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Coach Bobby Knight Denies Mistreating Indiana University Student

Aired September 8, 2000 - 6:46 p.m. ET


JUDY WOODRUFF, CNN ANCHOR: We are going to take us directly to Bloomington, Indiana where basketball coach Bobby Knight is talking with reporters about an alleged incident in which he grabbed a freshman student yesterday.

Let's listen.


BOBBY KNIGHT, HEAD BASKETBALL COACH, INDIANA UNIVERSITY: ... why I'm not doing tip-off luncheons. It's the reason why I'm not going to put myself in a position where this kind of thing can happen.

I'll explain to you and show you in just a moment exactly what happened. But before I do, I'll just give you just a bit of a background on something like this. There are two things that I've done through my entire coaching career with kids -- kids of any age -- and once in a while, with an adult -- but with kids.

One is that, over the years, I've signed an awful lot of things for a lot of kids around the country. And if I hand something back to a kid and the kid doesn't say, "Thank you," I just hang on to it. And I say, "What do you say?" And when he says,"Thank you," I always say that is better. And I hope that kid has learned a little bit from that.

You know, I learned to say thank you when I was a kid. And I hope every kid does. The second thing I've done is, when somebody calls me by my first name -- that's a kid -- and I also tell them, I say: You know, I'm not on a first-name basis with you. My name is coach Knight or it's Mr. Knight. I was in the fifth or sixth grade in my hometown in Ohio.

And I remember one Sunday morning at church -- much to the disbelief of some, I went to church a lot -- and we had a coach who had played football and baseball at Ohio State. He was an excellent baseball player. And he coached all three sports in a small school. And his name was Bill Coyer (ph). And I later -- long after he had retired -- got to know him.

And his mother and stepfather became very close friends of mine. But as a fifth- or sixth-grader in church this morning, I happened to beside Coyer. And his nickname -- he was a stocky-built guy -- and his nickname was Chub. And I said: "Chub, how are you?" He put his hand on my shoulder and he said: "Son my name, my name Mr. Coyer, or coach Coyer."

I never forgot that. And that has been a little part of what I have done with kids over the years. Now, I'll show exactly what happened in this thing yesterday. I need -- John, come up here -- or Mike, come up here a second. You are going to come up here anyhow. Now, let me show you upstairs. You run up.

Look at this, when you go upstairs -- the outside of Assembly Hall has a series of double-doors. And I don't know how many there are: four or five double-doors. The two doors on the left, as you face Assembly Hall, on the entrance up here on the south side. Something is wrong with the left door. It gets stuck and it is very difficult to open from either side.

Now, I don't need you guys all up here, OK. Why don't you just stay back and everybody can see? I mean, your butt ain't going to look real good on television.

And so, as I came up to this door, I opened the door. And the door swings to the right outside. And as I opened the door and started through the door, there were four kids inside that came out the door. And you can see this when you go upstairs. And the curve on the semicircle is something like this. And the doors are on the left.

Now, I show you this because there barely is room for two people to get through this door at the same time. Now, here is exactly what happened. And it will be about the length of what happened. Now, as I pushed the door open, there were four kids. And the first three kids trying to go through the door as I'm trying to get through the door, as I swing the door open. And they're holding the door.

And as I try too slide through the door sideways -- as does this kid, to get the through the door -- right about even with the door, this kid looks at me and says: "Hi, Knight."

And as he's moving, I put my hand on the inside of his elbow. And I looked at him, and I said: "Son, my name isn't Knight for you. It's coach Knight or it's Mr. Knight. I don't call people by their last names and neither should you."

And I took a couple of steps. He took a step or so.

And he said: "Well, I'm sorry, I" -- whatever.

And I said: "Just remember, when you're talking to elders what I've said."

And with that, he stuck his hand forward -- I don't know whether it was to shake hands or what -- and mumbled something.

And then said eventually: Good bye, Knight.

And I just kept on walking. And I said to myself: "I don't think I reached him with that."

So that is what happened. And that's entirely what happened. And any deviation from that is absolutely inaccurate -- completely inaccurate. Mike was there, maybe this far away from the whole situation. And Mike went in the door here -- eventually -- into the door here, and really saw the whole thing longer than I did. Because when I left, Mike kind of stood for a moment and watched the kids move out onto the concrete. And he'll -- he can explain that part of it -- of it to you.

