Saturday, March 24, 2001

Bloomington has mixed feelings




By REX W. HUPPKE
Associated Press Writer

        BLOOMINGTON, Ind. — In a bar room where many a mug has been raised to honor Bob Knight and his Indiana Hoosiers, a quiet calm hovered Friday as the coach accepted a new job at Texas Tech.

        Some couldn't take their eyes off the TV as the familiar white-haired man spoke to his new fans at Texas Tech, even putting on a red sweater vest whose color was so familiar to Indiana faithful.

        Others barely looked up from their french fries or pool games.

        “I think we're very appreciative of everything Bob Knight did,” said Gil Frisbie, a marketing professor at Indiana University. “But we have no regrets. It's time to move on.”

        “For a lot of people, it's a love-hate relationship,” said Bill Shipton, a 30-year season ticket holder. “I'm happy he's gone. I'm also happy he's happy.”

        Bob Weith, an IU graduate, viewed Knight's move to Texas a bit more directly.

        “He might have finally found a state big enough to fit his ego,” Weith said.

        Ego aside, many feel that what might determine Knight's future is his infamous temper, his red-faced courtside tantrums and other shenanigans. That temper led to his firing in September by IU president Myles Brand.

        The university had kind words for him as he accepted his new job.

        “The president and the athletic director, on behalf of Indiana University, wish Bob Knight best of luck in the future. We wish him luck in that red sweater,” Indiana spokeswoman Susan Dillman said.

        Some Knight fans regretted his departure, saying he stood for tradition, high graduation rates, character and a winning attitude.

        “I don't think there's anybody who's a more honest, straight guy as Knight is,” said Evelyn Archer, an IU fan for more than 30 years.

        Sitting in the stands with her husband watching spring football practice Friday, Archer said she wasn't sure new IU coach Mike Davis would be able to keep players in line as well as Knight did.

        “We just hated seeing him go,” she said of Knight. “We just thought the way it was handled was terrible.”

        Some, on the other hand, were happy to be rid of the red-sweatered coach. Murray Sperber, an English professor who received death threats last year for criticizing Knight, saw closure in his hiring.

        “This marks the end of the Knight era,” Sperber said Friday. “I think many of these fans had this fantasy that Brand would be overturned and Knight would be brought back. I think this really marks the end of that.”

        But it's not the end of Knight-related controversy in Bloomington. A lawsuit has been filed questioning the legitimacy of Knight's firing, saying university administrators and trustees violated the state's open meetings law while deciding to let the coach go.

        Robert Nemanich, a 1984 IU graduate involved in the suit, said he's conflicted over Knight's new job.

        “On one hand I'm happy for Bob and his family to land a job through this turmoil and to find a place and a university that welcomes him,” Nemanich said. “On the other hand, I think it's a very sad day for IU. Bob Knight gave a lot more to the university than he ever took the from the university.”

        He said Indiana will pay the price for firing Knight when the money he used to raise starts to dry up.

        Nefertiti Pace, a 20-year-old IU junior, would like to see all the people squawking about Knight just dry up.

        “I don't understand why people are really so upset about it,” she said. “I think he just needs to retire.”

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