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Outside the Lines: Return Engagement

Here's the transcript from Show 52 of Outside The Lines - Return Engagement

Host: Bob Ley, ESPN.
Reporter: Ed Werder, ESPN
Guests: Lou Henson, head coach New Mexico State; Bill Benner, former columnist Indianapolis Star; Michael Ledeen, American Enterprise Institute.
Coordinating producer: Jon Ebinger, ESPN.

Announcer - March 25, 2001.

Bob Ley, host - His exile is over. Bob Knight again has a team to coach.

Bobby Knight, Texas Tech basketball coach - My objective with our basketball team is to have a team that you can, first of all, really be proud of watching play.

Ley - Texas Tech, he believes, is a perfect fit for his philosophy.

Knight - Patience is the greatest of all man's virtues. Just keep that in mind. I stand before you as an example of that.

Ley - On the west Texas plains, a plea for a fresh start.

Unidentified Female - I ask you just this one thing. Please don't judge him until you get a chance to know him.

Ley - But will he be different?

Unidentified Female - What is the biggest adjustment that you face?

Knight - When you're kind of the man in charge, you don't have any adjustments to face.

Ley - Today on Outside The Lines, the questions surrounding Bob Knight's return engagement.

Announcer - Outside The Lines is presented by State Farm Insurance. Now from ESPN Studios, Bob Ley.

Ley - He may be the most psychoanalyzed figure on the American scene since Richard Nixon.. But to Bob Knight, this is all very simple. Give him players who listen, administrators who understand him, and he will win games and graduate his players.

Not much else seems important beyond the loyalty of close friends who watched Knight suffer through a winter without a team to teach for the first time since 1963. Now he's in Lubbock, a college town not unlike Bloomington, off the beaten media path.

But Texas Tech is not Indiana U. Witness a men's basketball graduation rate of 27 percent, recent NCAA probation, and a women's basketball profile far greater than the men's. Knight began to raise that profile Friday evening, even selling tickets and raising money for the university library as he masterfully worked a room of 7,000 fans.

He asked the school for a fresh start. Yet even as Bob Knight began the second act, which American lives are said not to have, it appeared the curtain had never descended on Act One.

Ed Werder on the beginning of "Knight Time in Lubbock."

Crowd - Bobby! Bobby! Bobby! Bobby!

Ed Werder, ESPN Correspondent - Fired seven months ago for violating Indiana University's zero tolerance policy, Bob Knight has reemerged in the comfort of total adoration. This was Knight as the Roman Emperor Nero controlling his surroundings, royalty among supplicants.

He had decided this was a coronation. And he would not permit it to become an inquest.

Unidentified Male - Just a quick follow-up...

Knight - No, let's move on. Let's move.

Unidentified Male - ... well, if I could just follow up because people have said things that I think...

Knight - Wait a minute. Wait a minute. No. How many of us want to hear a follow-up from this guy?

Crowd - Boo!

Unidentified Male - Having characterized yourself as not having choked Neil Reid, would you grab a player here at Texas Tech in the same way?

Knight - I would simply think that the many fans who happened to see that tape really at this point in time have no interest in either seeing it or discussing it again.

Knight - We're not going to get into a discussion because I think I answered your question already. Thank you very much.

Andy Ellis, Texas Tech junior - It looks like he did it. But the way I look at it, over 30 years, you look at all the players who love the man. I think he's got to be good to play for. I mean, his style is already proven. He wins with it. So, I mean, I'm not worried about it.

Werder - But others are concerned about Knight's reputation. About 10 percent of the Texas Tech faculty signed a petition opposing his hiring. It was one of the great contradictions that Knight can pledge $10,000 to the Tech library, emphasize academics to the point of claiming a 98 percent graduation rate at Indiana, and still leave professors doubting.

Ed George, Texas Tech professor - The question quite simply is whether you judge that he can abide by his stated intentions of being a changed person or not.

