The school superintendent refused to let Rich repeat the eighth grade, and the Mounts appealed to the school board. "The Rich Mount Case" was front-page news in The Lebanon Reporter and The Indianapolis News. It also made the wire services. School officials stood up for academic integrity while hotheaded Tiger fans supported the Mounts.
The Lebanon school board ruled 3-2 in favor of the Mounts. Rich was allowed to repeat the eighth grade. That winter the Indiana Department of Education adopted a new regulation, now sometimes referred to as the Richie Mount Rule: "Each school corporation shall adopt and enforce a written policy that prohibits retaining a student in a grade level for the sole purpose of improving the student's ability to participate in extracurricular athletic programs."
Last season, when Rich had made the varsity as a freshman and the Tigers played at Frankfort, the Frankfort Hot Dogs' fans wore red shirts, carried red signs, waved red towels, threw pennies and yelled the dirty word every time Rich touched the ball.
Rich recalls that night with a laugh. "It was great. I just thought, They're making a fool of themselves. It pumped me up." He went 13 for 15 from the field and 8 of 10 from the line for 34 points. He punctuated each basket with an upraised fist, and Lebanon won by three. "We put it right back in their faces," he says.
The Tigers' season record was 14-7, but it all ended on a sour note when Lebanon lost the opening game of its sectional tournament to Tri-West, 55-51. Rich scored a meager 8 points, hitting 3 for 11. He was removed late in the fourth quarter. It was all too much. He boiled over. He popped off at Rosenstihl. He apologized the next day, and everyone concerned now considers the whole situation nothing more than a useful growing experience.
"He wants so badly to excel," says coach Carney. "I think he handles the pressure very well outwardly. Nobody can judge how he deals with it inside."
That last bad game pulled Rich's shooting percentage below .500, but his .493 was still better than his dad shot his first year. Rick cites that stat himself. He is proud of what his son did last season, though he could have done without the upraised fists during that uproarious game at Frankfort. "I tell Richie not to show too much emotion," Rick says. "I never showed emotion. You could knock me down, I'd just get up and put two free throws in there. But Richie is hard-headed, like most males. When I tell him something—well, I'm his father, it's hard for him to listen. I think he listens, but he doesn't want me to know it."
Donna thinks the redshirt deal and the Frankfort fans really didn't bother Rich at all, that he enjoyed the attention. Donna has played enough tennis with her husband to know what a demanding tutor he is, and she thinks the pressure on Rich begins at home.
"The only strain on Richie is Rick," she says. "I've never seen anything get him down except Rick. They used to go out to play one-on-one, and come home separately. Richie would be so mad. It wasn't fair—Rick is bigger and stronger. He knew everything Richie was going to do, knew his every move. He'd block Richie's shot. It's important to Rick that Richie be as good as he was, but I think Richie needs encouragement. After one of Richie's games, immediately Rick will find something negative to say. It's that competitive instinct. Rick's probably right. But I'm a mother, I don't think like that. If I were raising Richie by myself, he would probably play tiddlywinks instead of basketball."
This past summer, after hundreds of one-on-one sessions and a ton of frustration, Rich finally beat Mr. Basketball 1966.