Indiana University athletic director Fred Glass, less than eight months into the job, has made his most courageous decision. And no, it has nothing to do with drawing students to football games with free snacks.
Glass this week decided to induct former basketball coach Bob Knight into IU’s athletics Hall of Fame. And he is doing so without Knight’s consent and without polling the Hoosier nation.
For the first time since IU launched its Hall of Fame in 1982, a person will be inducted without their agreement to attend the induction. Not that Glass isn’t aiming for that. This week he sent out a hand-written letter of invitation to Knight for the Nov. 6 induction, and is dispatching an oral invite via a hand-picked Knight ally. That same ally is also on the nine-person committee charged with selecting Hall of Fame candidates.
The committee agreed to induct the likes of former soccer coach Jerry Yeagley and basketball player Steve Downing this year.
But make no mistake, Glass pulled the trigger on the decision to induct Knight. He got a nod from IU President Michael McRobbie to do so, but the final decision rested with Glass.
Glass told IBJ Friday that McRobbie neither endorsed nor opposed the move. In other words, this is all his, stand or fall.
Glass said he hopes Knight’s induction will help heal the Hoosier Nation, and he hopes Knight will eventually accept his invitation to be more involved in the IU program. But Glass is also smart enough to know Knight, who was fired by then IU President Myles Brand in 2000, is a lightning rod for controversy.
“I don’t kid myself that this will be universally embraced,” Glass told IBJ Friday. “But I have no problem being a part of this decision because it’s the right thing to do, and by not having Coach Knight in the Hall of Fame, it diminishes it.”
If Knight spurns Glass’ olive branch, it could be the athletic director’s credibility that diminishes. There are still plenty of wealthy IU alums who double as Knight loyalists. Glass, who is nursing a financially fragile athletic department while shepherding several capital projects, can scantly afford to appear further distanced from Knight or his legions of supporters.
Then again, if Knight rides back into Bloomington in 10 weeks time, Glass could be the hero this athletic department so badly needs. It sure takes courage to be the IU athletic director. And the steely nerves of a high stakes gambler.
For more on Glass’ decision to induct Knight into the Hall of Fame, click here.
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