Ronald Rainger, Texas Tech professor - I'm willing to give him the benefit of the doubt. I do think that from past experience, pressure situations tend to lead him to do certain kinds of things. He may have modified that.

I'm somewhat skeptical. But I'm certainly willing to give him the opportunity now that we have gone ahead and made the offer to him.

Werder - Did he pledge that he was going to change the behavior in any way?

Andrew Schoppe, Texas Tech Student Body President - No, we never really got that kind of a position where we asked him, "Are you going to do this?" But just through the course of his conversation, he showed that this is the type of program that he's going to run. And it's going to be one that everybody can be proud of.

Werder - What did Coach Knight say to you to convince you that he either will change or make a serious attempt to?

David Schmidly, Texas Tech President - Well, Coach Knight told me that he did not want his career to end on a down note. He felt that he had done too much over the last 30 years for too many kids that had been positive. And he told me, he said, "I'm looking for a fresh start."

Knight - I'm really looking forward to working with as a great athletic director, which will be a little bit of a new experience for me. There are some things that I just can't resist.

Gerald Myers, Texas Tech Athletic Director - I know the total Bob Knight. We have been friends for a long time. I don't have a problem discussing anything with Bob. And I really feel good about him coming here.

And when you have a good relationship with your coaches and you can communicate, a lot of problems can be solved. And a lot of things can be avoided.

Werder - Myers' unwavering faith in and 30-year friendship with Knight were the overriding factors in President David Schmidley's decision to approve Knight's hiring. While it was Schmidley who reassured the faculty, he has since absolved himself of further responsibility for Knight.

How closely will you monitor his behavior?

Schmidley - It's not my job. It's the athletic director's job. I've got to run an academic institution here. I mean, we get this coach hired. And that's it for me. I'm going back to the academic world where I know something about it. He's going to be treated here like every other employee and like myself. If I go out here and do something inappropriate to a student, I'm going to be fired. If any other employee does, they're going to be fired. And Coach Knight is going to be treated the same way.

Werder - Texas Tech hired a professional investigative firm to research and examine Bob Knight. President Schmidley says they solicited 100 perspectives.

He says he read every report, some of them many times over. But a notable admission from that top 100 list, Neil Reid.

For Outside The Lines, I'm Ed Werder.

Ley - And when Outside The Lines continues, I'll be speaking with Lou Henson, who coached against Bob Knight for over 20 years in the Big 10 and two men with very different views of the coach in the red sweater.

Ley - Bob Knight back in a red sweater, but one with a different logo. He explained his philosophy on Friday evening at a combination announcement, rally and press conference.

Knight - My objective with our basketball team is to have a team that you can first of all really be proud of watching play, that those of you, all of you here from the student body, I expect them to be students in every sense of the word just like you're expected to be students here in school.

Knight - And I want part of the reason why you root hard for us here is because you know they're students. You know that I probably expect more of them in the classroom than is expected even of you as a normal student going to school here at Tech. I want you to be really proud, all of you, of our basketball team.

If we can put a team here on the floor that plays hard and plays smart and pays attention most of the time -- I'm not right all the time. But when it comes to this game, I'm right most of the time.

Ley - Seven hundred sixty-three times. He is fifth on the all-time victory list.

Joining us this morning from Las Cruces, New Mexico, where he is the head basketball coach at New Mexico State, Lou Henson. For 21 years, he also coached the University of Illinois.

Bill Benner for 30 years was a reporter and later a columnist for the "Indianapolis Star." He joins us from Indianapolis.

Michael Ledeen holds the freedom chair at the American Enterprise Institute. And he has also written on Bob Knight. He is in Washington, D.C.

Well, Lou, let me begin with you. How and why is this, to your mind, such a huge story on the weekend the final four is falling into place, pushing even that off the front page?

Lou Henson, New Mexico State head coach - Well, of course, Bob, it's a big story because of Bob Knight. If you go back and look at the successes he's had at Army, at Indiana, then people are going to write about him. They're going to talk about him. It is a big, big story.

