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Outside the Lines - Bob Knight: The Final Crisis?

Anchor: Bob Ley
Guests: John Chaney, Temple University men's basketball coach
            Murray Sperber, Indiana University professor
Featuring a taped piece of Bob Knight, in his own words and actions
Coordinating producer: Jonathan Ebinger

Bob Ley, Host: April 16, 2000. He is an American sports institution, polarizing and complex, rich in contradictions ...

Bob Knight, Indiana head coach: Probably no motivational device I've ever come across is as good as this.

Ley: ... sarcastic...

Knight: From the Christian depths of my heart, I'll do what's necessary. So ask your question.

Ley: ... profane...

Knight: I want they bury me upside down, and my critics can kiss my ass.

Ley: ... principled...

Knight: I'm very comfortable with myself. You know, I'm the only person that has to be comfortable with me.

Ley: ... increasingly under attack.

Knight: There's a short phrase in the Bible that I think covers it all, and it simply says, "Judge not that ye be not judged."

Ley: Today, on Outside the Lines, Bob Knight. Can he survive?

No one is neutral on Bob Knight. Knight's outsized persona has defined Indiana basketball for more than a generation. His next season will be his 30th in Bloomington. If he makes it.

Tuesday, we saw the videotapes substantiating Neil Reed's claim that Knight grabbed him around the throat. Thursday, the Indiana University student paper said that Knight should go. And, on Friday, Toronto Raptors head coach Butch Carter charged that Bob Knight used a racial epithet against a player more than 20 years ago.

No one is neutral on Bob Knight with the possible exception of the two university trustees charged with investigating the conduct of the Indiana head coach. Their report is due in June.

Most of Knight's former players and assistant coaches are fiercely loyal. They point to the private man, who has helped endow two academic chairs, a man generous to charities who returns the loyalty of friends many times over.

But, publicly, Knight has not won a big-10 championship in seven years, with only two NCAA tournament victories in the last six years. A number of starting players have recently transferred.

Even before the most recent incidents, Knight's image has been fraying at the edges. "If it is true," as a good friend of Knight's said this past week, "that great people are judged by the extremes of their personality, then Bob Knight has given us much to consider."

In his words:

Unidentified sports announcer: Bobby Knight was a key figure late last year as the Bucks defeated Kentucky in the post-season NCAA tournament. His teammates call him Dragon, spelled D-R-A-G-O-N, but the Dragon is never draggin' when he steps on the floor. He's a hustler all the way.

Unidentified correspondent: Bobby Knight, congratulations to you.

Knight: Thank you, Jimmy. Thank you.

Unidentified correspondent: I imagine you hate to see the four years pass, and I imagine they've passed quickly for you, have they not?

Knight: Well, we don't think it's quite all over yet, Jim. We feel we've got four big ones ahead of us. We'll worry about what's passed when we get these four over with, I think.

This is the worst defense we've played all year. You're letting them do anything they want to do. Brad, you're not putting on pressure on anybody. You're not dropping back in to help out.

Knight: The final result in 1976 was a very satisfying thing for all of us involved. It was sort of a culmination of a lot of work and a lot of effort on the parts of a lot of people.

Unidentified sports announcer: The U.S. has its ninth gold medal.

Look at here. Look at here. Bobby Knight just threw his chair clear across the free throw lane.

Knight: I'm the only person that has to be comfortable with me. You know, I -- I'm like you guys are. I'm going to tell you something, see. You guys get a bad typewriter, you know, and you're -- and the key's stuck, and -- son of a bitch! And you say, "God damn typewriter. Jesus Christ." And now you chew out somebody's ass. You know, you chew out some kid that -- that screws up your -- getting something to somebody on time. Well, see, what you do when you guys get upset -- you don't do it before 18,000 people, so it isn't news.

Unidentified sports announcer: To Smart. Baseline jump shot in the air. Good! Four seconds, three seconds, two seconds, one! The Hoosiers have won the national championship!

Knight (at Assembly Hall rally): I hope this team will show you that, when you've got some problems of your own and when things aren't going really well for you, you can tighten you belt a little bit and -- and get the ball to Keith Smart, and things will come out all right.

If rape is inevitable, relax and enjoy it. I mean, that -- that's just an old term that you're going to use. You -- the player's down. So you have no control over it. You know, I'm talking about that. I'm not talking about the act of rape, not unless you're some pervert and you're there, but what I'm -- I'm talking about is something's happened to you that -- and so you have to handle it. Unidentified sports announcer: Bob Knight heading to the locker room. Lou Henson, Illinois head coach, 1976-1996: Well, what do you expect out of Knight? What do you expect out of him? I mean, he's a classic bully. I was in the -- I was in the locker room, and he jumped on me. I wanted him to come outside. He's a classic bully, I'll tell you.

