialogue, and it has become mired in these two subjects. Many stakeholders have become fixated on IU’s ranking and have chosen Brand as the target of blame. And Brand’s behavior has been so publicized that it is now something that needs to be discussed.

With respect to IU’s rankings: IU has fallen in the rankings, and it has called into question the quality of education provided to students here in Bloomington. Brand set out to defend Bloomington in an Oct. 2 IDS column entitled, “IU education is far from mediocre.” The headline shows Brand is governing ineffectively, and it shows he’s worried. By stepping aside, Brand can allow IU, which is far more important than any one individual, to gain breathing room from the University’s stakeholders with respect to its rankings and allow the University time to fix the problems that do exist.

And problems do exist.

Now, to Brand’s behavior: It is reprehensible. His series of meetings with trustees before firing Bob Knight were violating the spirit, if not the letter, of Indiana’s open meetings law. By having two “informal,” non-voting meetings in a row with groups of four trustees at a time, a strategy designed to skirt the law, Brand signaled he was willing to bend the rules to suit his agenda.

When Brand put Knight under a “zero-tolerance” policy, I think it was designed to eventually fire Knight. But instead of using the zero-tolerance policy as justification, Brand justified Knight’s firing by saying there was a “series” of incidents violating the spirit and the letter of the contract Knight holds with IU.

This indicates a lack of backbone in Brand’s leadership, because zero tolerance means zero tolerance, with no leniency at all. While I think Knight ought to have been fired in May and not September, zero tolerance meant he ought to have been fired the first time there was an incident, not four months later after multiple incidents, when a freshman went on television to tell his story about encountering Knight at Assembly Hall.

This behavior suggests Brand is incapable of doing his job with the confidence of the University’s faculty, staff, alumni and students, as well as taxpayers. All of them will be constantly questioning his motives and stances. As such, he is handicapped as president.

I won’t forgive him for his behavior. Brand’s presidency is tainted with scandal and slipping rankings, and the best thing for him, and for the University, is a fresh start — under new leadership.

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Finding a Common Purpose

If bad things happen in threes, IU is due for another catastrophe.

The University has already lost two prominent men in the year 2000, and neither experience has been pleasant or pretty.

The first catastrophe was the death of a man who meant much to IU — Herman B Wells. Wells defined IU. He built the University from an average state school to a world-class institution known around the world.

The second catastrophe, of course, was the firing of former coach Bob Knight. Knight defined IU to the rest of the world. Without him, it is likely IU would be a world-class school with the low profile of St. Olaf or Dartmouth, unknown outside the state.

Without either of these men, IU would be a vastly different place.

Wells, during his tenure at IU (starting in 1921), built up the University, setting a number of precedents that put IU at the forefront of higher education. As a strong supporter of the School of Music, Wells made a concerted effort to ensure IU had one of the best music schools in the world.

He also made IU a good campus, where students could live and study comfortably. For example, as University president he helped oversee the expansion of the Indiana Memorial Union. In 1957, under Wells’ leadership, the IMU remodeled the bowling alley and the Commons.

Wells also left a strong natural legacy by creating a beautiful campus. He consistently opposed cutting down trees in Dunn Woods and building over the Jordan River.

He made important strides in integrating the campus, putting African Americans and other minorities in the classrooms together with non-minority students. IU was the first University in the Big Ten to have African-American athletes because Wells thought it should be so. If we remember Wells for only one reason, it ought to be this one.

The linkage between Wells and Knight was the library. In five years, IU will no longer have the Main Library, but instead the Herman B Wells Library. It’s a fitting tribute to a man who requested money be donated to “The Herman B Wells Acquisition Fund” for the libraries instead of flowers for his memorial.

Bob Knight supported the libraries as well, making donations each year and by creating “The Bob Knight Library Endowment,” which has more than $1 million.

Ironically, Knight’s firing allowed IU to remove one more major racial barrier at IU. Mike Davis has become IU’s first black head men’s basketball coach. This is a significant step in the integration of the IU campus, and something of which Wells would be proud.

The loss of these two men was bad for the heart and soul of IU, whether you liked either one. One clearly represented the heart and soul of the University to those of us here, while the other represented the vibrant image of the University to the world. One was key in making IU a world-class institution, while the other made sure people all across the United States knew IU existed.

It is important for universities to have somebody or something to rally around or about. Everybody rallied around Wells — I remember telling my friends about the first time I was in the same room with him. Everybody rallied around Knight, debating whether he should be our basketball coach and whether he was good for the University.

