Pan Am Mishap
In spite of the great academic successes he had at Indiana (and nearly all of his players graduated, far above the national average) the press preferred to highlight the dramatic—and occasionally violent—interactions between Knight on one hand and everyone else on the other. In 1979 at the Pan American Games, Knight, in a confrontation with a Puerto Rican police officer, punched the cop after Knight was ejected from a game on a technical foul. The Puerto Rican government then put out a warrant for Knight's arrest, but he could not be extradited from the U.S. In the late 1980s Puerto Rico recalled the warrant. Knight, quoted in Sports Illustrated at the time, said of the Puerto Ricans, "F—'em, f—'em all.… The only thing they know how to do is grow bananas."
Indeed, Knight's list of notable mishaps seemed to get longer and longer, and as his team seemed to make earlier exits, the severity of actions grew in correlation with his team's failure to win in the NCAA tournament. He stuffed a fan from an opposing team (LSU) into a trash can. He told Connie Chung during an interview, "I think that if rape is inevitable, relax and enjoy it," though he later said that Chung took the quotation completely out of context. He has told women, in general, "There's only two things you people are good for: having babies and frying bacon." He pretended to bullwhip his star player, who happened to be black. He tossed a chair across the court during a game, kicked his own son (a player for him at the time) in the leg, and head-butted a player on the sidelines in a game, later claiming that he slipped as he was approaching the bench.
In 1986 Knight, in an attempt to show the country that he was not as bad as he was made out to be, allowed reporter John Feinstein total access to the Hoosier locker room and practices. This was unprecedented for Knight, who typically closed his practices to the press and the public. When John Feinstein's tell-all book, A Season on the Brink, came out in 1987, Knight claimed Fienstein distorted the facts.
As the nineties drew to a close, Knight's position at Indiana grew tenuous in spite of his nearly three decades of success at the school. Though many people would have weathered any turbulence with The General at the helm (and many Indiana fans still remain loyal to Bobby Knight, regardless of the fact that he coaches a thousand miles away in Texas), his questionable actions seemed to grow in intensity. In 1999 he was accused of choking Indiana basketball player Neil Ried in a 1997 practice (the act was caught on videotape). The school investigated and issued Knight a warning, suspended him for three games, and fined him $30,000.
He was also issued what the University referred to as its "zero-tolerance" policy in the spring of 2000. In the media storm that erupted in the fall of that year, it seemed that the reign of Coach Knight would come to an end. But just how it would end, no one knew.
On September 7, 2000, Knight allegedly grabbed Indiana freshman Kent Harvey and screamed profanities at him. Harvey claimed that he'd only said, "Hey, what's up, Knight?" and then Knight proceeded to berate him for disrespecting his elders. The picture gets blurry, however, and the true story of what happened—whether Knight used force or whether he merely held Harvey by the arm as he berated him—are not known. Knight would not apologize, however.
Indiana University claimed this was the type of incident their zero-tolerance policy was meant to prevent. University officials declared Knight's behavior unacceptable, and fired their coach on September 10, 2000. The president of Indiana University, Miles Brand, said that no one incident broke the policy; rather, Knight's continued display of bad behavior was the cause of his dismissal.
In 2001, after six months away from college coaching (the first time he had been away from coaching in nearly four decades), Knight accepted the head coaching position with the Texas Tech Red Raiders, members of the Big 12 conference. In only two seasons he began turning around a program that was sinking and put the Knight pedigree on Texas basketball. Located in Lubbock—a good distance from Indiana—Knight still wears red (the Raiders colors), and his office happens to be on Indiana lane. It seems that he cannot escape his past.
In November of 2002 Knight filed a lawsuit against Indiana, claiming that the University owes him more than $2 million in lost income since they fired him. He still maintains that he was fired without just cause and that he never got a chance to defend himself properly.