Between the Lines

Between the Lines by David Lias Does Vermillion hear wake-up call?

In what almost seems to be a cosmic connection, The University of South Dakota and Indiana University were hit with sports-related controversies at nearly the same time.

Kaseem Gaines, a 22-year-old University of South Dakota football player, was arrested Sept. 2. Gaines was at a loud party at a Vermillion residence, and when police responded after neighbors complained, Gaines told police he was one of the house's occupants.

Trouble is, he gave the police a fictitious name. Then he made matters worse. As police were arresting him for false impersonation, he fought with three officers, striking two of them.

Gaines was charged with aggravated assault and resisting arrest. He also wasn't allowed to participate in last Saturday's game with Truman State.

The next day, legendary Indiana University basketball coach Bob Knight was fired by IU President Myles Brand after the list of Knight's recent misdeeds simply grew too long.

Indiana University and The University of South Dakota are probably as different as night and day in many respects. USD's recent situation with Gaines and the long melodrama featuring Knight at IU are distinctively unique.

The two incidents, however, share a somewhat common, minute thread.

Let's look at the similarities first.

Gaines, when confronted by police officers, did two things that weren't too smart.

First, he lied to them.

Then, according to a police report, he punched one officer in the face and elbowed another as they tried to arrest him.

Violence is nothing new to Bobby Knight, either.

The coach has a mean streak. He was often rude, arrogant and abusive.

University administrators, to their shame, tolerated that behavior for years.

Knight could curse students and other university employees, throw a chair or a vase, and show unvarnished disdain for his superiors with seeming impunity.

His career began to crumble, however, this spring after former player Neil Reed told CNN/Sports Illustrated that Knight had choked him during a 1997 practice.

A videotape of the incident surfaced. And a university investigation that originally appeared perfunctory suddenly became serious.

On May 15, Brand, with the support of the university trustees, suspended Knight for three games and fined him $30,000 for a pattern of inappropriate conduct, including the Reed incident.

Brand also placed Knight under a "zero tolerance" policy, a decision that ultimately cost the coach his job.

Brand, on Sunday, cited seven instances in which Knight had violated the policy in less than four months. One of the most recent incidents involved a 19-year-old IU freshman who accused the coach of angrily grabbing and cursing him.

Given Knight's ongoing problems, Brand was entirely justified in dismissing the coach.

So, USD's Gaines and IU's Knight both showed poor judgement, a defiance of authority, and even used violence.

Now, let's look at the differences in these two men's situations.

The Sept. 2 incident in Vermillion hopefully marks both the beginning and the end of Gaines' problems here.

On the other hand, Knight's problems were caused mainly by the man himself. He was practically coddled by IU administrators for nearly three decades. The results? Instead of trying to reform, Knight clearly stacked a new problem on top of an old one he had earlier created. Knight destroyed his own career.

Despite his recent problems with the law, we suspect that the prospects for Gaines to be a productive member of the Coyote football team, and the university and Vermillion communities are much brighter.

We can't condone his actions. There simply is no rational excuse for what he did Sept. 2.

What happened that night, however, should serve to at least open our eyes a bit in Vermillion � especially in terms of the atmosphere in which USD students live.

Drive around the university and view the rental housing that is available.

Then ask yourself, "Would I want my son or daughter to live in such a setting?"

We have good, responsible landlords in Vermillion. And, no doubt, we have some whose concern is not with tenants, but simply whether the rent check is in the mail each month.

That's why many student rental homes in Vermillion look like something right out of Animal House.

Such settings are likely to promote the type of incidents in the city that happened Sept. 2.

To dissuade future violent incidents here, perhaps more than students need to clean up their act.

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