And then we had a third person come forward this morning that had been there and had witnessed the whole thing. Just a couple of things other than that. You know, no one has ever referred -- ever heard me refer to my college coach as Fred. I mean, I've called him coach, or Coach Taylor, from the time I was 17 years old to today, 43 years later.

You know, and this -- don't even think that you can enter anger into this thing. This was simply a matter of manners and civility. I mean, I don't think that -- Mike can be the judge of this -- I don't think that my voice ever rose above a conversational tone or quality. I would have to be an absolute moron, an absolute moron with the things that have been laid down on me to grab a kid in public and curse at a kid in public -- as apparently, it's been said that I did.

And that is absolutely, totally untrue. And in a final thought, before Mike tells you what he'd like to tell you, it seems to me to be a very interesting coincidence that this student involved is the stepson of a guy that, over the years, has probably been the most vitriolic critic that I have ever had. That's interesting.

Mike Davis was there, 10 feet away. And he can add a couple things, I think, to what I've said -- Mike.

MIKE DAVIS, WITNESS TO KNIGHT INCIDENT: I was standing outside talking to Jeff Newton when coach pulled up in his car. And as coach got out of his car, coach was talking to Jeff about working hard, about individual workout. And as I was going in the door, coach was going in the door at the same time. And I saw some kids -- well, about three or four guys come out.

And coach and I went in the door at the same time. And I heard coach say, "My name is not Knight." And when coach said that, I turned and looked. And I was standing inside the door. And the kids couldn't see me, because they all was focused on coach. When I turned around, I saw the coach, he had the kid by the arm. And he was my saying: "Hey, my name is not Knight. It's coach Knight." They went on, and he never said a cuss word. He never raised his voice.

And it probably took about, I would say, four or five seconds, probably, for this whole thing to end. And as the kids went outside the door, I kind of circled around and looked out the big glass. And when I looked out, they all were just laughing, you know. And so when I come to work this morning, I hear about this. And I'm like: That's the biggest lie I've ever heard in my life. And I couldn't believe it. And I don't know how hard coach had the kid's arm, but coach never raised his voice. He never said a cuss word to the kid. And they all was laughing. That's -- that's all I know.

QUESTION: You guys are kind of expecting this sort of treatment from now until the end of this thing? It seems like people -- there is an attack mode.

DAVIS: Well, for me to witness it, you know, is really disappointing. You know, you -- when you hear things, you never know. But to be right there on the spot and see what happened, and then you come back to work the next day and you hear this, just -- a flat-out lie. It's just a flat-out lie. And to cause all of this when we trying to get ready for a season is disappointing.

QUESTION: Mike, did actually hear the conversation, the exchange, because I think you've been quoted as having not heard the conversation?

DAVIS: I was standing right there. And when coach said, "My name is not Knight," I turned and looked. I just stood there. I stood there and watched the whole situation. And there's no way they saw me, because all the kids were watching coach. Their eyes was on coach. And when coach finished saying what he had to say, he turned and walked away. And I turned in -- we walked in the same time.

And I kind of circled back -- and got a big glass window on the south side that you can look out outside the doors. When I looked out there, I saw (UNINTELLIGIBLE) laughing. You know, if coach would have grabbed the kid, cursed him out, I'm quite sure they would not be laughing about it.

QUESTION: Have you made this statement to the police?

DAVIS: I sure did. And I told the police that you know, if we give everybody a lie detector test, I guarantee you they would fail.

QUESTION: Because of all that's go on in the last several months, do you feel like coach Knight is a target for this sort of thing?

DAVIS: Oh, no question, because you guys are here, you know. It's like crying wolf. The boy crying wolf, everybody come. You know, so...

QUESTION: ... state of mind...

QUESTION: Mike, is this just the beginning of this season, because it seems like he's going to get this wherever he goes -- especially in some of the faraway cities. Is this just the beginning in, your opinion?

DAVIS: Well, I hope not, you know. But you never know what people have in their mind. This kid is in the spotlight for five or ten minutes, for a couple of days. And so it's just -- whoever is saying: I'll make an accusation about coach. I mean, I was right there. And it's a third party that there was there also. And they saw the whole incident. And, you know, it was nothing.

QUESTION: So there were ticket-takers there, too? Is that what I heard? Do you know anything about that?

