Sacking of fiery US coach sparks riots

September 29, 2000

The firing of Indiana University's basketball coach has provided fresh evidence that university athletics in the United States has an almost religious status.

Bob Knight was sacked after allegedly physically assailing a player.

Thousands attended a rally in his support, and the wife of the university's president, who fired him, has engaged a bodyguard after receiving death threats.

During his 29-year career, the coach, nicknamed "the General" for his temper tantrums, once threw a vase in the office of a secretary and throttled a player during practice.

Trustees of the university had put up with Mr Knight's antics in exchange for three national championships and the money brought in by the basketball programme. At last, they said, they were tired of being embarrassed by him.

Despite this, an estimated 3,000 students rioted outside the campus home of university president Myles Brand to protest against Mr Knight's removal. Dr Brand was burnt in effigy.

Ten students were arrested, and Dr Brand was moved from the house temporarily. Dr Brand's wife, a professor of philosophy, pleaded for an end to threats against her family. She said she had been forced to teach her class with a policeman at her side.

Basketball is particularly popular in Indiana. But as tolerance for the personal power of coaches such as Mr Knight has waned, many like him have retired or been forced out of their jobs.

Mr Knight has denied most of the charges against him. He has said through his attorneys that he will pursue other coaching jobs.

He will receive more than $1 million (Pounds 710,000) from Indiana for the remaining period of his contract and in compensation that he had earlier deferred.

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