It's not often we agree with Indiana's Bobby Knight (after all, he believes sportswriters are the scum of the earth). But his campaign against late-night basketball games is a worthy one.
For years Knight has complained about the late-night starts ESPN insists on for many of its televised games. Knight had a mouthful to say this week when his team had another late-nighter just a few days after the NCAA voted in academic reforms, including a cut in practice time to enhance studies."This is where we speak with forked tongues," Knight told UPI at midnight following a win at Purdue. "We talk about academics. But we'll get home at 2 a.m. after this game and go to classes the next day. Did you want to wait until 9:30 to watch this game? I sure didn't want to wait until 9:30 to coach it."
Knight and the Hoosiers are involved in a similar late-night event this Monday when unbeaten and No. 3 Ohio State visits Indiana for a 9:30 p.m. start.
"If TV is so important, get it on another network and play it against the Big East," Knight said. "People out here aren't going to watch the Big East. They'll watch the Big Ten. If you put it on CNN or Turner . . . you're going to get the same audience.
So Bobby, what do you think of the ESPN contract?
"This is the absolute worst television contract anyone ever negotiated," he said. "But then, no one negotiated it. They just capitulated."
LOCALS ON LATE: Local schools such as Utah and BYU have experienced a few late-night starts in recent years. In fact, last night's BYU-Wyoming game was a 10 p.m. starter. And the Utah-BYU game on March 2 in Provo is also set for 10 p.m.
One reason we're against late starts is tight newspaper deadlines. They're almost impossible to meet with a 9:30 or 10 p.m. start.
But the main factor is common sense for everybody, fans and players alike. Who wants to wait around for a game to start at 9:30 or 10 and then arrive home well after midnight?
ON THE OTHER HAND . . . : According to ESPN's Mike Soltys, manager of programming information for college basketball, most coaches are in favor of the late games.
"Certainly we have games at non-traditional times," he said. "But nine out of 10 coaches in the Big Ten are in favor of the late games."
Soltys explained that the Big Ten coaches were concerned about recruiting and a lack of exposure a few years ago. So they came to ESPN and asked what could be done. They were given the 9:30 p.m. slot on "Big Monday" right behind the Big East games, which has turned out to be the highest-rated time slot.
"Coaches are generally accepting of it and we usually get good feedback from fans, especially students who make an event out of it (some games in the East start at midnight)," said Soltys.
As for sportswriters, he said "They write columns complaining about late starts because it hurts them personally, but never thank us when we start games earlier."
We've yet to see a basketball game time moved up, but hey, we'll be the first to thank you when it happens.
WELL-ROUNDED: Utah's Josh Grant may or may not be the best player in the Intermountain area, but he certainly is the best all-around player.
Going into last night's game against Air Force, the 6-10 junior ranked in the top 10 in six of eight WAC categories. Grant is 5th in scoring (17.19), 6th in rebounding (7.19), 7th in blocked shots (1.31), 8th in free throw shooting (83.08), 10th in 3-point shooting (37.5) and 10th in steals (1.50).
SHARP-SHOOTING CADETS: Looking at the rest of the schedule you have to wonder if Air Force will win any WAC games this year. The Falcons, 0-4 in the WAC and 6-9 overall, have already lost - at home - to the next worst team in the WAC, San Diego State.
But the Falcons can take some consolation in the fact that they may be national champs . . . in free throw shooting. They lead the nation in free throw percentage at 80.8 percent.
The Falcons will have to improve a bit to beat the national record set by another traditional basketball power - Harvard. The 1984 Crimson team shot 82.2 percent in 1984.