Ley - But, Bill Benner, it's more than that, isn't it?

Bill Benner, Indiana Sports Corporation - Well, certainly Bob Knight is an icon of American sports. And the circumstances that he left Indiana University under and the circumstances that he's going to Texas Tech under certainly make this a pretty significant story certainly here in Indiana and I know that it is in Lubbock.

Ley - Michael Ledeen, what's your take on the way that the media has been treating this so far?

Michael Ledeen, American Enterprise Institute - Well, I think they've put it in two bad contexts. I think Bob Knight is a huge personality. He has big vices. And he has big virtues.

We hear about the vices endlessly. We rarely hear about the virtues.

And I think the media has missed the really big story in Indiana, frankly, which is the ruin of Indiana University under this administration, which then fired Knight I think in an effort to save their own reputations, because that same administration that drove him out as an unacceptable human being is the same one that praised him the year before and said that anybody who attacked him was attacking Indiana University.

Benner - Well, I would say that, Michael, living here in Indiana and being an Indiana University graduate, I think that the university has taken the correct step in trying to repair a lot of damage that's been done primarily because of Bob Knight irrespective of national championships, irrespective of the money he's raised, irrespective of the good boys that he's turned out, all those things. He did a lot of damage.

And I would disagree that the vices are overplayed in accordance to the virtues. Again, living here in Indiana, I can tell you that for everything that comes out about Bob Knight, there has certainly been a rush to balance that many times over.

Ledeen - Yeah, but you certainly wouldn't say that the national media have done that. And anybody who looks at the state of Indiana University today -- I mean, I'm an academic. And it is an open secret in the world of academia that Indiana University is on the way down.

The biggest faculty demonstrations on campus at IU in the last few years have been for the removal of the Board of Trustees and the president, not Knight.

Benner - Well, I would say that those are separate issues. If we're talking about Bob Knight, if we're talking about Indiana University and its academic standing, I would say that those are separate issues.

Ley - Lou, let me bring you in and ask you, the coaches unanimously have just praised his reemergence in the profession. What do coaches admire about him?

Henson - Well, first of all, I think most of the coaches are happy that he's returning to coaching because he's done such a great job through the years. And they respect his coaching ability because he is one of the outstanding coaches in the country. And actually, Bob Knight gets along with most of the coaches.

From time to time, coaches - if you have two companies competing, you're going to have problems from time to time. But I think the coaching profession, when we have a run-in with another coach, we resolve the problem and go on.

Ley - Well, you mentioned a run. And let's take you back in time 10 years. And we show this just to illustrate what Bob Knight can provoke, even among colleagues who consider himself to be friends. I'm sure, Lou, you remember this back in 1991.

Unidentified Male - Bob Knight heading to the locker room, 7.6 seconds.

Henson - Well, what do you expect out of Knight? What do you expect out of him? I mean, he's the classic bully.

I was in the locker room. He jumped on me. I wanted him to come outside. He's the classic bully, I'll tell you.

Ley - Again, Lou, we're showing that not certainly to embarrass you but to just bring up the point that here is a guy that you coach against, is a colleague, but yet you feel at times can provoke you to say something like that.

Henson - Well, again, I think it's not just that situation. But in my coaching career, I've heard it from other coaches. Of course, we've had problems with other coaches from time to time.

So it's just one of those things that happened in the heat of the battle. The other coach in the case of Bob Knight, he's going to say things he probably would regret. I definitely regret calling him the bully. But it's just one of those things that happens in sports.

Benner - Actually, Bob, I'd like to congratulate Lou Henson on probably the most accurate statement ever uttered about Bob Knight.

Ley - Lou?

Henson - Well, I just -- all I know is I think we all have a tendency to want our way from time to time, whether it's with the referees or with other coaches, with players. And so that's just one of the things that will occur.

