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Famed Basketball Coach Bobby Knight a Finalist for 2008 CEO Position at USATF
© LetsRun.com
April 1, 2008

(Note: Press inquiries can be directed here)

A very reputable source within USATF has confirmed what we're sure most of you thought was just a ridiculous rumor on the message boards.  Yes, it's true that famed former Indiana and Texas Tech Basketball coach, Bobby Knight is a finalist for the USATF CEO position.

Overt the last five days, we made several attempts to contact USATF, but were repeatedly told, "No Comment." Then, about an hour after our last attempt on Monday, we received a call from one of our sources. She confirmed what another reliable source had told us- that Knight was a finalist for the job.

Bobby Knight is probably best known for his on-court antics, often throwing chairs onto the court and going jaw to jaw with referees. But what is appealing to USATF about Knight is that, despite his antics, he's been commended for running clean programs; his athletes stay out of trouble, play hard, play disciplined, and graduate.

What is little known about Bobby Knight is his passion and long time connection with track and field.

Bobby Knight's Love of Track and Field

Photo by Steven Wilke
After Knight graduated from Ohio State and before he enlisted in the Army, it is well known that Knight got his start as a basketball coach at Cuyahoga Falls High/Middle School in Ohio. Little known is that Knight also was the middle school track coach at Cuyahoga. The star member of his middle school track team? Ohio's greatest distance runner, 1972 Olympic champion Dave Wottle. Wottle then was just a 12 year old who could run 2:06.

Knight (like former Dallas Cowboy football coach Barry Switzer, who became a fan of track and field while an assistant track coach) would go on to make his mark in basketball, but remained a passionate fan of track and field (a letsrun message boarder talked to Knight at the 2000 Indiana state high school meet) as he followed the heroics of his star runner Wottle all the way to the pinnacle of the sport at the 1972 Olympics. While Knight was not a fan of Wottle's long hair or his signature white cap that he wore in races, Knight said Wottle's ultimate success had a profound effect on him. "Dave, even as a 12 year old, was so disciplined and so serious in his approach to track and field. The fact that he went on to win an Olympic Gold totally reinforced my belief of the power of discipline and hard work," Knight said in a 1978 interview with The Runner. (Knight quit doing interviews for personal profiles in 1984, so his love for track and field has been forgotten by most).

Knight's discipline, financial success with his programs (he personally negotiated Texas Tech's $5 million a year television contract, love for the sport of track and field, and love for Indiana (USATF head quarters are in Indianapolis) will obviously be plusses for his candidacy at USATF.

Knight's well known boorish behavior and antics on the court will be major hurdles that the USATF search committee will look at. When they look deep enough, the ironic thing is they'll find out that former USATF CEO Craig Masback did not have the first "zero tolerance" policy in Indiana.

On March 14, 2000, just before Indiana was to begin play in the NCAA tournament, CNN/SI ran a piece on Knight in which former player Neil Reed claimed he was choked by Knight in a 1997 practice. Knight denied the claims in the story. However, on April 11, 2000 CNN/SI aired a tape of an IU practice from 1997 that showed Knight with his hand around the neck of Neil Reed. In May of that year, Indiana University president Myles Brand (currently executive director of the NCAA) announced that he had adopted a "zero tolerance" policy with regard to Bob Knight's behavior. (Sound familiar? Three years later, faced with its own disciplinary problems, the USATF adopted it's own "Zero Tolerance" drug policy.)

Masback, Knight, and Nike
Knight's high profile stature and the attention it will bring to the sport are the type of marketing USATF can not pay for. Former CEO Masback and Bobby Knight became good friends while living in Indiana, and Knight always had Nike contracts for his teams while at Indiana and Texas Tech. Expect the Nike-USATF connection to get even tighter if Knight is hired (we're not sure if that is even possible, as reportedly, Nike is in the process of locking up the 2016 and 2020 Olympic Trials in Eugene). But the attention the sport will get because of his hiring is worth it.

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