Why’d I Have to Go and Make Things So Complicated?

Bob Knight made his weekly (I assume it’s still weekly, I haven’t really listened in a while) phone call to Mike & Mike this morning and he was asked to comment on Jim Tressel’s April to December relationship with the truth, the NCAA and tattoos. Rather than quote you what Knight said in detail, I’ll just point you to www.insidethehall.com.

I’m doing this for a few reasons, first, is laziness. Second, they quoted all the cromulent bits and I probably would have just copy and pasted the quotes from there, so it feels right to just point you to their site. Third, I found out about this through our friends at insidethehall when I saw their tweet about it and later their article. Fourth, I’m not really writing about what Knight said, or what Tressel did. I’m writing about insidethehall’s reaction to it.

Let me go on record as saying that I like ITH. I read their stuff all the time. What follows, however, is a disagreement.

Alex Bozich seemed very upset at Knight over his failure to condemn Tressel in the harshest terms possible. He tweeted that the only word for it was hypocritical. For Knight to come out and basically excuse Tressel’s behavior, simply because he likes the guy, while spending his career talking about how important it is to uphold the rules paints Knight into too small a frame.

This is just too simple a response. Knight was many things as a coach and I’m sure many things as a man. He was never just one thing.

Yes, Knight ran a program that rarely ran afoul of the rules, but to interpret that as someone who is a firm supporter of the NCAA is crazy. Books could be filled with the number of times Knight railed on the NCAA for one thing or another. Here are two examples.

When Steve Alford posed for a charity calendar for a sorority in the middle of the ’85-’86 Indiana self-reported the violation, expecting something like the letter of reprimand Ohio State received for a similar violation a few years prior. Instead, Alford got a one game suspension, which he served against Kentucky, a school that was under investigation at the time for recruiting violations and a 15 year history of hundred dollar handshakes between boosters and players in the locker room. An investigation yielded no penalties, despite the direct testimony of over 20 players explaining how the money was doled out and admitting that they had received it.

If you think Knight just took that penalty with a smile because Alford broke the rules and that has consequences, you either weren’t alive in 1986, or have a faulty memory.

The second and much less important example is when, in the mid-90’s the NCAA instituted the rule about having shirt tails tucked in during the game. Knight, rightly, thought the rule was stupid and cosmetic and joked that he was ready to put in a new play where if it was a close game he’d instruct his player to unfurl the shirttail of the best player on the opposing team just to get him removed until it could be tucked back in.

Just because it’s an NCAA rule doesn’t mean Knight will automatically support it. Further, as a coach who was forced to sit out games on more than one occasion, sometimes at the behest of the school, Big Ten or NCAA, Knight doesn’t strike me as someone who is in favor of coaches having to sit out games.

I’ve heard countless stories about how loyal Knight is, until the other person is disloyal to him. And based on his comments on M&M he seems to like Tressel a lot. It doesn’t seem to be in his character to throw a friend under the bus, especially in a circumstance where, as he said more than once, he doesn’t know all the facts.

Knight, in fact, says that if it’s as serious as Golic says, then it should be dealt with, but that the fine and suspension is a bit drastic. Again, reiterating that he doesn’t know the details of the situation, and that being the case, he’s sticking with his appraisal of Tressel as a coach.

Knight has also been known to give coaches a second chance after a run in with the NCAA, hiring former New Mexico head coach Norm Ellenberger as an assistant at Indiana after Lobo-gate.

I don’t read Knight’s response as unbelievable or hypocritical. I read it as consistent with the views of someone who’s known to be very loyal, dislike many of the more “obscure” rules, like the coach in question and not know all of the details.

I don’t agree with Knight. Tressel has recruited some questionable characters and knew about this violation in April and chose not to report it. He chose, instead to bury it and hope it went away. Two games and $250,000 isn’t enough, and the NCAA, in order to have any credibility needs to hammer Tressel for this.

But I don’t agree with Bozich’s anger at Knight either.

Jeff Taylor