Sports

Knight is much the same as Calipari

Bob Knight and John Calipari are cousins of the cloth - the NCAA cloth.

So it was odd to hear Knight deride the integrity of college basketball and use Calipari, the coach at Kentucky, as Exhibit A.

During a talk at the Indiana Basketball Hall of Fame fundraiser last week, Knight decried the lack of integrity in college basketball.

"We've gotten into this situation where integrity is really lacking, and that's why I'm glad I'm not coaching," said Knight, an ESPN commentator. "You see, we've got a coach at Kentucky who put two schools on probation and he's still coaching. I really don't understand that."

Of course Knight understands.

Calipari is allowed to keep coaching for the same reason Knight was allowed to stamp, scream and bully his way through Bloomington from 1971 to 2000. They both win. Cousins of the cloth.

Calipari took the high road. He said he didn't think there was an integrity problem in college basketball and that he was a big fan of Bob Knight.

I'll bet.

Knight and Calipari became wealthy men by using the NCAA's plantation system. A system that, at the upper echelons of football and basketball competition, exploits athletes who receive little compensation while coaches rake in hundred of thousands of dollars - millions in many cases.

Coaches receive the praise, in addition to outside endorsements that can run into six and seven figures. They are empowered to scream at, shout at and assail players who are loath to respond in kind.

The only condition is that they win, and in this Knight and Calipari are linked.

Knight's good friend Bill Parcells famously said that you are what your record says you are. These NCAA cousins have quite a record.

Calipari's first two programs, Massachusetts and Memphis, were forced by the NCAA to vacate Final Four appearances for infractions made during Calipari's tenure. Memphis is appealing its penalty, and Calipari was not implicated in either case.

Calipari might have violated the spirit, if not the letter, of the NCAA rules, but Knight has consistently violated the spirit of rules governing decorum. His legion of friends and the institutions for whom he worked looked the other way at boorish and abusive behavior.

It all came to a head March 14, 2000, when the CNN/Sports Illustrated network broadcast a story in which a former player, Neil Reed, claimed he was choked by Knight in a 1997 practice. Knight denied the charge, but on April 11, 2000, CNN/SI broadcast a tape of a Hoosiers practice from 1997 that showed night with his hand around Reed's neck.

A month later, Myles Brand, then the Indiana president, said he would have "zero tolerance" for any more transgressions.

That September, Knight grabbed the arm of a freshman student he said had disrespected him. The General was fired, and the Knight era at Indiana was over.

Brand's firing of Knight became a signal that it was safe for university presidents to take back power from brand-name coaches.

If Calipari is any indication, the membership has not learned. All you have to do is look at how Kentucky showered Calipari with millions in compensation to be its coach.

Knight wonders why Calipari still is coaching. He is because Kentucky wants championship banners.

Why was Knight allowed to keep going? Because Indiana wanted championship banners.

Let's stop the moralizing. Knight and Calipari: first cousins of the NCAA cloth.

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