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Indiana puts Knight on foul line; Fiery coach to stay, but only if he meets strict behavior code; 'This will not be tolerated'; Probe of abuses brings 3-game suspension, fine

THE BALTIMORE SUN

Bob Knight will get to coach his 30th season at Indiana University --- three games late, $30,000 light and with a newly established zero-tolerance policy to prevent any more incidents of verbal or physical abuse on the part of college basketball's most controversial figure.

Knight, 59, was given a reprimand yesterday by Indiana president Myles Brand that will include a suspension at the start of next season, a docking of pay and what will likely result in a far different approach to coaching -- if not life itself -- for his Hall of Fame career to continue in Bloomington.

It will allow Knight to pursue retired North Carolina legend Dean Smith's record of 879 victories. Knight, who has coached the Hoosiers to three national championships but has not taken a team to the Final Four since 1992, is currently 116 wins behind Smith.

Yesterday's announcement, made by Brand before a packed news conference in Indianapolis and a live national television audience, followed seven weeks of intense scrutiny of Knight's on- and off-court behavior. An internal review that Brand called an "exhaustive investigation" uncovered a number of incidents dating back as far as 24 years ago, when Knight allegedly punched out a former sports information director.

What started out in late March with allegations of Knight choking former player Neil Reed during practice three years ago spread wildly.

It included a charge by former Hoosiers star and current Toronto Raptors coach Butch Carter, who claimed Knight used racist language toward another former player. Amid the spate of other allegations that proved to be correct was that Knight verbally abused the secretary of athletic director Clarence Doninger, attacked one of his own grown sons during a hunting trip and assaulted former assistant coach Ron Felling, who provided the videotape of the Reed incident.

"During my tenure at the university since 1994, each of the allegations that became known have been dealt with appropriately, and investigated," said Brand. "Viewed by themselves, each allegation does not rise to the level of dismissal. But the review of the Neil Reed incident caused us to look at a pattern of behavior and from that perspective it is troubling. This behavior cannot and will not be tolerated at Indiana University."

Said John Walda, the chairman of the board of trustees who helped conduct the investigation with the help of a private investigator who interviewed 29 people, including seven former players, "There are no sacred cows at Indiana University and that certainly includes the basketball program."

Knight, who returned from a fishing trip to the Bahamas last week to meet with Brand, did not attend yesterday's news conference, which was held on the campus of Indiana University-Purdue University at Indianapolis.

In a statement read by Walda, Knight said, "President Myles Brand, in a meeting with me, gave me a set of guidelines he expects me to follow if I am to continue as Indiana University's basketball coach. I have absolutely no problems with the guidelines.

'The establishment of the guidelines can in the long run help me coach. As I've said before, I recognize I have a problem with my temper. For those times it has ever caused me to do anything that gave anyone understandable and justifiable reason to be upset, I'm sincerely sorry."

According to Brand, he and the board were leaning toward dismissing Knight until the embattled coach offered an uncharacteristic statement of apology Saturday afternoon. Knight then met with Brand and eight of the nine members of the school's board of trustees Saturday night. Brand and seven board members (two recused themselves for having personal relationships with Knight) then met for 2 1/2 hours Sunday to decide Knight's fate at Indiana.

Brand said he was confident that Knight will change his boorish behavior.

"He has given me his word that he will take extraordinary steps to change his behavior and represent Indiana University with honor and dignity," said Brand. "He's formally apologized and will do so to Jeannette Hartgraves [Doninger's secretary] for a 1998 incident."

Brand said that aside from the suspension, fine and apologies to those he offended (though not a personal one to Reed), "any verified, inappropriate or physical contact with players, members of the university community or others connected with employment at IU would be cause for immediate termination."

Brand added that Knight would have to refrain from any of the expletive-laced outbursts with the media that have been a constant during his career.

Said 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, with a zero-tolerance policy. He is a man of integrity and says he will live up to it. If he cannot, 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."

The university also is establishing a code of conduct for all athletes, coaches and athletic department representatives that will follow the same guidelines. Doninger will chair the committee that will include faculty members to set up the sanctions that will be followed.

"I'm happy," said Jarrod Odle, who attended the news conference with two of his Indiana teammates. "Coach is going to have to make a change, and he's going to have to do things different. But overall, we've still got our coach and we've still got our team, and I think we can work through it."

One longtime critic of Knight's, Indiana University English professor Murray Sperber, said on ESPN yesterday that he doesn't know if the coach can change.

Sperber, who came in the same year that Knight was hired from Army, has seen a long list of incidents that included Knight's conviction for assaulting a policeman while coaching an international team in Puerto Rico in 1979, the infamous chair-throwing during a game at Assembly Hall in 1985 for which he was suspended for one game by the Big Ten and the time in 1993 he kicked his son, Pat, while he was playing for the Hoosiers.

"I reserve skepticism because I've seen 29 years of behavior up to today," said Sperber. "All the anger management experts say it's an important step in a person's recovery to apologize to everyone you've hurt. That includes a long list of people [in Knight's case]. I didn't hear Myles Brand say that."

Brand praised Knight for the fact he has run a clean program for nearly three decades and his players graduate and become productive citizens. He also placed some of the blame on the university itself, on he and other administrators who failed to take appropriate action against Knight or simply chose to look the other way.

"Could these problems have been dealt with earlier and in a better way -- the answer to this question is yes," said Brand. "We have a systemic problem that allowed this persistent problem of unacceptable behavior to exist. We cannot change the past, but we can shape the future."

While his critics might disagree, those who know Knight well believe he is capable of changing the way he handles his players, as well as others who he has often tried to intimidate.

"I think Indiana University was extremely fair to Bob Knight and he has been extremely good for Indiana University," said Navy coach Don DeVoe, who played with Knight for one season at Ohio State and was an assistant under the then-boy wonder coach during Knight's six years at Army. "He deserves the opportunity to make adjustments."

Hall of Fame coach Pete Newell, a longtime mentor to Knight, said yesterday from his home in California that he has already seen Knight change. But he also knows how explosive a temper Knight has.

"It's going to be interesting," said Newell. "It will be a challenge. I know him well enough to know that he's good at meeting challenges. He's sitting down more [on the bench] and that's a step in the right direction."

Sun staff writer Christian Ewell contributed to this article.

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