Bob Knight's 'Integrity' Problem

This article is more than 14 years old.

"I think this has a tremendous effect on the integrity of college sports."

Thus spoke Bob Knight, the man who's presided over more wins than anybody else who has ever coached male basketball players enrolled in a college.

Coach Knight was speaking out against the portion of a rule instituted by the National Basketball Association last year that prevents young men from joining the NBA until they are at least one year removed from high school. Mr. Knight's objection to the rule is that "Now you can have a kid come to school for a year and play basketball, and he doesn't even have to go to class."

Bob Knight claims this development is "the worst thing that's happened to college basketball since I've been coaching," and he began coaching college basketball in 1963.

To give Coach Knight his due, his notorious lack of self-control notwithstanding, he probably he has been more diligent than most college coaches regarding the academic progress of his players.

But to suggest that a rule designed to discourage young men from moving directly from high school into the N.B.A. subverts the "integrity of college sports" is to overlook the fact that with regard to the big time men's programs, integrity has been an illusive commodity at least since the late 19th century, when Yale and Harvard first began hiring thugs to wear their colors on the football field. Today a young man playing one of revenue sports at a Division One school can be a student, but he'd better be a clone of David Robinson or Bill Bradley if he hopes to pull it off. The time demands on most D-I basketball and football players militate against their becoming independent, studious, thoughtful readers and writers, even if they do plan to stay in school for more than a year or two.

Of course lots of college students who aren't involved in sports also neglect to become independent, studious, and thoughtful members of the campus community, but for purposes of evaluating Coach Knight's contention, that's irrelevant. He knows better than most people that college sports is a professional operation in every respect but one: management can't legally pay the employees. To pick out one rule and suggest that it undermines the integrity of the enterprise is to misrepresent an entire industry long infamous for its flamboyant hypocrisy.