Bobby Knight richly deserved to be fired as University of Indiana basketball coach. He has earned that action many times over during the past several decades. However, the incident for which he was released didn't rise to a firing offense. Only the presence of a "zero tolerance" policy made it do so.
Choking a player, punching a policeman or throwing a chair across the basketball court were all offenses that should have gotten Knight canned years ago. Some of his legendary tantrums against officials, the media, his superiors at the university and even his own players should have been enough. They were not judged so by intimidated or cowardly university officials and the tantrums continued and grew worse.
Knight gets no sympathy here. However, let's not fail to recognize the danger in how and why he was released. The "zero tolerance" policy craze that plagues many of our institutions, including the justice system, is nothing to celebrate. In short, it is an excuse not to have to make a decision on the merits of a case. In other words, it excuses the administrator from having to think.
Zero tolerance and mandatory sentencing (a not very distant cousin) are the reasons we get kids expelled from school for taking aspirin for a headache and have minor drug offenders serving more time than murderers.
It is time we start letting our judges and administrators make decisions based upon the facts and not have their hands tied by "don't think" policies. Most people in those positions are capable of making the right decision most of the time and will do so. Those who don't (and this would have included several Indiana University officials) should themselves be removed from their positions of authority. As it is, we (legislatures and the governing boards of institutions such as a university) guarantee bad decisions when we take thinking and the human element completely out of the equation.
Knight deserved to go, but not under this policy. They should have had the guts to fire him when he committed deserving offenses. This one makes a martyr out of him and a villain out of his victim in some people's eyes. He would have given the university a real reason soon enough. Now it is time (past time) for something else to go the zero tolerance policy.