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Knight belongs in IU Hall of Fame, but will he accept with grace?

Hayes writes on controversial coach

Sunday, August 23, 2009 - 9:40 am

Now the kiss-and-make-up basketball is in Bob Knight’s court.

Indiana University announced Saturday it will induct Knight into the university’s Hall of Fame on Nov. 6. Whether Knight will consider attending the ceremony remains to be seen.

Knight has not been back to IU since he was fired as coach by then-IU President Myles Brand in 2000. In fact, Knight all but stopped referring to Indiana in much of any fashion, outside of the occasional praise for former players and his longtime fans.

Does Knight belong in the IU Hall of Fame? Of course he does. You can disagree with his tactics and behavior – and I have many times over the years – but you cannot deny his impact on IU. He ran a clean program, graduated players and sent productive student-athletes into society. And, oh yeah, he won three NCAA National Championships.

It would be nice closure for the university if it could make amends with Knight and vice versa. The people who fired Knight have moved on. The new coach, Tom Crean, believes in embracing the Hoosiers’ tradition. That tradition began with Branch McCracken, but there’s no question it reached new national spotlight highs (and some lows) under Knight.

It’ll be interesting to see if Knight is in the forgiving mood with the current IU administration and basketball program.

Knight doesn’t seem to care about his image or outsiders’ perceptions of him. But if he returned to the induction and embraced the honor, it would work wonders for his long-term legacy.

If Knight wants to, he could finish a long estrangement from the university looking like the bigger man. But will his pride let him?

* If the media believes, it can’t be true

The Florida Gators are the most overwhelming No.1 college football team in the history of the Associated Press’ preseason Top 25 poll.

You know what that means?

If the media is that certain of something, it has to be wrong.

Also: The already heightened motivation of Florida’s opponents was just ratcheted up another notch.

The Gators’ 58 of 60 first-place votes (96.7 percent) topped the previous most popular preseason No.1 of USC in 2007 when the Trojans received 62 of 65 first-place votes (95.4 percent). Guess who didn’t win the national title that year, or even play for it?

Florida coach Urban Meyer predictably said he didn’t want his players to even “think about that kind of stuff.” Guess what? Today’s players are more communication-connected than any in history. They could no more avoid hearing and talking about the rankings than they could ignore Florida coeds.

FOXSports.com ran a poll asking readers who they would pick to finish the year No.1. The choices were Florida or “The rest of the field.” By Saturday afternoon, with over 33,000 votes, “The rest of the field” had 67 percent of the votes. That’s a lot closer than it should be. Florida faces a target unlike any other. Yes, they’re loaded. But winning championships as a preordained No.1 is a monumental, often insurmountable, goal. Just ask those 2007 Trojans.

* A rosy revisionist viewpoint

Hall of Fame third baseman Mike Schmidt penned an article for the Associated Press this week lending his support for former Phillies teammate Pete Rose to have his lifetime suspension from baseball lifted.

Schmidt, a thoughtful man, nonetheless supports his position with the most unconvincing dismissal of Rose’s betting on baseball while Rose was managing the Cincinnati Reds.

“Pete bet on the Reds to win, never to lose,” Schmidt wrote. “He never managed with the intention of not winning. …Pete never bet big or long enough to sway the gambling line.”

This is friendship talking. The problem with gambling is that betting can lead to monetary losses and ultimately compromising games, throwing games, etc., in order to maximize financial gain. It may be true Rose never reached that point. But the rules are the rules and they say no gambling. Shoeless Joe Jackson is an outcast for his involvement in the Chicago Black Sox scandal of 1919, and his World Series stats show he never played with the intention of not winning.

Schmidt, like Hank Aaron, means well. He likes Rose. He feels a kinship to players of his era and he feels cheated by the statistical exploits of the steroid era. Many of us feel cheated by steroids. That’s why Mark McGuire is not in the Hall of Fame today. That’s why Sammy Sosa probably won’t be there, either. Barry Bonds can only pray.

Rose broke a sacred baseball rule, and then lied about it for 15 years until he thought it would be advantageous to quit lying. One of the greatest players of all time? No doubt. Hall of Famer? He chose to surrender that title when he placed his first bet on the Reds. His choice. His consequence.

I admire Schmidt’s loyalty to his friend. But he’s wrong.

* Not his Sunday best

Almost enough has been written about Brett Favre and his retirement, comeback, retirement, comeback to finally use up all of cyberspace.

This will be my last comment, at least until I think of something else: What the heck was up with Favre’s dirty baseball cap?

Even if you believe that the Favre’s decision to return to the NFL and play for the Minnesota Vikings was not preplanned – and I’m sure there is someone out there who buys that premise; check the local preschool for candidates – wouldn’t you at least try to freshen up a bit for the news conference?

Maybe this is supposed to be part of the Favre charm. Maybe Wrangler suggested the outdoorsy, just-back-from-a-fishing trip look. Maybe it was meant to make the Minnesota marriage look spontaneous.

To me, it looked like something Bill Murray’s character would have worn in “Caddyshack.”

So Favre’s got that going for him.

This column is the commentary of the writer and does not necessarily reflect the views or opinions of The News-Sentinel. E-mail Reggie Hayes at rhayes@news-sentinel.com.