September 10, 2000 was a day that will live in infamy in the lore of IU basketball.
On this day twenty years ago, Robert Montgomery Knight, the most iconic individual ever associated with the program, was fired.
Knight was the Indiana basketball coach from 1971 to 2000 with a career record of 661-240 while at IU. He coached teams that won 11 Big Ten Championships, a Big Ten record, and NCAA championships in 1976, 1981, and 1987. He was inducted into the IU hall of fame in 2009.
Knight publicly returned to Simon Skjodt Assembly Hall in February at halftime of a basketball game.
Below are videos containing some of the media coverage of Knight’s firing from twenty years ago.
Further below is a transcript of the remarks made by then IU president Myles Brand and trustee Frederick Eichorn, Jr. at a press conference in Indianapolis on September 10, 2000 to announce the firing Knight.
The transcript of Brand and Eichorn’s remarks is below.
PRESIDENT MYLES BRAND — Thank you all for coming today. We have completed an investigation into the recent allegations involving Indiana University basketball coach Bob Knight. I’d like to report on the findings of that investigation and other events involving Coach Knight.
On May 15 of this year, I announced to you findings of a seven-week investigation into three allegations raised by a former student-athlete. At that time we made clear what is acceptable behavior for Coach Knight. For that reason, on May 15, we announced that Coach Knight was being given a series of sanctions and one last chance under the zero-tolerance policy.
Let me remind you how we defined the sanctions and how we defined the zero-tolerance policy. And I quote:
“As a result of that review which found a pattern of inappropriate behavior, the sanctions for Coach Knight are a three-game suspension during the regular 2000-01 season and a $30,000 fine, which will be withheld from his salary.
“Two. Any verifiable, inappropriate, physical contact discovered in the future with players, members of the university community or others in connection with his employment at IU will be cause for immediate termination.
“Three. Public presentation and other occasions during which Coach Knight is a representative of Indiana University will be conducted with the appropriate decorum and civility. Included upon these occasions are interactions with the news media. Failure to do so will be cause for further sanction up to and including termination from the position of basketball coach.
“Four. A task force will be established and develop policies for appropriate behavior for all coaches, athletic department employees, and student athletes and for sanctions for not following these policies. The task force will make its recommendations on these policies to the athletics committee, the president, and the board of trustees.”
I believe the media here today have copies of this handout.
In recent days, it has been reported that our zero-tolerance guidelines are unclear or ill-formed. Nothing could be further from the truth. As I just reiterated, we specified exactly what zero-tolerance is at the May 15 press conference. Those are the guidelines which Coach Knight has been required to abide by for these last four months.
The Code of Athletic Conduct Commission is developing a code of conduct for all student-athletes, coaches and administrators on all of our campuses.
This commission will report its finding to a university board of trustees this Friday at its regularly scheduled meeting. But do not confuse the two, since May 15 our zero-tolerance guidelines have been in effect. And they are what I just quoted to you.
Unfortunately, there have been many instances in the last 17 weeks in which Coach Knight has behaved and acted in a way that is both defiant and hostile. These actions illustrate the very troubling pattern of inappropriate behavior that make clear that Coach Knight has no desire, contrary to what he personally promised me, to live within the zero-tolerance guidelines we set out on May 15.
We have given Indiana University basketball coach Bob Knight one last chance. And he’s failed to take full advantage of that opportunity.
Let me give you some examples of Coach Knight’s behavior in the last 17 weeks that is uncivil, defiant and unacceptable.
There was a continued unwillingness by Coach Knight to work within the normal chain of command in the IU’s athletic department.
I personally asked Coach Knight, on May 13, to resume the normal chain of command with athletics director Clarence Doninger. He has adamantly refused to do that. This violates the letter and spirit of the guidelines set down on May 15.
There have been several attempts to embarrass Indiana University. In private and in public, Coach Knight has made angry and inflammatory remarks about university officials and the board of trustees. This violates the letter and spirit of the guidelines set out on May 15.
There have been several instances in which Coach Knight has shown disrespect for our university alumni. Specifically, the Coach has informed the university that he now refuses to participate in previously scheduled varsity club events in Indianapolis, Bloomington, and Chicago.
While the Coach has informed the university that he will attend four public events as required in his contract, he has refused to attend the most popular, widely attended events of our alumni that our alumni anticipate each year. This violates the letter and the spirit of the guidelines set down on May 15.
There has been an instance in the recent past in which Coach Knight verbally abused a high-ranking female university official in the presence of other persons. This angry outburst in his office was completely unnecessary and inappropriate. This violates, again, the letter and the spirit of the guidelines set down on May 15.
