Knight's first and last warning

Suspension: University is to blame for letting its Hall of Fame coach get away with bad behavior.

May 21, 2000

THERE WERE no rules for Bobby Knight.

The Hall of Fame basketball coach could get away with anything at Indiana University and remain untouchable. He could toss chairs, punch a sports information director or overreact to stupid questions from sportswriters with barrages of profanity. He could do all of this with impunity.

These transgressions were minor matters to Indiana University officials. What mattered most to them were National Collegiate Athletic Association trophies and dollars. What mattered were top high school recruits and nationally televised games.

The bully didn't become vulnerable until the championships stopped coming. Mr. Knight hasn't won a national title since 1987. That is an offense in Hoosier Land. He hasn't reached the Sweet Sixteen since 1994. That's a felony.

Indiana University should have straightened out its wayward coach years ago, when he was winning.

Coach Knight, after years of offenses, received the equivalent of a technical foul. The $30,000 fine and three-game suspension merely slapped his wrist. But the zero tolerance imposition -- one more offense and goodbye -- might profoundly test the volatile coach's infamous temper.

Of course, the zero-tolerance policy should have been in place for Coach Knight all along. Not even coaches who outrank university presidents should be above reasonable rules of conduct.

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