March 13, 2003

What if?

by Chris Feeney

What if I was wrong? Yes it pains me to say it, but I may have to admit I was wrong about coach Bobby Knight. The oft embattled former leader of the Indiana basketball program has never been atop my favorite people list. I guess there's just something about the hot-headed coach that didn't set well with me. Now I'm not saying that every so-often a coach shouldn't yell at his players. But with Bobby it was the rule, not the exception. It was more of a rarity to see him pass on a word of support or a pat on the back. Of course there apparently wasn't a lack of physical contact between the coach and players as he ultimately was terminated from his position after he reportedly struck, strangled or in other ways mishandled his players during his fits of rage.

Ok, timeout. I've almost talked myself out of admitting I might have been wrong about coach Knight. Granted, I still don't like his methods and definitely don't condone his mistreatment of players and fans, not to mention reporters. But when I read this morning that Bobby Knight was unhappy with his coaching performance this year after his Texas Tech team went 16-10 (including a loss to Mizzou, which I got to see firsthand). He was so displeased with his efforts that he refused to accept his $250,000 paycheck from the university.

I'm a huge sports nut, as you all likely know. However big money is making it more and more difficult to appreciate professional sports, or even college athletics for that matter. It was so refreshing to see a high-profile sports figure step up like this. He basically said my performance didn't merit my pay. Not too many athletes would do the same thing. Albert Belle made more than $12 million from the Baltimore Orioles last year and he never even stepped foot on the baseball diamond due to injury. That doesn't even take into consideration all the millionaire players out there who didn't have an injury to blame their poor performances on yet kept going to the bank to cash their inflated paychecks.

But before we hoist Bobby onto our shoulders as a hero, one might want to look a little deeper into his finances. According to ESPN.com, Knight's five-year contract is worth $4.5 million. He gave back his $250,000 base salary. But he won't be asking for food stamps. The contract guarantees him $150,000 in deferred salary each year as well as an additional $500,000 a year in guaranteed "outside" income beyond his coaching duties. Maybe Bobby just woke up and realized that, while he has his devoted following, overall he was in need of a PR boost.

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