To lose both of these prominent men in the same year is an unfortunate thing. It means we are left without our beloved University chancellor and an irascible general.

Right now it appears IU doesn’t really have anything to rally around. In a few months, once the furor over Knight has completely died down, we will have neither of these strong figures. We will be left looking for common ground.

It will be difficult to find: Myles Brand does not endear that same kind of support. Neither does the retiring Kenneth Gros Louis.

There doesn’t appear to be anybody who can fill the role both Knight and Wells performed so well. There are no burning issues for students on this campus to rally around or debate in a meaningful way. One can hardly call the campus parking problem, for example, a burning issue.

Until we can again find that unity in a prominent leader or on a particular issue, the IU community might be a bit aimless in its purpose and direction.

Without that sense of purpose, we are lost.

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Unsettling Bloomington

I was considering writing yet another column about Bobby Knight, when it occurred to me that nearly everybody on the face of the planet has an opinion about the situation, including my mother. And she didn’t know the name Bobby Knight until a few weeks ago. Instead, I am going to write about other Bloomington happenings, which in a more direct and tangible way affects all of us.

I’m talking about Kirkwood, the main drag between the Sample Gates and the Court House Square where all the good places to go in town are located. Better than the mall, better than Wal-Mart, Kirkwood is where you get to see all the interesting and friendly people in town.

I do have to admit that the construction this summer, which has dug up Kirkwood, has caused a few problems. The construction office has taken up People’s Park, which has had the effect of displacing the restless youth of Bloomington, who while interesting, are not necessarily friendly.

Actually, that has been the worst part of the construction experience: instead of the kids just staying put, they’ve now taken up roaming up and down Kirkwood terrorizing people. I had a guest visiting, and one day while walking up Kirkwood, one of these youths followed my guest, and I was not comfortable with the situation.

I guess what I’ve learned is that People’s Park served a purpose: it kept the youths in one confined space that we all could avoid or visit, depending upon our willingness to take a risk. The project this summer has literally removed the asphalt and dug up the street in an effort to put the Jordan River into a new tunnel under the street and up Dunn Street toward Sixth. It has been quite a disaster for business owners, but fascinating for the kid in me. I actually spent a fair amount of time staring into the hole earlier this week.

The first thing that really amazed me was how close to the surface the old tunnel actually is. If you hurry down to Kirkwood this week, you might be able to catch a glimpse of the tunnel before they finish tearing out the street and sidewalks above it.

Which brings me to my second amazement: the old tunnel looks really old and unsafe. I’m no engineer, but I’m glad they’re taking the time to replace the old tunnel with the new one now, and not ten years from now. The other parts of the construction have also been mighty interesting, like Monday, when the construction crews managed to slice into a water main and a gas line in the space of 20 minutes.

The gas leak forced the evacuation of Dunnkirk Square, pushing people into the streets, just after 2:30 p.m. Conveniently, I might note, in time for people to go off and find the television set, which does bring me full circle, and right back to Bobby Knight.

Near as I can tell, time came to a standstill in Bloomington Monday at 3 p.m., and the world fixed its stare on Myles Brand in Indianapolis. I can’t recall any event that caught public attention as deeply since the O.J. Simpson verdict.

Unfortunately for the guys at Indiana Gas, they were trying to fix the leak through the press conference, for I know that the question that will be asked 10 years from now throughout Indiana: Where were you when Bobby Knight was suspended for three games? I’ll be able to say, I was at home, in Bloomington, watching my TV.

Where were you?

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Recker jerseys for sale, cheap!

It’s always interesting to learn the side effects of major news stories. Sometimes they don’t crop up for months. Take, for instance, when Luke Recker left IU last spring. Without a doubt this was one of the major news stories of the past year.

To recap for the new students among us, Recker was a member of the men’s basketball team and a Hoosier native. This potent combination made Luke’s departure all the more dramatic and frustrating for Hoosier basketball fans.

Certainly men’s basketball coach Bobby Knight felt the effects of Recker’s untimely departure from IU; although nothing ever came of it, Knight was vilified by the local media and by fans for driving a rising star out of the state.

Another group of people who felt a tremendous sense of loss with Recker’s departure was the media itself. The media had lost its hometown hero who had assured them of improved ratings whenever Recker showed up on their newscasts.

Of course, there was another actor in this game: the IU Athletics Outfitters stores.