Knight: I really think there's an international conspiracy to get Illinois, and I think it's come because of all the players that have come from Illinois.

Henson: But he comes in and rapes our state, takes our players, then comes back in and treats the people of Illinois like he's treating them. I think he runs over everybody in his path.

Knight: The Big-10 all-star players, the freshman of the year, the coach of the year, the -- and I don't disagree with any of that and, certainly, since they feel that way -- and I'll tell you what, it has just worn my ass out. So we'll see all you Illinois people later.

Probably no motivational device I've ever come across is as good as this. I -- could I have some water? Boy, this is really good. See the -- see the blood drip out of it. You -- watch that. See that. When there's dried blood on the tip of your whip, you got to work it out a little bit like that. That helps.

Knight: We had a situation happen this year where a kid was telling a -- another school that was reporting, "Well, I was at an Indiana practice, and -- well, it was really a good practice," and went on, and he was then told, "Well, they just did that because you were there." Well, you know me well enough. I don't do anything because anybody's there. I mean, I don't care if it's you or the President of the United States. I mean, what he sees is what the hell he gets.

When my time on earth is gone and my activities here are passed, I want they bury me upside down, and my critics can kiss my ass.

I look back over the players that we've had, and I love Alan Henderson. He's one of my favorite players. Cheaney. Woodson. There are a ton of them. But I leave you with this -- and then I turn it over first to Patrick and then to Alan. I do leave you with this thought. Patrick Knight is my all-time favorite Indiana player.

Unidentified NCAA official: Apparently, Coach Knight will not be here, but we do know that locker rooms are open after 10 minutes, which we have passed, so the Indiana locker room will be open to the media.

Knight: You've only got two people that are going to tell you I'm not going to be here. One is our SID, and the other is me. Who the hell told you I wasn't going to be here? I'd like to know. Do you have any idea who it was?

Unidentified male: Yes, I do, Coach.

Knight: Who?

Unidentified male: I'll point him out to you in a while.

Knight: They were from Indiana, right?

Unidentified male: No, they're not from...

Knight: No, weren't from Indiana, and you didn't get it from anybody from Indiana, did you?

Unidentified male: Could we please handle...

Knight: No, I -- I'll handle this the way I want to handle it now that I'm here. You (EXPLETIVE) it up to begin with. Now just sit there or leave. I don't give (EXPLETIVE) what you do. Now back to the game.

Unidentified correspondent: We just wanted you to respond to the play of Damon Bailey and the overall attitude of your team coming out with a game face on. We use that expression so much. Can you comment a little bit on the attitude of the team?

Knight: In my entire adult life, I've never used the expression "game face." So I have no (EXPLETIVE) idea what it means or what you're supposed to -- (MAKING FACES) --

You know, Abraham Lincoln said once that "When it comes time for me to lay down the reins of this administration and only one person is satisfied with what I've done and that person resides deep within me, then I'll be satisfied."

Ley: Bob Knight. And, when Outside the Lines continues, I'll be joined by Temple's head coach John Chaney and Murray Sperber, a leading critic of the Indiana head basketball coach.

The topic: Bob Knight and the current firestorm in Indiana.

We are joined this morning from Philadelphia by Temple University basketball coach John Chaney, who was a colleague of Knight's and, as he will gladly tell you, a friend of Bob Knight's. In Indianapolis, Indiana University English professor and author Murray Sperber, an outspoken critic of the Hoosier head coach.

Gentlemen, before we get started, let's just once again refresh everybody on the news of the week, the videotape that surfaced this past week. Our colleagues at CNN/Sports Illustrated broadcasting this from a practice in 1997. Neil Reed has said that is him, Bob Knight at the mid-court line in that confrontation, which is then being seen in slow motion.

And, John Chaney, let me begin with you. Everyone around the country has seen that. When you first saw that, what was your first thought?

John Chaney, Temple head coach: Well, I -- I sort of feel as though if you -- if you look at my career over 30-some years, I'd have to believe that, if you took a snapshot every year that I've been involved in coaching, somewhere along the line, I might find instances where I would probably -- probably feel very ashamed of.

But I think there's a herd mentality that takes place in our sport today that we can do nothing about. When there's a window that's open, someone jumps in, disgruntled athletes from everywhere, and, also, we find people who take advantage of that opportunity to accuse you of being a racist.

Ley: Well, we'll get to that in just a second with Butch Carter.

Let me go to Murray Sperber and ask Murray -- you're a tenured member of the faculty -- a member of the faculty in Bloomington, as is Bob Knight. It's an obvious question, but if a tenured professor put his hands on a student, what do you think would happen?

Murray Sperber, Indiana University professor: Well, that professor would be immediately suspended. Hearings would result, and if there was a videotape of the professor grabbing the student by the neck, in all likelihood, that professor would be lose her or his tenure and be fired.

