Texas Tech president David Schmidly faced a dilemma, according to
media reports. His university had just finished building a dollars 68
million basketball facility, but the Red Raiders had neither a winning
team nor much national publicity. Enter Bobby Knight, Indiana
University's recently fired men's basketball coach, who is known for two
things: a fantastic coaching record and an uncontrollable temper. Thus
began what one Tech instructor described as 'dancing with the devil'
(The Denver Post, March 18).
Knight accepted Texas Tech's offer to coach on March 23, after creating
a sensation in the media during his interview process. Red flags popped
up everywhere as media reports generously peppered their descriptions of
Knight with tales of his most infamous cases of physical and verbal
abuse: bullying and choking players, grabbing students, throwing chairs
onto the court, head-butting his players, etc. Cox News (March 19)
reminded audiences of the time he was accused of hitting a police
officer in Puerto Rico. He was tried in absentia, and sentenced to six
months in jail, although he could never be extradited to serve his
The Buffalo News (March 14) reported that Knight's name represented 'the
two most repugnant words in sports,' while the New York Daily News
(March 20) described the controversial coach as 'the Biggest Jerk in
Sports.' You get the picture.
Knight's legendary ability to win games was secondary in the
By all accounts, he may well put Tech on the men's collegiate basketball
map. A Texas Tech student told the Austin American-Statesman (March 16),
'When you have a chance to hire one of the top five basketball coaches
of all time at a place like this, do whatever you need to to get
But the Texas Tech faculty was not so sure. One professor said, 'I'm
supportive of athletics and aware that we need to draw crowds, but at
what price?' (Sporting News Radio, March 26). A petition that advised
against hiring Knight was signed by about 100 of the 900 faculty members
and earned considerable attention from the media. The Fort Worth
Star-Telegram (March 16) reported the petition viewed hiring Knight as a
'PR risk better left untaken, ' while another professor told the same
paper he feared, 'the name of Texas Tech would be attached to (Knight's)
An analysis of national media coverage suggests that this particular
professor's view is well-founded, and the unfavorable coverage has
already begun. The media took shots at Texas Tech, describing it as a
backwater school to which Knight had been exiled. The Dallas Morning
News (March 21) published the quote, 'Mileage alone does not begin to
tell you how removed Tech really is.' Others suggested the school values
money and winning over principle and the welfare of its students.
Interestingly, reports suggested no one expects Knight to change. The
difference is that those sympathetic to Knight viewed him as a good guy
who's been misrepresented by the media. Critics said there had been too
many incidents over such a long period to expect things to be any
different in Texas.
So what can be expected from Knight at his new home? A psychology
professor told The Indianapolis Star (March 15): 'The best predictor of
future behavior is past behavior.' If that's the case, expect more Red
Raider wins and more Knight outbursts.
- Evaluation and analysis by CARMA International. Media Watch can be
found at www.carma.com.