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Breaking News

Indiana University Keeps Coach Knight With Sanctions

Aired May 15, 2000 - 4:01 p.m. ET

THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.

LOU WATERS, CNN ANCHOR: We're going live now to Indianapolis where Indiana University President Myles Brand is about to announce his decision on the future of head basketball coach Bob Knight. This follows a seven-week investigation into allegations that coach Knight abused his players and colleagues.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: ... findings of the investigation into coach Knight and the activities that have been the subject of discussion for about seven weeks now.

On my far right is trustee Frederick Eichhorn. My immediate right, trustee John Walda, and President Brand on my left. You have correct spellings and bios throughout.

President Brand will speak, then Mr. Walda. President Brand, a few more comments, President Walda, then we'll throw it open to questions.

President Brand.

MYLES BRAND, PRESIDENT, INDIANA UNIVERSITY: In early March, I asked trustees John Walda and Fred Eichhorn to undertake a very difficult and important task for the university. They agreed to investigate the allegations of former player Neil Reed made, which were made in a television report.

I chose these two men because of their impeccable integrity, their strong devotion and knowledge to Indiana University, and because of their professional backgrounds as successful trial attorneys.

As you know, Mr. Reed alleges that he was choked by coach Knight. This is a serious allegation. Trustees Walda and Eichhorn have conducted a seven-week exhaustive investigation. This was done in the glare of public media attention. And it came to an end yesterday.

The trustees have gathered ample information to make a thorough assessment of these issues. Indiana University, its family, its friends, its community owe Mr. Walda and Mr. Eichhorn a great debt of gratitude.

I'd like to now ask Mr. Walda to describe the investigation and the conclusions.

JOHN WALDA, INDIANA UNIVERSITY TRUSTEE: Thank you, Myles. On March 23rd of this year, trustee Fred Eichhorn and myself were asked to conduct an investigation of certain allegations which had been made by a former Indiana basketball player, Neil Reed, regarding his experience at Indiana University. Those allegations included, one, that he was choked by coach Bob Knight; that president Myles Brand was verbally abused and ejected from a practice; and that coach Knight had displayed soiled toilet paper in a heated discussion with players in the locker room.

We began the investigation shortly after we were asked. Our investigation was conducted with the assistance of an experienced licensed private investigator, who assisted Mr. Eichhorn and myself in conducting the interviews.

An attempt was made to contact all of the witnesses to the events which were described and which I have enumerated. In a few instances, individuals were gone, we couldn't contact them. There were a few incidents -- rather a few individuals who would not cooperate with the investigation.

In the end, however, I believe that each of the investigations with regard to these incidents has been conducted thoroughly, and I believe that there are no important pieces of evidence that have not been reviewed and considered for a final report.

At this time, 29 individuals have been interviewed regarding the allegations: 12 of them were employees of the Indiana University athletic department or part of the Indiana University basketball staff; nine of the individuals were student managers or trainers; and seven of those interviewed were former Indiana basketball players.

In addition to the interviews, we analyzed a videotape of a basketball practice, which apparently occurred in early 1997. The process by which that videotape became available is now well-known.

In addition, a forensic video expert has analyzed that videotape. This expert has more than 28 years of high-level experiences in reviewing and analyzing video content. After examining the video in question, he concluded that it was authentic, that a frame-by-frame review shows no evidence of any relevant action being removed or inserted. It indicates there is contact to the neck of the individual, Neil Reed, being confronted by coach Knight. It appears that there is a grab.

It is clear, the expert has explained to us, that the action was a grabbing of the neck and not just a grabbing of Mr. Reed's shoulder or jersey. The elapsed time for the contact is 2.3 seconds.

As a result of these interviews and of the investigation , including the videotape, we have reached certain conclusions with regard to the incidents described.

First, we could not accurately determine if a locker room incident concerning soiled toilet paper actually occurred. Each witness was asked about that particular incident; many claim that this incident actually wasn't real, that it was alleged. Our investigation also found that President Brand was not dismissed from practice, as has been alleged. Nearly, all witnesses, with the exception of two or three, claim that they had never seen such an incident, but they'd only heard about it in the rumor mill.

