When Bob Knight took over at Texas Tech in 2001 he found at his recruiting disposal something that just about every college coach gladly uses to lure in top players.
He found a fleet of pretty Tech coeds called the Raider Recruiters with the job of greeting prospective players at the airport and showing them around campus, among other things. While the vast majority of these types of tours are harmless exercises, the reason groups such as the Raider Recruiters are so popular everywhere is simple.
Sex sells. Even – sadly, especially – in college recruiting.
But not with Texas Tech basketball. Upon his arrival, Knight ended the program. The prettiest thing giving tours in Lubbock these days is Andre Emmett.
"Our players are our hosts," Knight said Thursday.
And what would happen if one of those players took a recruit to a wild party, a strip joint or an escort agency – the kinds of alleged practices that have landed fellow Big 12 school Colorado in a heap of trouble and has programs from coast to coast hoping they aren't next?
"You don't even have to ask me that," Knight said.
"That is not what we are here for," he continued. "[A recruiting visit] to me is not a weekend to have a good time, not a weekend to party around. It is for kids serious about going to college to see if they plan on going to college here."
This is the thing about Bob Knight. Every time a story surfaces about him having another flare-up, the knee-jerk reaction is to figure the world might be better if he retired. But if you remind yourself about the scores of principled stands he has taken against the unseemly side of college sports, you might thank heaven he is still around.
The Gary Barnetts of the world claim they can't control everything that happens in their programs. But you can always cite the authoritative Knight to show how full of it they are.
College athletics is in the midst of another disgusting, disturbing scandal, highlighted by the rape allegations and recruiting improprieties in Boulder. From sex parties to luxury Lear jets, the pathetic, pandering way our major colleges recruit athletes is in the spotlight.
At too many schools a recruiting weekend is Mardi Gras, maximum time on frat row, minimal time in front of the academic adviser. Alcohol is plied to minors and a sex-charged atmosphere is encouraged, if not created. All with at least the tacit – if not outright – support of coaches and administrators.
It starts with the Raider Recruiters of the world. Yes, most female hostesses are just good kids enthusiastic about their school. But the idea that a 17-year-old steps off a plane and finds a pretty woman there to tend to them is completely unbecoming of an institute of higher learning.
It immediately sets the wrong tone and fills the teenager with a dangerous sense of entitlement. The message is easy to decipher: Come to Old State U., look at the girls you can have.
If it isn't the selling of sex (and there is no doubt some of these encounters go beyond the "here's the chem lab" stage), then it is at least the selling of the promise of sex.
"The people a recruit needs to get to know are the players they are going to play with, the coaches who are going to coach them," Knight said. "Then we always set them up with someone from the academic department in which they are interested in."
No private jets. No filet mignon. No come-hither coeds.
No ass kissing.
"I've never in my entire career even taken a recruit out to eat – because I am not going to take them out to eat when they come to school here," the Hall of Famer said. " I tell the family, 'If you want to eat with me, I'll come to your house and have dinner with you.' "
It's not that Tech recruits aren't allowed to relax. Knight has no problem with them being taken "where college students hang out," as he puts it. But everyone clearly knows the acceptable limits.
(By the way, his system isn't half bad. Knight has signed 16 of the 19 recruits who have taken official visits to Lubbock. And through the years he's only gotten enough good players to win 827 games and three national titles.)
So as hands are being wrung, committees are being formed and NCAA president Myles Brand continues to call for an end to the excess, perhaps everyone can look to Lubbock where an ethical, appropriate recruiting model is begging to be copied.
Let the focus fall on Bob Knight once again. Only this time for all the right reasons.
- Bob Knight