Indy ‘home’

Indy ‘home’

First edge Knight’s in legal duel

by Bob Hammel, H-T Sports Editor

December 5, 1975

From the December 5, 1975 Bloomington Daily Herald – Telephone

Bob Knight won’t be going to court on Saturday morning after all. But the next time he puts his Indiana basketball team on the court, he’ll be permitted the maximum 13 players – not the 10 he took to St. Louis last week to play UCLA.

The first edge in the legal maneuvering between Knight and his attorneys and the NCAA with its legal counselors went to Knight when the NCAA permitted Indiana to count Market Square Arena in Indianapolis as a home game – thus one in which, under the NCAA player-limit rule Knight is attacking, he can dress 13 men rather than the 10 permitted for “travel” games. That amounted to a loose interpretation of a provision of the new rule that says a school can “certify more than one facility (as its home location) if a second place is located in reasonable proximity and the institution can show traditional usage of that second place as a home site on more than one occasion during the season.” For this purpose, the NCAA decided to count the IU exhibition game against the Soviet National team, so the urgency was removed from the issue and the way is cleared for Monday night.

The next step is determining where the legal “game” will be played – in state or federal court.

The NCAA moved to take the action out of Monroe Superior Court 2, where it was filed, into Federal court with a petition filed in Indianapolis Thursday.

That action automatically stops state court procedures until the federal jurisdiction is upheld or rejected – which means the scheduled 9 a.m. hearing Saturday in Judge Douglas (Randy) Bridges’ court here is off.

Today in Indianapolis, Knight’s attorneys will challenge the NCAA move – arguing that there is nothing in the suit to meet the narrow qualifications for making it a federal matter. The NCAA petition claimed Knight’s suit “involved a constitutional claim;” Knight’s attorneys (Thomas A. Berry, Stephen L. Ferguson and Harry Pratter) say there’s nothing of the sort in the motion they filed seeking a preliminary injunction and, ultimately, a permanent injunction against enforcement of the rule.

The debate will get more complex, but that is the central issue that probably will be debated next Thursday before Chief Federal Judge William E. Steckler in U.S. District Court, Southern Indiana Division, in Indianapolis.

From the December 5, 1975 Bloomington Daily Herald – Telephone

Judge Steckler will be asked to expedite his jurisdictional decision so the injunction request can come to a preliminary hearing before the next IU date that would put it under the 10-man travel limit – Dec. 15 at Louisville, against Kentucky. If the Knight argument wins, the matter will be back where it started, and Bridges will reset the preliminary hearing. If not, it’s a federal case.

Knight went all through his college days at Ohio State aiming at law school. He was on the verge of entering UCLA’s School of Law and partially paying his way by serving as a graduate assistant under Johnny Wooden when a combination of situations altered that future and, in just three years, made him the youngest head coach in college basketball – at the U.S. Military Academy.

The decision to go to court was not spur-of-the-moment. Knight reacted to the rule’s passage in August with essentially the same arguments that make up his legal complaint:

* The rule, passed in the name of economy, “has a haphazard and trivial effect in reducing costs” and is “novel in that it applies to all players, including walk-ons (players not on scholarship);”

* It is “unreasonably ambiguous” on several counts: Can an 11th player travel at his own expense? Can he play?

* It “makes no sense” when applied to “road” teams playing in their own city (e.g. Philadelphia’s Big Five: LaSalle, Penn, Villanova, Temple and St. Joseph’s, frequently paired,) or teams from nearby cities (e.g., North Carolina and Duke).

At the heart of it all, though, is Knight’s feeling that the rule forces him to break his word to players that he recruited with a blanket promise that they would be on his traveling squad for all games if they met basic off-court standards, chiefly academic. Knight sees it as a breach of at least a moral contract, forced by an ex post facto law.

The legal maneuvering is not disrupting his progress with the No. 1-ranked basketball team that he has put together. No one is “uptight” in the IU environs, Knight least of all. The appearance is one of thriving on combat in an issue that is not, at heart, basketball but rather outside intervention into his relationship with his team.

There is ample evidence witnessing to the long-time existence of that. Three years ago, he kept John Kamstra on his home and road squad for more than two months, when Kamstra’s leg was in a cast (torn achilles tendon) and he was clearly not going to be able to play again. Last year, Scott May was kept on full status with a broken arm … and, when the NCAA decided to invoke a 14-man player limit in tourney play, Knight succeeded in getting a precedent established that it could be waived if the opposing coach didn’t mind (thereby letting senior Doug Allen, a player who didn’t figure to be used, dress with the team that he had been a member of for four years).

Knight is not alone in that sort of closeness; nor is he alone in the legal maneuvering.

“I’ve been getting calls all week,” he said. Bill Foster, the Duke coach who is president of the National Association of Basketball Coaches, wired a pledge of backing from the association’s membership. The Atlantic Coast Conference’s coaches made a public endorsement of his stand. A Big Eight coach said a similar move will be coming from that league.

And there are some who have disagreed with the tactic – Purdue coach Fred Schaus and Kentucky’s Joe B. Hall saying they oppose the rule but consider Knight’s timing or action wrong.

The NCAA’s case will be argued by an Indianapolis attorney, Stephen Goldsmith. That’s customary for the organization which, by now, is quite accustomed to having to defend itself. Attorney George Gangwere of Kansas City is the NCAA’s general counsel.

And the issue will be decided in Indiana – somewhere, Indianapolis or Bloomington or, conceivably, some other point.

It will be decided on legal grounds, wherever it is argued. But it will be difficult to find a point in Hoosierland where the particular basketball team and coach involved are not familiar items. The NCAA – if it truly wants a generally unpopular rule upheld – can only be happy that the issue will be decided judicially, not popularly. Knight and his Hoosiers would be hard to outvote in Indiana.