It seems that the very day Luke announced his departure in April, a shipment of basketball jerseys with the number 4 appeared on the loading dock of the Outfitters.

The decision to restock jerseys with Luke’s number was based upon comments Recker made at the end of the season that he was planning to stick around and play another year at IU.

Consequently, for those of you interested, the Outfitters shop at Kirkwood and Indiana has a huge sale on Indiana Basketball Jerseys. For $16 you can get a bright red jersey with the number 4 on it. That’s half off the regular price of $32.

Naturally a lot of people wouldn’t be seen in a jersey that bares Recker’s number, but I think for any true Hoosier basketball fan, this is an opportunity that ought not be passed up.

The list of men under Bobby Knight who have worn the number four jersey consists of only three players: Lyndon Jones (1988-91), Chris Rowles (1996) and Luke.

But there is the future to consider as well. IU basketball and its amazing tradition is not going to vanish overnight. Other players will wear this jersey and will shine in it as well.

Not to mention the women.

Described as an “unselfish player who has the ability to find an open teammate with a no look pass,” Dani Thrush wore number 4 for the women last year. Certainly she was a credit to the team, playing more than 30 minutes per game for most of the games and averaging 9.8 points per game. In the basketball media guide, she even listed “Playing with my dog Fulton” as her favorite way to spend free time, so she can’t be all that bad.

And for those who care, she was a better free throw shooter and rebounder than her fellow number 4 of last year.

With her eligibility up, she won’t be on the team this year, but if I were her, I would run down to the store and stock up on these jerseys that will hold much significance to her memories as time goes by.

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Lessons learned at IU

This is my last column of this school year and the last column of my first year in Bloomington. The opportunities for this final column are endless, yet I’ve chosen to write about what I’ve learned in my first year at IU in Bloomington.

After coming to this conclusion, one of my wise-cracking friends suggested that I convince the editors of the IDS to run 15 inches of empty space. What’s really pathetic is that I actually considered this idea for awhile.

What I really have learned is that Indiana University, although three-and a-half times larger than the University of Wyoming, is not really all that different.

Freshmen attending IU are just like freshmen attending UW: scared, unsure and learning to explore the world. Virtually every freshman goes through culture shock of one kind or another as they make their transition from their hometown high school to the University.

Universities cannot coddle freshmen too much, but both IU and UW excel at providing resources for freshmen living on their own for the first time. There is a fine line, though, between providing enough assistance and too much assistance. Too much assistance and it will be as if the freshmen never left the loving arms of their parents.

I’ve also been forced to learn that senseless death can happen anywhere in America: Whether IU’s Joseph Bisanz from an alcohol-related incident, or UW’s Matthew Shepard, beaten because he was gay. Neither one deserved to die nor should have died, but between the two, IU was forced to examine its drinking policies and UW was forced to examine the environment in which it exists.

It is also clear that when it comes to the quality of undergraduate education, there is less difference between IU and UW than one might suspect at first glance. I earned my bachelor’s degree in political science from UW in 1996. There I knew my professors personally, and they took as much time and effort to work with me as a freshman as they did when I was a senior, ensuring that I was learning.

The emphasis on the quality of teaching that I witnessed at UW is here at IU as well. Recently I listened to a professor talk about how one of his undergraduate courses was going, how a new approach to an old subject wasn’t quite working as well as he had hoped and that he would have to make some changes the next time he taught the course.

Another place where there is less difference between IU and UW than one might suspect is in the quality of the students. I believe that in the end, the quality of a student’s education is not necessarily determined by the quality of the academic institution, but is instead determined by the quality and character of the student.

You can be an incredibly smart person, but if you don’t have the character and drive to succeed, you’ll fail, whether you attend IU, UW or Harvard. If, on the other hand, you’re smart and you have the character and drive to succeed, you will become a success, even if you start by attending a community college.

In closing, I want to talk about the one lesson that I’ve learned from Luke Recker. Recker was a sophomore in high school when he made his decision to play for coach Bobby Knight and to attend IU. The lesson Recker taught me was that no 15-year-old kid should ever commit to attend any given university. You’re just too young to know what you really want. Recker did the right thing by deciding to move on before it was too late to switch.

I, on the other hand, am pretty sure that I’ve made the right choice. My experiences here at IU have been positive and worthwhile. I can assure you that I will be back in the fall for round two on my way to earning my doctorate. I also plan on writing for the IDS again.

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