When the Mike Rice controversy exploded this week, the one person everyone immediately thought of was Bobby Knight. He's the guy you think of when an NCAA basketball coach puts his hand on a player, but he won't be saying anything and ESPN is fine with that.
Knight is currently under contract with ESPN as a college basketball analyst. Knight is the ideal authority on this situation. "He is the guy everybody thinks about when you see this video," Chris Russo told ESPN's news chief Vince Doria Thursday on his Russo's SiriusXM radio show. Knight was asked by ESPN if he would weigh in, but he declined. Doria said he won't pressure Knight into saying anything about Rice if Knight doesn't want to. Knight's working an NIT tournament game -- sort of a consolation tournament for those teams that don't make the big dance -- tonight on ESPN, but he won't comment on it there, either. Again, Russo is fine with this:
Doria: "We did ask Bobby whether or not he was willing to come on and talk about Rice. He respectfully declined to do so. We’re not going to force him to do that. He is, by the way, doing a game tonight and it is unlikely that he will comment on Rice there. We would have liked him to come on but I will say this about the Rice story. And, obviously, voyeuristically, everybody’s looking to hear from Bobby Knight, the one-time poster boy of putting his hands on players to weigh in on this. But this is not a very controversial topic of discussion here. I haven’t seen anybody weigh in on this at this point that hasn’t essentially agreed that it was eventually, you know, the outcome was correct here. So as to there being controversy here…"
In 2000, Bobby Knight lost his job coaching Indiana after video surfaced showed him choking a player, once. He was kept on initially with the same no-tolerance policy Rutgers initially gave Rice before giving him the boot on Wednesday. Knight was fired shortly after for breaking that no-tolerance policy. If anyone has insight on what it's like to face scrutiny for being too aggressive with players, Knight is the guy. But for some reason, ESPN isn't pressuring him to comment.
ESPN's Outside the Lines released footage Tuesday of Rice at Rutgers basketball practices during his first three years at the school, from 2010-2012, showing Rice pushing student-athletes he is supposed to mentor; throwing basketballs at their legs, feet, and heads; and calling them various epithets and gay slurs. After some intense media scrutiny, Rutgers athletic director Tim Pernetti fired Rice the next day. So many college sports personalities weighed on the issue of Rice's termination, except the one guy you want to hear from. Heck, we for some reason got to hear from Michelle Malkin and Sean Hannity. But Knight won't be saying anything if he doesn't want to, and ESPN is OK with it. "Mad Dog" Russo called Doria out for not making their college basketball analyst do his job:
Russo: "No, I agree with that but, see, if it was my call, I don’t want to see Knight do a game tonight. Knight can do a game when I get his thoughts here on what he feels about Mike Rice. He works for you. He is the guy everybody thinks about when you see this video here these last couple days. And you pay him a paycheck. He’s gotta give you, and if he doesn’t want to talk about it, fine, he doesn’t work the game, I don’t want to see him. So I can make that argument, as a viewer, that you are almost embarrassing everybody by putting Knight up there and he says, ‘Well, I’m not going to discuss Mike Rice.’ How can Bobby Knight do a game tonight in the NIT there, Vince, for ESPN, and not talk about Mike Rice? 20 miles from the [Rutgers] campus, from Madison Square Garden. That’s ridiculous."
Doria defended himself and the network, "yes, of course," they'd like to have him comment on Rice's behavior and subsequent firing, before explaining that's he's merely an independent contractor and that he's free to do what he wants, "within certain parameters." "People who see that as, in some way, abrogating our obligation here, so be it. Everyone’s welcome to an opinion," he said.
This article is from the archive of our partner The Wire.