DAVIS: I'm not sure. All I know is, when I was going in the door, I saw the kids coming out. And coach was coming in. And coach was kind of talking to Jeff. You know, he's like: "Jeff, you ready?" He was kind of playing around with Jeff. You know, coach was kind of laughing and talking.

And as coach entered the door, they came in the same time. And so I really didn't pay much attention. And then when coach said, "My name is not Knight," I turned and I looked, you know. And that was it.

QUESTION: ... what time did this occur?

DAVIS: I'm not sure. Around 2:00, I guess. I'm not sure what time it was.

QUESTION: Coach -- so -- coach Knight was coming out -- or coach Knight was...

DAVIS: Coach Knight was going in and kids was coming out. And they all was kind of laughing and, you know, playing around. And when they saw coach -- I didn't hear what the kid said to coach Knight. All I know is coach said: "My name is not Knight." And then I turned, and I looked.

Well, I was going through the middle door. You know, the door is always open. And coach was going in the first door on the end. So I'm probably from here to that -- the last chair down there, I guess. I'm not sure about the distance. But it wasn't far away.

QUESTION: ... to this story, why do you think they are still going after you (OFF-MIKE)

DAVIS: ... tell me, I was there, you know. I guess it's our word against theirs. Like I said, you take them in and give them a test, see if they pass. You know, they was all was standing outside laughing, just joking around.

You know -- the most disappointing thing is for all the kids to say this -- you know, for all of them to come forth and say: Hey, you know, coach did that, coach did this. Coach never said a cuss word. you know. He never raised his voice. You know, I was standing from there to there. And coach had his arm, you know. I never heard coach jerk him around. I mean, I didn't see that.

QUESTION: Does this disrupt, at all, your plans?

DAVIS: Oh, no question. You know, we had individual workouts today. And our players was upset. They was worried about it, you know. They all came forth and they asked what happened. And before each group, we had to address it.

QUESTION: Did coach Knight recognize one of the kids as being Mark Shaw's stepson?

DAVIS: I don't know. I think coach maybe found out this morning, you know. It was a total shock to me coming in this morning hearing this, I'm just telling you. I mean, I had no idea when they told me to go upstairs, I thought maybe I had done something wrong or something. But, you know, it was a total shock.

QUESTION: Thanks, Mike.

WOODRUFF: We've been listening to a news conference at Indiana University, where, as you just heard, basketball coach Bob Knight denied an accusation that yesterday he grabbed a freshman student and shouted obscenities at him. He said -- you just heard the coach say -- that all he did in going through a door was, when he heard the student refer to him as "Knight, what's up?" he held the young man's arm, he said, and said: "My name is not Knight. I'm coach Knight or Mr. Knight."

And then -- as you just heard -- a member of his staff, Mike Davis, who evidently works for the coach, said that he was there as a witness. He heard it. And he did not hear the coach raise his voice. He did not hear him use any profanity. He did say that he did not know how hard he held the young man's arm.

Now, to back up, this young, 19-year-old freshman, Kent Harvey, has accused coach Knight of grabbing him when he was just in the assembly. Let's listen to what he says.


KENT HARVEY, INDIANA UNIVERSITY STUDENT: ... I don't usually see celebrities everyday. And I was kind of like a little nervous talking to him, anyways. And like, he kind of gave me this weird look, and like he grabbed my arm. And he kind of like got in my face, and just said a couple comments like pretty -- I don't know -- it was pretty wild. He got in my face.

And he kind of blew up in that respect. I mean, he was not yelling at me. But he was not happy at all. He was very upset and -- just because I called him by his last name, I suppose. He wanted me to call him coach or Mr. Knight, or whatever, I don't know. I was not really -- I couldn't really -- I wasn't listening very well, because I was so nervous. And I was so shocked at what was happening.


WOODRUFF: Now, this comes on the heels of a ruling by the university in May that the coach would be fired if there were any abusive incidents between him and students or players. That ruling by the university came after the coach was accused -- and we are going to show you the video now -- of choking a player during the practice. This player, Neil Reed -- this was a practice that took place in 1997. The university conducted an investigation. And at the end of that investigation said they would not fire Knight. He would not be dismissed. But they did say that if there were any further incidents, those would be considered firing offenses.

Once again, we just heard coach Bob Knight at the University of Indiana, deny allegations that he grabbed a student, handled him roughly. He just said that what he said was entirely appropriate.

I'm Judy Woodruff in Washington.



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