Ley: I'm sure, John, you would like to point out that that is an imperfect analogy. Why -- why do you think that things go on in a gym -- that you can't simply make the analogy of -- things in a classroom don't equate to things in a gym.

Chaney: I -- I think there's a different scene in a gym than you see in a classroom, and I've been both. In fact, there was one time I found myself chasing a student around the building because he was fighting another student and found that -- when the principal find -- found me on him and tried to restrain him, I was sued for attacking the student. Later on, we found out that this very same student had placed a gun in the flower pot in the principal's office.

Ley: But as a head basketball coach, have you ever put your hands on a player at practice?

Chaney: In -- as a head basketball coach -- absolutely I have had opportunities where I've had to demonstrate situations, where I've put my hands on a player, and, in some cases, very often to demonstrate to them in a manner in which it wouldn't be right in a classroom.

Ley: Murray, you've said that it's a university, not the Marine Corps, but there have to be differences, haven't there, between the gym and the classroom?

Sperber: Well, and, indeed, there are. But it says college sports, it says Indiana University, and Indiana University is supposed to represent, like every other university, higher education. I agree. Sports are different, but Bob Knight makes a big deal that he is a full professor of -- at Indiana, that he is a teacher, and he says his classroom is Assembly Hall, particularly in his practices, and there's also a big deal made about the fact that these are students and student athletes, and they graduate from university. That is always stressed.

So if Bob Knight were coaching in the pros, where essentially anything goes, I wouldn't argue about it. But he's coaching at Indiana University. He represents Indiana University. It says that on their uniforms, and so I think the code of conduct -- and there's a very well-spelled-out and very strict code of conduct for every member of Indiana University and authority -- faculty, staff, everyone -- but, somehow, Bob Knight, of course, because of his great fame as a coach, seems to be getting an exemption, and I don't feel that's right. I also feel that it makes the university look very bad.

Chaney: I ...

Ley: Is there a code of conduct at Temple, John?

Chaney: No, I -- I think also that Murray is someone who's gained fame also because he's taken issue with Coach Knight. I've read many things that he's said that ...

Sperber: John, I've -- I debated you a number of years ago. I have published...

Chaney: I don't care how many...

Sperber: ... books on college sports.

Chaney: Let me tell you something. I don't care how many you've published, but my point is that I think that you're in a foreign area when you start talking about athletics.

Sperber: I'm not. I'm not talking...

Chaney: I don't think...

Sperber: ... about Bob Knight having lost it as a coach. I'm talking about the rules of conduct at Indiana University.

Chaney: Yes, but I don't think that you're an authority on conduct on a basketball court or in a practice session.

Sperber: Well, I'm saying that conduct should be closer to the rules of the university, that finally sports are not bigger than the university. We are supposed to be in the higher education business. We are supposed to conduct ourselves in a certain way that most of society, by the way, approves of.

Ley: Let's talk about the school investigation, gentlemen.

Chaney: But that's where the problem is. But that's where the problem is. Bob ...

Ley: Let -- John, let me ask you about this ...

Chaney: No, no. Let me...

Ley: All right.

Chaney: No, let me make my statement here. I didn't come here to listen or be lectured by some professor who knows very little about the field that we're in.

Ley: Well, let's talk about -- let's talk about Bob Knight then. Keep it to Bob Knight. Let me ask you about the investigation. Do you think there's going to be pressure, John, on the two university trustees -- it's an internal investigation -- to come back and do something? You talked about the herd mentality. Do you think that herd mentality has now gotten to the point where university trustees are going to come back and do something rather drastic in June?

Chaney: I think that the herd mentality has reached a stage in our society where it is basically hurting a lot of people from doing what is right on behalf of youngsters. No one should be buying bad behavior. I can understand that, but I also feel that one of the things we have to understand is that, when you're in this business for 30-some years, you're not in there just because you're doing everything wrong, but these snapshots have a tendency to move over all kinds of lines, and we find people jumping in that window, taking advantage of it, and bringing a lot more hurt to this profession, as I see it.

Ley: Murray, they took 30 days to review your university president. They're going to take 90 days now to review Bob Knight. Do you think this will be impartial?

Sperber: Well, I think that's a good reference, Bob, in that it's -- they should have taken a lot more than 30 days to review the president, and the...

Ley: Well, let's keep it to Bob Knight, though.

Sperber: No, I'm -- I'm saying the people on this committee do not have a very good track record in the past. Now I would hope they would be objective. I would hope they would be thorough. I would hope that they would go and depose Neil Reed and the other players because there's no way these players are going to come back to Indiana.

And if it turns out they said, "Well, we invited them. They wouldn't come back. Therefore, we have to believe Mr. Knight's side of the story," well, I think a lot of people, both in the state and particularly outside of the state, will be very unhappy with that kind of judgment. So I would hope that they would do a very thorough and impartial judgment. I -- I ...

