Misguided Thinking

Anyone can talk about reconciliation, but some things you cannot reconcile. Some things, you cannot excuse.

I don't doubt that what motivates Coach Bobby Knight is not anger, not some negative feeling, not hatred and not spite. I think what motivates him is a sense that there was no fairness in the process of firing him, and that it was reactionary and that it dismissed his role as a clean coach who graduated players and educated young men.

When I read things like this, I find them easy to dismiss:

Bob Knight and Indiana are fighting again. Well, maybe that's not the right way to phrase it. It's the same fight, the one that should have ended years ago.

The latest dispute is technically about $75,000 that Knight says Indiana owes him. But it's about more than that. It's about bitterness and about letting go. Indiana donors offered to pay Knight the $75,000, but he wouldn't take it. He said he never took money from boosters and he wouldn't start now.

So Knight will skip his own induction into Indiana's Athletic Hall of Fame this weekend. He says he doesn't want to be a distraction.

People either hate Knight or love him, but at this point I think we can all agree: Who cares?

Who cares if you thought Indiana should have stood up to him in the 1970s, when his temper first surfaced? Who cares if Indiana should have given him a fairer shake when it finally did fire him nine years ago?

Knight should be the grand old man of Indiana basketball. He should be the icon who comes back to talk to the team once in a while and hears the roar of the Assembly Hall crowd when he walks to his seat in the stands for the Purdue game.

What does that even mean--the grand old man of Indiana basketball? Why should he upstage the current coach at Indiana and come back to talk to players who don't know him, weren't recruited by him, and don't play for him? What if--and I say this with all candor--Indiana is now the kind of program Knight spent his career having to deal with, one that engages in corrupt recruiting practices and in unfair competition?

Here's one angle no one talks about--didn't Indiana have a Kelvin Sampson issue?

Basketball coach Kelvin Sampson agreed to Indiana's offer of a $750,000 buyout Friday, waiving his right to sue the university for further damages, and turning the program over to interim coach Dan Dakich.

"I have made the very difficult decision to leave my position as head coach of the men's basketball team at Indiana University," Sampson said in a statement. "While I'm saddened that I won't have the opportunity to continue to coach these student-athletes, I feel that it is in the best interest of the program to step aside at this time."

The deal calls for Sampson to be paid $750,000, $550,000 of which is being provided by an anonymous donor, the university said. The remainder will come from athletic department funds. Sampson has agreed he will not file a wrongful termination lawsuit against Indiana.

The settlement was first reported by ESPN.com's Andy Katz.

The athletic department's response to an NCAA report charging Sampson with five major NCAA rules violations may create an even bigger mess for the Hoosiers, starting with Saturday's game at Northwestern.

Some players threatened to sit out the game as a protest. However, athletic director Rick Greenspan, who asked for Sampson's resignation, said he expected the players to participate at Northwestern and the program to move forward after one of the darkest chapters in program history. And according to an Indiana spokesman, all players were present at the team walk-through Friday night.

Now, say you're Coach Knight, and Indiana won't pay you $75,000 legitimately from University funds, and say you've returned the money they tried to give you out of principle because it came from "anonymous donors" or alumni, perhaps because you are an honest person who never took money from the alumnni.

Don't you think that the terrible insult of watching the corrupt Kelvin Sampson--whose name never appears in your article--being handed ten times that much money, most of it from those same sources, for being the worst possible kind of basketball coach is an indication that Indiana University and the athletic department at Indiana are not worth two cents and, by associating with them in any way, shape or form legitimizes that terrible precedent?

What if you're in the know and suspect that Sampson wasn't the entire problem, and that Indiana's athletic department has gone downhill fast? What if Indiana now skews more towards the corrupt teams of Kentucky and Michigan State? Why would he want to associate himself with, and give legitimacy to, something he opposes out of his own principle?

A man is entitled to feeling what he feels. Whining at his choices and trying to make it about someone else's nostalgia for the game accomplishes nothing. If the man refuses to give them the time of day, respect the fact that he knows why.

The reason might be right before your eyes.