And the final incident, which is the most serious, our videotape analysis we conclude has confirmed that Neil Reed was grabbed at the neck, he was not injured, but this action by coach Knight was clearly inappropriate and one which cannot be tolerated.

This review is the first of its kind during coach Knight's 29- year tenure. It also uncovered new information that illustrated a protracted and often troubling pattern in which coach Knight has a problem of controlling his anger and confronting individuals.

In order to ensure the integrity of the review, we promised at the beginning that all of those who were interviewed would be interviewed with confidentiality, and we intend to stick with that, and therefore, can't get into all detail on the incidents which I'm referring to.

Unfortunately, or fortunately, many of the details of these incidents have been widespread and they've gotten much attention, so you know what most of them are. But what we found is a lengthy pattern of troubling behavior by coach Knight.

The trustees of Indiana University are primarily concerned with the fortune and reputation of this university that we love so much. Our goal is to protect and enhance the image of Indiana University, and because that is our goal, we will not tolerate conduct from any persons who worked for us that we consider to be embarrassing or that does not live up to the high standards that we expect of all who represent our university. Therefore, we are resolved that if coach Knight persists in the kind of conduct which we've discovered it will not be tolerated, and as I said earlier and I reiterate now, there are no sacred cows at Indiana University. This certainly includes the basketball program.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: President Brand?

BRAND: During my tenure at Indiana University, since 1994, each of the allegations that became known have been dealt with appropriately and investigated. But viewed by themselves, each allegation does not individually rise to the level of dismissal, but the review of the Neil Reed incident caused us to look at sum total, the pattern of behavior. And from that perspective, it is troubling.

This behavior cannot and will not continue or be tolerated at Indiana University.

I believe coach Knight to be a man of integrity. We also have to remember that he has an illustrious career at Indiana University. His players have extraordinarily high graduation rates. Many of those young men have gone on to be excellent and productive citizens.

On Saturday night, I spent a number of hours with the coach, and he and I have had some discussions since then. In these discussions he has given me his word that he will take extraordinary steps to change his behavior and represent Indiana University with honor and dignity. He's formally apologized and will do so to Jeanette Hartgraves, the administrative assistant to the athletic director for a 1998 incident in which coach Knight verbally abused her.

I've conferred at length with the I.U. trustees and they've delegated to me the responsibility of personnel decisions. Two trustees, Steve -- trustee Steven Ferguson (ph), recused himself from the beginning of these deliberations. And in the final deliberations, trustee Peter Obremski (ph) also recused himself, both because they have had legal dealings with the coach.

I am acting then with the full concurrence of the remaining seven trustees and after lengthy, very difficult deliberations I recommended to the trustees that Bob Knight continue his duties as basketball coach, but I also recommended that he do so under very specific, very firm guidelines, and these guidelines and sanctions will send a clear message that abusive, uncivil, embarrassing behavior will not be tolerated.

Let me repeat, we have established tough specific guidelines which send a clear message that abusive and embarrassing behavior will not be tolerated.

Let me read to you the directives and the sanctions: As a result of the review, which found a pattern of inappropriate behavior, the sanctions for coach Knight are a three-game suspension during the 2000-2001 regular season and a $30,000 fine. The fine will be withheld from his salary.

Two, any verified, inappropriate physical contact with players, members of the university community or others in connection with the coach's employment at I.U., will be cause for immediate termination.

Three, public presentations and other occasions during which coach Knight is a representative of Indiana University will be conducted with appropriate decorum and civility, included amongst these are interactions with the news media.

(LAUGHTER)

Any failure on coach's -- coach Knight's part to meet these standards will be cause for further sanctions up to and including termination of his position as head coach of Indiana University's basketball team.

Four, a commission will be established to develop policies for appropriate behavior for all coaches, student athletes and the I.U. athletic's director -- department employees. The code of conduct will outline sanctions for inappropriate behavior. The commission will be chaired by athletic director Clarence Doninger and it will contain amongst others, faculty members from the I.U. athletics committee. The commission will make these recommendations to the athletics committee, the president, for approval by the trustees.