Ley: We -- we're going to -- we're going to take a commercial break in just a moment. As we go to a break -- we'll continue with John Chaney and Murray Sperber in a moment. We alluded to the numbers, the graduation rates. The Indiana University publishes its graduation rate at 98 percent. The NCAA average at 43 percent. We'll be back.

We will continue with Temple head coach John Chaney and Indiana University professor Murray Sperber.

Gentlemen, Butch Carter who played and graduated at Indiana back in 1980, played for Bob Knight, this past week, in an excerpt from the book that's coming out, said that Knight directed the "N" word at a player in the late 1970s, and he also wrote -- Carter -- you know, "that Knight does not like educated, strong-willed blacks," end quote. Carter discussed the anticipated reaction to that book on the radio this week.

Butch Carter, Toronto Raptors coach: There will be some people who will not like that I have said what I have said, but there's enough people in Indiana that I spent seven years in that state, three with the Indiana Pacers, four with the university, that will bull down and get in the room and say, you know, "We don't like it," but they know I'm telling the truth.

Ley: Race is obviously the third rail in American society. John Chaney, you alluded to this earlier. Your reaction to hearing this from Butch Carter.

Chaney: I think it's -- it's appalling. Once again, we look at people who take advantage of an opportunity when that window is open to make statements.

Let me tell you what I know about Bob Knight. I've -- I don't break bread with Bob Knight every -- every year or every day, but I do know this, that I've been in his company many times when he could have taken an opportunity to show us where he was a racist. I don't -- I think there's black racists and there are white racists, and I don't think Bob Knight is either one.

I've been in situations where Bob Knight -- when I came to Indiana, Bob Knight because of the incidents that I was involved in -- in a rude incident around the country nationally on national TV -- Bob Knight took pains to go to the students and talk about the kind of behavior that he required of them in Indiana. I thought that was pretty special.

Ley: Let me ask Murray -- and you can address the race question, if you care to, but also on the question of loyalty, how do you explain this fanatic loyalty from Knight's former players, white and black, former assistant coaches?

Sperber: Well, it's -- obviously, Butch Carter's not loyal, and...

Ley: Well, he's in the minority, at least in public.

Sperber: Right. Right. I -- I think there is a very vocal minority, I believe, that is very pro-Knight and steps up.

Ley: A minority of former players?

Sperber: Yes. And there -- there's a much smaller number who speak out against him, but there's great numbers. I mean, there's -- you know, think of it. It's 29 years. So well over a hundred players. And there's many players who just simply won't talk about this in any way pro or con.

And I do think, by the way, in the Butch Carter chapter that was in "The National Post" of Canada, much more disturbing to me -- because I have no way of knowing whether he used the N word or not and can't comment on that, but there -- Carter described an incident where a player came back and had -- was having very severe personal problems and told them confidentially to Knight, and then Knight came to the locker room and gave all the details of the problems and then told the team, "See, if this guy had listened to me, he wouldn't be in these problems."

Well, I know from the -- point of the view of the university -- students tell me stuff all the time, tell me stuff about college sports that I could write about, and it would certainly help my books and such, but there's no way I could ever break that confidence that a student tells me something, and I -- I really think that's the kind of thing that the university trustees should investigate, and it would be very easy to validate whether that happened or not.

Ley: John, several close friends of Bob Knight's told us this past week he is not dealing with this, taking this rather well. Do you -- have you spoken to him, and do you believe this is something that's cutting deeper than the prior incidents?

Chaney: No, I -- I would not speak to Bobby about this, and I -- and I would not tell him that I was coming on here to speak about these issues. I'm saying to you in all sincerity that I don't believe he's a racist, and I know darn well, if you were to talk to some of my disgruntled athletes -- and, of course, if that's who they're going to investigate over a period of time -- you will find sad and bad testimony coming from disgruntled athletes from every coach.

Ley: Let me quickly get a -- a -- our final thought in a sentence or two. First with Murray. Will Bob Knight survive this?

Sperber: I think he will. I think the outside world will not be happy about it, but I believe he will survive it.

Ley: John?

Chaney: I'm hoping that people will look at testimony of the deeds as opposed to testimony that's coming from disgruntled athletes.

Ley: Well, gentlemen, thank you very much. Thanks to coach John Chaney and to university professor Murray Sperber in Indiana.

Ley: Outside the Lines online at Type in the keyword "OTL weekly." You'll find more information on this morning's topic, including audio and video excerpts, as well as a transcript of this and past programs.

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And we'll leave you with this reminder, that if you missed any portion of this morning's program on Bob Knight, we will be repeating it on ESPN 2 this afternoon at 6 p.m. ET right after the NFL draft.

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 Bob Ley talks with Temple coach John Chaney and Indiana professor Murray Sperber about Bobby Knight.
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