There has been a lack of cooperation in fulfilling the sanctions handed down on May 15. It is important to note that the coach has agreed to fulfill these obligations but has forced the university to go through a protracted, unpleasant and completely unnecessary process to reach that end. This again violates the letter and spirit of the guidelines set down on May 15.
There has been one other instant of gross insubordination. I had a telephone conversation with Coach Knight at 10:30 p.m. Friday to discuss the allegations raised in the current situation. At the conclusion of the conversation, Coach Knight informed me he was leaving Saturday morning to go on a fishing trip in Canada.
Due to the seriousness of the investigation, I requested more than once that he postpone his trip and stay in Bloomington. He adamantly refused. This violates the letter and the spirit of the guidelines set down on May 15.
And most recently we have a well-publicized incident in which Coach Knight had a confrontation with a 19-year-old IU student in front of Assembly Hall. The IU police are investigating this matter and have completed their preliminary findings. They have talked with seven people and have two more persons with whom to talk. But we believe they have settled the factual aspects of the case.
The Coach reached out and initiated physical contact with the student on his arm, and the two had, according to varied accounts, an uncomfortable exchange. It is not in dispute that the coach reached out and grabbed the young man’s arm in an unwelcome fashion. The severity of the act is in dispute, however.
But the bottom line is that an angry confrontation with a student explicitly violates the spirit and the letter of the guidelines set out May 15.
It’s important to note that in the incident involving the IU student, he unfortunately became an unwilling part of a very public story. While the stepfather of the young man has aggressively sought media coverage of the event — and that is unfortunate — we are committed to assure that every IU student has the right to safe, productive and enlightening educational experience at Indiana University.
This young man is no exception. And I hope that we all respect his privacy and understand that this young man has been caught up in events well beyond his own responsibility.
I have been briefed continuously by the IU police on this matter since Friday. I have also consulted informally, on a regular basis throughout the weekend with our trustees.
No vote of our trustees has been taken, but a large majority share my view on our response to this pattern of unacceptable behavior. They have also conferred with the men’s basketball players, the IU Athletics Committee through their chairman, key faculty leaders, and, of course, our trustee president, John Walda, who is traveling abroad and cannot be with us today but expresses full support for this action.
No one incident of the ones I have named may singly rise to the level for the removal of Coach Knight. But this persistent and troubling pattern of behavior has lead me to only one conclusion.
In an early morning telephone conversation with Coach Knight today, I gave him the option of resigning as head basketball coach. He declined. And I notified him that he was being removed as basketball coach effectively immediately.
This is an option the university can exercise under paragraph 9 of Coach Knight’s contract, and I believe that was handed out to you as well. It specifies, and I quote, ‘If the university at any time desires, coach shall cease to serves as head basketball coach, when so advised in writing.’ A certified letter will be sent to him tomorrow.
In exercising this option, the university is obligated to continue to pay Coach Knight his salary through the end of his contract which expires June 30, 2002. Coach Knight is therefore entitled to approximately two years’ salary, and of course the university will abide by all terms of the contract.
Let me add some personal thoughts now: I’ve been in higher education for over 30 years. I’ve been the president of two major universities and an administrator or faculty member at several others. Unquestionably, this is the most difficult decision I’ve ever had to make.
Bob Knight is a legendary coach at a school with a legendary basketball reputation. He’s been a national coaching example, not only in wins and losses, and Big Ten and national championships, but also fielding teams for three decades that comprise outstanding, fine young men.
His program has been devoid of major NCAA violations, and his graduation rates are among the highest in the country. These young men who have had the honor to play under Coach Knight are representative of the best of IU. This includes of course the outstanding team we have now.
I met with these young men yesterday, and I pledge to them, and renew that pledge to give my unwavering support to our basketball program.
But that aside, my decision which came after consultation and deep thought is in the best long run interest of Indiana University. I’ve asked Vice President Terry Claypacs, athletic director Clarence Doninger, to lead the effort to find and interim coach for this season. That search begins now. At an appropriate time, a committee will be formed within Indiana University to find a permanent coach.
TRUSTEE FREDERICK EICHHORN, JR. — Thank you. A large majority of the Board of the Trustees fully supports this decision. We regret that the coach’s actions have resulted in this conclusion. But this is the best answer for the university at this time.
I have great respect for what Coach Knight has accomplished, but his attitude toward his peers and other university officials is intolerable.
Indiana University is much more than its basketball program. And it is the overall interest of the university that motivates this conclusion.
It is time to move forward with the essential business of the university.
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