These sanctions and directives are effective immediately. The trustees and I are in absolute agreement. Should Bob Knight violate any of these requirements, he will be terminated. This is a zero- tolerance policy. If coach Knight had not agreed to all these steps, I would have recommended to the trustees that he be terminated now, and I believe the trustees would have concurred with that recommendation.

Now, this process has forced us to question how well Indiana University has handled the individual controversies and incidents in the past. Could these problems have been dealt with earlier and in a better way? The answer to that question is yes. I believe we could have dealt with it more effectively in the past. We have a systemic problem that allowed this persistent problem of unacceptable behavior to exist. In developing the strict code of conduct for all coaches, student athletes and the athletic department employees we are taking our steps to rectify the systemic problems.

We cannot change the past, but we can shape the future. Any coach or student athlete who violates the code, including coach Knight, will face sanctions up to and including immediate termination.

Now let me close my comments on a personal note. This has been an extraordinarily difficult and troubling process. On the one hand we're dealing with sensitive and very personal issues. Even more so, the trustees and I have had to deal with these issues in the spotlight of national attention. It has created an avalanche of responses from alumni, friends and some who don't know us at all.

The media attention has focused on the negative aspects of Bob Knight's public career and his personality. There is a profound, good side to him as well. Not only do his student athletes graduate, and they become good citizens, but that good side has been flawed by his temper. I have struggled as have the trustees to offer a balanced, tough, fair, ethical solution in light of what Bob Knight has been told in the past, and the directives he's had in the past, as well as the current situation, and I believe we have reached that conclusion.

I turn it back to John to read a statement now from the coach.

JOHN WALDA, INDIANA UNIV. TRUSTEE: Coach Knight has asked that the following message be conveyed on his behalf. It's dated today: "President Myles Brand in a meeting with me gave me a set of guidelines he expects me to follow if I want to continue as Indiana University's basketball coach. I have absolutely no problem with the guidelines. The establishment of effective and proper guidelines can in the long run help me become a better coach. As I have said before, I recognize that I have a problem with my temper. For those times it is ever caused me to do anything that gave anyone understandable and justifiable reason to be upset, I am sincerely sorry." Signed, "Bob Knight."

BRAND: Questions?

QUESTION: Mr. Brand, I'm sure...

BRAND: Please identify yourself in asking a question. QUESTION: Yes, (OFF-MIKE) Columbus, Ohio. I'm sure there will be some and perhaps many who will say you and your constituents lack the backbone to dismiss this man now and that you should have done it perhaps even earlier?

BRAND: These are tough directives, we're asking Bob Knight to live up to a code of conduct above that of any coach in the country. It's a zero-tolerance policy. He is a man of integrity and says he will live up to it. If he cannot, then he will be terminated. Given the fact that he has not in the past had such a clear set of guidelines or such strong sanctions or such a review, I believe the ethical approach is to give him one last chance.

QUESTION: Dr. Brand, (OFF-MIKE) "Detroit Free Press," would we be here today, would this investigation have taken place if Indiana was coming off a NCAA championship instead of being seven years removed? You have a championship caliber program which you have become accustomed to.

BRAND: There are two parts to that question. The first part is we still have an excellent basketball program. We've been in the NCAA's 15 years. We had a group of student athletes who performed well above the expectation of the sportswriters. We've got a successful basketball team.

That's part of the answer, but that's not the real part of the answer. The real part of the answer is this is about integrity, this is about the nature of our basketball program and the role that the coach plays as a representative to the university. So it was not made on the basis of winning or losing.

QUESTION: Then why hasn't this -- this man has had a history of unacceptable conduct, yet this is the first time the school has taken any initiative?

BRAND: Each incident was evaluated and there were steps taken in each case, including sanctions in each case, that have not been effective in the past. Nothing this strongly and systematically has ever been done before.

WALDA: Yes, sir, right here.