Ley - Michael, it seemed the other evening that Bob Knight, when asked about why he was fired from Indiana and was framed in a question as far as a pattern of misconduct talked about the administration as you have already. You've made the statement that you think in the language of Washington he was borked by the national media back when all this was percolating several months ago.

Ledeen - You know, I think the most outrageous thing -- look, there are plenty of aspects of Bob Knight's behavior, as with all of us, that anybody can jump on and say, "Look, we don't want him at our place, and fire him." And that's fine. They're entitled to do that.

But the way they did it was so outrageous. I mean, here are the presidents of all the Big 10 universities signing an advertisement in the "Chicago Tribune" at the cost of some $60,000 plus in which they said that the firing of Knight was necessary to save the academic integrity of Indiana University. And President Miles Crandon of Indiana University has gone all over the country giving a speech to that effect.

You can blame Bob Knight for a lot of things, and justly. But the one thing you cannot condemn him for and still be an honest man is wrecking academics at the universities he attends because he is unique in the coaching profession for his commitment to the integrity of the academic program, not just the money he raises for it, but his insistence that his players not only go to class but do well in class.

When he first came to Indiana, he told Steve Downing, who went on to be an All American, that if Downing didn't get his grades up, he wasn't going to play. And Downing was so shattered he called his father and said, "I'm going to get out of here." And his father said, "No, you're going to stay. He's going to save your life." And he did.

Ley - Bill, I know you want to jump in. I promise you a chance when we come back from this commercial break. We will have more on Bob Knight's move to Texas Tech when we continue on Outside The Lines.

Knight - When my time on Earth is gone and my activities here are past, I want them to bury me upside down. And my critics can kiss my ass.

Ley - We continue with Lou Henson, Bill Benner, and with Michael Ledeen. And Bill, perhaps that piece of tape made the point you wanted to respond to about Michael making the point Knight helped the academic side of the university and intends to do the same thing at Texas Tech.

Benner - Well, that very well may be the case. And more power to him if he does. But again, I want to make an emphasis that this is not an academic issue. It's an athletic issue.

It's not so much what he did for Indiana University, Bob. It's what he did to Indiana University. And again, as an IU alum, as a person who's lived here my entire life, who grew up loving Indiana University, I can tell you that Bob Knight left this as a house divided. He polarized the state. He polarized the university. He polarized the family of alumni.

And it was a very divisive thing. And I don't think that a basketball coach, the person who represents your university more than anybody else in this particular case -- and I would suspect it would be the same at Texas Tech -- needs to be a divider as much as he needs to be a uniter, not to get George Bushian about it.

Ley - All right, well, Lou, let's talk about Texas Tech. Why is this a good job for him? What makes it a good position?

Henson - Well, first of all, Texas Tech is an outstanding university. Lubbock, Texas, is a nice city, maybe 250,000. And they have a beautiful place to play.

The play in the Big 12, which is one of the outstanding conferences in the country. And I think that Bob Knight will fit in very well at Texas Tech.

And I think Texas Tech, what they want at one time, they have a proud tradition. They still have a tradition, not quite like it was at one time. But James Dickey did a great job. Just three or four years ago, they were in the NCAA playoffs with an outstanding basketball team.

So I think that Bob Knight will bring that to Texas Tech. And I think he'll better recruit. And I think he will graduate the players. And there is no doubt he will win because he's been a winner every place he's been.

Ley - But, Michael, what else makes this a good job for him?

Ledeen - I think it's a great job because he won't be constantly in the spotlight. And people won't be nitpicking every action he makes and every word that he speaks.

Look, Bill Benner is right that Bob Knight polarized the state of Indiana. Big personalities always do that.

But we're a big country. And we cherish big personalities. And there's got to be room for a guy like Bob Knight with enormous virtues and with some things that drive people crazy.

And I personally -- I cherish characters like that. I like big personalities. I get tired of people in gray flannel suits and just always tow the line and do whatever the politically correct thing is.

And one of the reasons why a lot of Hoosiers liked Bob Knight was that he thumbed his nose at the rest of the world. And he said, "We're going to behave the way we want to behave. And the hell with the rest of you."

