SI Vault
Edited by Myra Gelband
September 03, 1979
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September 03, 1979


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Controversy continues to dog Bobby Knight, coach of the Indiana University basketball team and the U.S. squad that won the gold medal at July's Pan-American Games in Puerto Rico. It was during the Pan-Am competition that Knight was charged with assaulting a police officer, Jose D. Silva, after the two had argued over the use of a practice facility (SI, July 23).

On Aug. 22, Knight was found guilty by San Juan District Judge Rurico Rivera, who imposed the maximum sentence, $500 and six months in jail, allowed for a misdemeanor. Through local counsel Knight had pleaded not guilty in absentia, acceptable under Puerto Rican law. His lawyer called only one witness, though there were others, including American coaches and players and two Colombian coaches, who supported Knight's contention that Silva deliberately poked him in the eye and that Knight reacted by merely pushing Silva away.

When word of the verdict reached Knight, he offered to resign as Indiana coach. Predictably, in a state where basketball is so revered and in a country where national-championship-winning coaches are too often venerated unduly, the offer was rejected—as Knight no doubt knew it would be. Almost as predictably, statements in support of Knight were issued by the governor, Otis R. Bowen, the university president, John Ryan, and F. Don Miller, executive director of the U.S. Olympic Committee, which sponsors the Pan-Am teams.

In an interview with Bob Collins of the Indianapolis Star, Knight said, "There is no question in my mind that if I had gone to Puerto Rico the sentence would be exactly the same. Even forgetting the truth of the charges, it would be interesting to know the last time anyone got the maximum penalty for a misdemeanor."

Knight had made himself a villain to Puerto Ricans in July by repeatedly disparaging them and their island, and his failure to appear at the trial was interpreted as a further insult, this time to their judicial system. Judge Rivera left open the possibility of suspending the jail sentence if Knight would appear before him at a later date, but Knight insists, "There is no way under any circumstances I would ever go to Puerto Rico."

Regardless of the correctness of the charges and verdict against Knight, it is reprehensible that a governor, who has sworn to uphold the law, and a university president and an Olympic official, both of whose jobs entail dealing with, and setting good examples for, young people, should rush to support a man who is flouting the law. Puerto Rican courts are not drumhead institutions. Knight, no mean law-and-order man himself, should challenge what he considers injustice dealt him as any law-abiding citizen would—by going before Judge Rivera to hear sentence and appealing if he finds it unacceptable.


To a man whose fortune is estimated at more than $500 million, $100,000 could be called a pittance, but to San Diego Padres owner Ray Kroc it was the last straw. For tampering with potential free agents now playing for other teams, the 76-year-old head of the McDonald's hamburger empire was fined $100,000 by Commissioner Bowie Kuhn. It was the largest fine in sports history.

An enraged Kroc immediately announced that he was relinquishing control of the Padres to his son-in-law, Ballard Smith. "Baseball can go to hell," he said. "It has brought me nothing but aggravation."

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