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The Journal Gazette

Saturday, April 06, 2019 5:10 pm

Knight returns to Indiana campus

DYLAN SINN | The Journal Gazette

It was a normal spring day in Bloomington. The Hoosiers baseball team was taking on Penn State on one of the first truly temperate days of the year. Across campus, a Little 500 Spring Series event was taking place, as racers gear up for the real thing.

Then, a golf cart rolled into view at Bart Kaufman Stadium, bearing the most unexpected of visitors. Bob Knight, the 78-year-old former Hoosiers basketball coach, sat beside longtime friend and former Herald-Times sports editor Bob Hammel.

Knight had returned to the Indiana campus in public view for the first time since he was fired 19 years ago. He is believed to have returned a few times surreptitiously in the past, but his visit today represents a significant break in the feud that he has had with the school since 2000.

"It's nice to be here," he said, before dis-embarking from the golf cart and entering the press box to watch the Hoosier baseball team take on Penn State.

Indiana athletic director Fred Glass had apparently known that Knight was planning to attend the game. Glass has said in the past that Indiana would welcome the coach back if he ever chose to return. Until today he had not.

"My understanding is that Coach Knight was in town for other reasons," Indiana athletic director Fred Glass told the Herald-Times. "He expressed interest in coming to a baseball game and obviously we were happy to facilitate that. I haven't talked to him and don't expect to."

Knight coached the Hoosiers to three national titles and 11 Big Ten championships in 29 seasons, but was fired before the 2000-01 season for violating the university's zero-tolerance policy when he grabbed the arm of a student who he believed had disrespected him on campus. Then-university president Myles Brand put the zero-tolerance policy in place after CNN/Sports Illustrated ran a story in which former player Neil Reed said Knight had choked him during a 1997 practice. 

Knight had previously asserted that he never planned to return to the Indiana campus and did not do so even in 2016, when the Hoosiers celebrated the 40th anniversary of their undefeated 1976 national championship team. 

Longtime Indiana radio voice Don Fischer said in February that Knight's health has "declined" and the coach is "not well". Knight seemed to be in good spirits as he arrived at Bart Kaufman Field on Saturday. It's unclear whether this is really the start of a thaw between Knight and the university, but for a man who has stayed away for 19 years to suddenly appear, it's unlikely to mean nothing. 

dsinn@jg.net