First, news came this morning that Indiana Pacers co-owner Mel Simon had died. His Rumors and Rants-styled obit is below or here.
But now this afternoon, the NCAA, headquartered in Indianapolis, has sent out a press release that the association’s president, Myles Brand, has succumbed in his battle with pancreatic cancer.
Brand, to be frank, was the scorn of many college sports fans for his apprehension to support a playoff in college football. But no sect of fans harbored more disdain for the man than Indiana University basketball fans.
If Hoosiers basketball is a religion, like many claim it is. Bobby Knight was its living deity. And Brand severed its head.
Knight was a winner. He won three national titles at Indiana and was the face of the university. When you heard Indiana, you thought Bobby Knight. Unfortunately, for the school that was a bit of a double-edged sword as Knight’s ego and antics began to become more frequent than deep tournament runs.
Then on April 11, 2000, the now-extinct CNN/SI aired footage of Knight grabbing the throat of Neil Reed. Brand, then IU’s president, made a very public provocation of a “zero-tolerance” policy toward Knight in May.
In September, Knight grabbed the arm of IU freshman Kent Harvey after the kid said, “Hey Knight, what’s up?” Knight told the kid something about proper respect. The kid told his tale. And on Sept. 10, 2000, Brand followed through with his promise and fired the coach who had been at the school since 1971 – 23 years before Brand showed up in Bloomington.
Brand’s campus home was vandalized and morphed into protest central. He needed security to escort he and his wife to a safer location as he was burned in effigy. You couldn’t fire Bobby Knight. But Brand did.
Truth be told, Knight had gotten out of control and was bordering on becoming an embarrassment to the university. He ran a clean program and he graduated players, there’s no denying that. But the chair throws, the entertaining, yet over-the-top profanity and accusations of physical harm to students was just a little too much.
Though in hindsight, the Kelvin Sampson Era didn’t really earn the school a gold star either.
Brand turned his new national spotlight into the top spot in all of college sports as president of the NCAA. He was billed as a no-nonsense guy, who could clean up college athletics. Someone who was more concerned about the student portion of the phrase “student-athlete.” I mean, come on. He fired Bob Knight in a state where even besmirching The General’s name is grounds for a beating.
Coincidentally, Brand had to stay in-state just up the road in Indy as the head of all college athletics after tearing out the heart of one the most loyal blocs.
Brand had a rough go of it. But that was expected. He never really came true on his reformation of college sports, but the NCAA is a lot like Congress with hundreds of Senator-like school presidents mucking it up.
He was in charge of the NCAA for seven years, but he’ll be remembered more for what he did on Sept. 10, 2000 than anything else.
Brand was the man that changed Indiana University basketball. For better or worse.