February 5, 2008, - 6:46 pm
By Debbie Schlussel
**** SCROLL DOWN FOR UPDATE: Top Ten Moments of Bobby Knight ****
While many sports columnists and commentators liked to vilify college basketball coach Bobby Knight over the years, I was not one of them. I always like Knight, despite his legendary temper. Regardless of his temperament, he was the last of something that is no longer present in college and pro athletics–values for hard work and no tolerance for bad behavior. In today’s win at all cost, dollar is the be-all/end-all, Bobby Knight was different. Athletes that committed crimes were dumped. Their behavior was not tolerated. And his players actually graduated from college . . . legitimately and fully literate.
And Bobby Knight and I agreed on many things. More of why I like and will miss Bobby Knight, from my March 2001 column, “The Real ‘March Madness’“:
Unlike most college sports coaches, Knight instills discipline in his players. And he’s paying for it, every step of the way. Not only did Indiana fire him, but Tech’s high and mighty faculty opposes him, too. While Knight might’ve been slightly overly exuberant in discipline methods at Indiana, it’s important that he did, indeed, discipline his players — something that happens far too infrequently in college sports, today. Knight’s athletes never committed crimes. The one — just one — who did, Sherron Wilkerson, accused of beating his girlfriend, was immediately off the team. And virtually all of Knight’s athletes graduated — rare in big-time college sports.
On the other hand, there are coaches, like Tom Osborne, now a Republican Congressman, who allowed criminal after criminal on his University of Nebraska football team. His athletes almost literally got away with murder — or at least, attempted murder. But, unduly revered as some sort of deity by Nebraskans and Nebraska’s faculty, as well as the local press, you’d never hear an unkind word about him. And if you did — as I found out last year — the author (in this case, me) would be attacked with hate mail from Osborne’s blind followers. There were never any anti-Osborne petitions from Nebraska’s faculty.
Maybe because they were impressed by his Ph.D. But probably because, despite claiming to be a conservative, Osborne treated the many criminal players on his team, like convicted thugs Lawrence Phillips and Christian Peter, the way Ted Kennedy liberals treat criminals — giving them chance after chance without punishment and shamelessly attacking their victims in the press.
Never any petitions against the win-at-all-costs, anti-discipline coach, Osborne, by professors. Just against Bobby Knight, who — against his own interests to win — was the exact opposite.
Nor have intellectual elitists ever signed petitions regarding student athletes, like Osborne’s, who’ve committed crimes and have been allowed to return to play on the field or court. Or student athletes who took ridiculously easy courses to graduate, yet didn’t know even the basics about anything.
That’s because many college professors buy into the liberal mentality of allowing college athletes, despite criminal proclivities, free passes through academic life because many are from the black underclass, even though most would hardly qualify to graduate high school. And academics hate conservative, disciplinarian coaches who actually believe athletes are responsible for their actions. . . .
Wall Street Journal’s sports columnist Frederick C. Klein noted that, during his attendance at an academic conference on the evils of college sports, professors pontificated that athletes’ crimes and academic failings were no fault of their own — but that of their youth, bad upbringings and “the adults who manipulated them.”
Those professors who do demand even the very minimum in academic performance from college athletes are shunned. . . .
But Knight has the last laugh. Despite elitist professors’ protests, he was hired. Now they will have to put up with Knight’s demands of crime-free and graduation-prone athletes.
The nerve of that man.
Bobby Knight, you have retired. And so, sadly, have your values from the realm of college sports.
And America is worse off for it.
Let’s hope Bobby Knight’s son, who replaces him, has those good, old-fashioned Bobby Knight values.
**** UPDATE: Okay, so his frequently foul mouth wasn’t exactly classy and doesn’t always match up with what I think of him. Here are the Top Ten Bobby Knight moments as chosen by ESPN. I really just wanted to post his “game-face” segment, but couldn’t find it as a stand-alone (fully bleeped and safe for work):
Tags: America, anti-discipline coach, author, basketball, Bobby Knight, Christian Peter, college basketball coach, college sports, college sports coaches, Debbie Schlussel, Frederick C. Klein, Indiana, Lawrence Phillips, Nebraska, Republican Congressman, Sherron Wilkerson, sports columnist, sports columnists, Ted Kennedy, Tom Osborne, University of Nebraska, Wall Street Journal