QUESTION: Yes, (OFF-MIKE), what assurances or worries do you have that other allegations (OFF-MIKE) will come out and (OFF-MIKE) prepare for that?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Mr. Walda?

WALDA: During our investigation, we understandably had incidents brought to our attention that weren't part of the Neil Reed issue. Most of those have been well-aired in the media: the abuse of a secretary in our athletic department, the incident between coach Knight and an assistant coach following the assistant coach's firing, an altercation between the coach and our athletic director, which is intolerable. Some that haven't been aired have come to our attention. We learned of an incident where there was a fight at a practice of our basketball team that wasn't appropriately broken up or handled by the coaching staff. And we followed each of those stories and spoke to all of the witnesses, and I think we have a pretty good understanding of what's out there. Those incidents are what led to us -- led us to the conclusion that a pattern of behavior which we were not familiar with as trustees previously existed, and it's a pattern which we cannot tolerate.

QUESTION: Were those substantiated? (UNINTELLIGIBLE) Are you saying those, in fact, were substantiated allegations?

WALDA: There were witnesses who substantiated each of the stories that I have described.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Right over here?

QUESTION: Joe Graves (ph) of "The New York Times." You mentioned Miss Hartgraves, and in light of what you found with Reed, is he going to apologize to Neil Reed and any of the other people personally?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: President Brand?

BRAND: The coach will apologize to Miss Hartgraves. He offered a general apology to others, all others, involved.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Jeremy?

QUESTION: Dr. Brand, Jeremy Rigowski (ph) of WPHR (ph). Critics will say, have said, that Bob Knight, one man, has been and always will be bigger than Indiana University as a whole. Is Bob Knight bigger than Indiana university.

BRAND: I think we've just proved that is not the case. These are tough directives. We're holding him to zero tolerance. We're taking steps to ensure his pattern of behavior changes. If it does not, he will be terminated. That does not make him bigger than Indiana University. The integrity of the institution is first.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Robert.

QUESTION: Robert Atwater (ph) with CNN/"SI." You've had a policy on the books since 1987 protecting your student athletes. It says in part, "The student athlete should not be subjected to physically and verbally abusive, intimidating or humiliating and degrading behavior, and athletes are encouraged to speak out." Do you think this will have a negative effect on athletes speaking out if there is nothing done in their eyes when they did speak out?

BRAND: In fact, talking about the Neil Reed case, Neil Reed did not speak out when this happened. We had an investigation at that time. He refused to talk to the persons investigating, claimed that he had to consult with his attorney. We didn't know of any attorney, and no one got back to us. The problem is that no one spoke out in the past. We want to revise the system so that people can speak out in the future, and that should be encouraging to student athletes.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Yes, sir, in the back?

QUESTION: President Brand, when you spoke with coach Knight during the conversation, the two-hour conversation, was he embarrassed by all of this? And what do you think...

WATERS: Indiana University President Myles Brand with the full support of the board of trustees at the university, giving coach Bob Knight one more chance with zero tolerance for his angry behavior. The most recent event is the choking incident, what Neil Reed, a former Indiana University basketball player, called a choking incident and which the board of trustees found to be a 2.3-second grab at the neck by coach Knight is what set off the seven-week investigation which now leads to three-game suspension in the 2000-2001 season for coach Knight, a $30,000 fine, and if his behavior, his angry behavior, should continue, immediate termination.

He will be required to be civil at all functions where he is a representative of Indiana University, including news conferences. There will be more sanctions if he does not comply.

A commission will be established at the university for a code of conduct for all future coaches. We heard an apology, a statement of apology, from Bob Knight, saying he has agreed to all of these sanctions against him, but he will continue on as coach at the University of Indiana.

CNN's Jeff Flock is on campus today at the assembly hall on the Indiana University campus in Bloomington.

I imagine folks are already reacting to this decision on coach Knight -- Jeff?