He did it to excess. He did things that he himself regrets having done. But I think Texas Tech is a great place for him.

And when I interviewed him for my story some months ago, he was about as down as a man could be. And the guy I saw the other night, that we all saw, was a pretty cheerful Bobby Knight.

Ley - But, Bill, he was cheerful, but also under the guise of a press conference with an entire arena full of 7,000 fans. He said, "I want to start from scratch with the media," yet we saw earlier in that report the bi-play between Knight, the crowd, and the reporters.

Benner - Well, I think he wants to start with the media again from him controlling the media as much as he will try to do. Believe me, Bob Knight will go to Texas Tech. He will be charming. He will be disarming. He'll warm the Texas Tech family to him.

But let the buyer beware. They're going to get the whole package eventually. And there will be times when he, as a representative of Texas Tech University, will do things that will put Texas Tech in a bad light. And I just hope that they're ready and willing to accept the whole package.

Ley - Do you think...

Benner - They're not going to get part of it. They're going to get the whole deal.

And they think they know. But they don't know.

Ley - Do they know, Michael?

Ledeen - Everybody knows. I mean, this is just nonsense to say people don't know. But we know everything about Bob Knight. As you said, he's one of the most psychoanalyzed people in history.

And every player that goes to play for Bob Knight knows what he's going to get, too. And a lot of them want to play for him because he's just the greatest living basketball coach.

Benner - But they know him from the -- they don't know him as their representative, as their person, as their guy, as the biggest figure in their state. They don't know him from that perspective. And I'm telling you, there are two sides to that. And the one side can do a lot of damage.

Ley - Well, he's already had his first team meeting. He met with the players last morning at 7 a.m. Everybody was on time.

Gentlemen, thanks to Lou Henson in Las Cruces, to Bill Benner, and to Michael Ledeen as we considered Bob Knight's return engagement.

Thanks, guys.

Next, the issue of academics in college sports and your feedback as we continue.

Ley - Our focus last week on the academic balancing act of college basketball players in the March spotlight brought e-mails on both sides of the issues.

A viewer from Cincinnati writes - "I am a full-time student at the University of Cincinnati. I also have a full-time job. I would give it all up tomorrow for the chance to be blessed in the way the student athletes are.

"If classes and athletics are too much for a student, they can quit playing basketball to focus on academics. The athletes may lose their scholarship, but if they want the education sacrifices must be made.

"I have sacrificed my social life to make myself a better person. And I do not want to hear about how hard it is to study and play basketball. Try studying and changing tires for 40 hours a week.

A viewer from Stockton, California, looks at the dollars saying, "I think schools should give these kids all the help they can get in class considering the millions of dollars they bring into the school's budgets. No other students can do this."

Now the place to register your opinion. Online at, type the keyword otlweekly from the front page and visit our web site with complete transcripts and streaming videos. And our new message board, you can join in or begin public dialogues on our program topics. And each week, we sample e-mail from our inbox.

Send us your comments, suggestions, and criticisms at There's our address. And thanks for being in touch.

Ley - And this reminder, today over on ABC Sports at 4:00 Eastern time, LPGA action, the Nabisco Championships, 4:00 Eastern, 1:00 Pacific on ABC.

And if you joined us along the way, this program will be re-airing over on ESPN2 at 12:30 Eastern, 9:30 a.m. Pacific. Then, of course, tonight is National Hockey night on ESPN. At 8:00 p.m., we've got the Dallas Stars taking on the St. Louis Blues.

I'm Bob Ley. We will see you next Sunday morning. Remember, next Sunday on daylight time except in Arizona and Indiana.

Now Maryland's Gary Williams and the Mets' Mike Piazza both live ahead as Suzy Kolber and Brian Kenny are set with "SportsCenter," including all the highlights from the men's and women's regional action in college basketball. And also, an intriguing look at the changing strike zone in baseball on "SportsCenter."

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