Earlier this week, Indiana University President Myles Brand fired basketball coach Bobby Knight, causing student protests and a media frenzy. While Brand’s decision has proved unpopular among many in the basketball-crazed state of Indiana, the president acted in the best interests of the basketball program, its players and the university.
Bobby Knight is an Indiana institution. He is the fifth all-time winningest basketball coach, and his teams have won three national championships. By many accounts, Knight displays a basketball genius possessed by few in the sport. Yet the simple fact remains that he is a stubborn man who cannot control his explosive temper.
A few months ago, IU’s image was tarnished when a videotape of Knight apparently choking a player was aired on CNN. The firestorm of criticism that followed the incident included vehement and repeated calls for Knight’s resignation or dismissal from IU. But the university’s trustees and president Brand decided to spare Knight and grant him one final chance on the condition that Knight would acknowledge a zero-tolerance restriction on his behavior.
Knight acknowledged these restrictions and then violated them by laying his hands on a freshman student who the coach felt was being disrespectful. There are other allegations, too, including one that Knight verbally abused a female university official in his office with others present and that he refused to attend alumni events when he was contractually obligated to appear. But the most egregious offense is Knight’s failure to keep his hands to himself.
Knight remains unapologetic, insisting that he was right to attempt to physically discipline the freshman who dared call him by his last name without adding the courtesy title of coach or mister. Rather than acknowledge his mistake, Knight says he would do the same thing again.
The bottom line is that the basketball program belongs to Indiana. Alumni donations, graduation rates, winning percentages and national titles may show that Knight can be a very good coach. But ultimately IU has been harmed by its association with him.
Bobby Knight chose to grab a student by the arm. He chose to break the terms of his reinstatement as basketball coach. The ball was in Knight’s court. He chose his own fate.