JEFF FLOCK, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Lou, just an unprecedented day in Bloomington, Indiana. As you say, Assembly Hall is right behind me. It is the home of the Indiana University basketball team. Coach Knight has an office there, which he departed about 25, 30 minute ago, just before the press conference got under way. And I must report that his first brush with the news media after his admonition by the board was by all accounts full of good decorum. He was asked what he would have to say about it, and coach Knight replied, "Why talk now, when so many things are said without ever giving me a chance to talk?" That is all he said here publicly before departing.

An unprecedented day here on the campus in Bloomington. This kind of a sanction is something that Bob Knight has never before faced in his long term here as basketball coach in Indiana. The notion -- some people have followed this for a good long time. The notion of Bobby Knight apologizing or saying he was sorry or wrong about anything is just something that they have never heard anything about. But I can report to you, as I said, he was in good -- if not good spirits, at least very calm spirits when he left here about 25 minutes ago.

We will, of course, continue to watch it. I'm Jeff Flock, CNN, reporting live from Bloomington, Indiana.

WATERS: OK, let's get some more reaction now to the decision on coach Knight just made by University President Myles Brand.

Seth Davis is CNN/"Sports Illustrated"'s college basketball insider. Seth joins us live from New York.

Myles Brand almost defiantly saying winning or losing had nothing to do with this decision. What do you think about this?

SETH DAVIS, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, I tend to doubt that. I mean, it's no secret that over the last six or seven years Bob Knight hasn't won like he did earlier in his career. But really, I think this investigation was almost set up for this conclusion. If you recall, Lou, when they initially commissioned the study, it was supposed to end in the middle of June. I'm not sure why they decided to go with this announcement now, even when more revelations were continuing to come to light.

I also feel like, you know, given that this pattern of behavior has gone on so long, the university has obviously tolerated Bob Knight for this long, I think it would have been inconsistent if not hypocritical for them to fire him now, just because it was being made public.

WATERS: Yes, the questions from the news media down there are why hasn't this happened before. And we heard from the university trustee who said we found a lengthy pattern of troubling behavior. That is like Claude Raines discovering gambling going on at Rick's casino in "Casablanca."

DAVIS: Well, and, you know, Mr. Wald is saying, well, the trustees had no idea of all this. I just don't buy it. I think that basically Bob Knight got so huge in the state of Indiana and in Indiana University because of his three national championships that it was much easier for administrators to be looking the other way.

Plus, I think there was always a huge intimidation factor with Bob Knight, that people were afraid to come forward. And I think that, you know, the reality he hasn't won a Big-10 championship in seven years. The last six years he's not advanced past the second round of the NCAA tournament. He's had very high-profile players transfer out. I think all of that has built to this day. But still, I think It would have been wrong for the university to fire him now when they tolerated it for so long.

WATERS: Do you think it is unusual that amid these apologies that coach Knight already has begun making, that Neil Reed, the young fellow who was grabbed by the neck for 2.1 -- 2.3 seconds, according to the folks who analyzed that tape, does not get an apology?

DAVIS: Well, you know, it seems that he's only apologizing to one person, and I think that there are more people who are certainly deserving of an apology. And, you know, Bob Knight is classic because he doesn't like to admit when he's wrong. He very rarely apologizes. And, you know, I think of all the sanctions that they handed down, the worst for him is that he has to be nice to the sports writers. For Bob Knight, that's got to be a fate worse than death.

WATERS: All right, Seth Davis, who is our CNN/"Sports Illustrated" college basketball insider on coach Knight, you just heard the decision within the past half hour. Myles Brand, with the full backing of the trustees of Indiana University, have leveled what they call a zero-tolerance policy on their coach, Bob Knight, coach for 29 years at Indiana University with a long win record. He's been given one last chance to continue as coach, but the zero tolerance is that his behavior must be contained.

A long, storied career of angry behavior within the university and without, coach Knight gets a three-game suspension for his actions, a $30,000 fine, immediate termination if the behavior crops up again, and he must remain civil at all functions where he is a representative of the university and at all news conferences. So we shall see.

That's the Bobby Knight story for now, more later. I'm Lou Waters at CNN center. We'll take a break.

"SHOWBIZ TODAY" is next.

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