Never ones to shy away from publicity, ESPN has made quite the interesting alteration to their college basketball lineup for the coming year. According to Michael Heistand at USA Today, Bristol is splitting up the duo of Brent Musburger and Bobby Knight and their matching sweater vests. Knight (sorry, that's supposed to be Coach Knight or Mr. Knight) will work with Rece Davis calling SEC games on Thursday nights… SEC games including Kentucky.
Knight's less than celebrated history with Kentucky has been established in these parts before. He's been very critical of Kentucky coach John Calipari and took his distaste of the Kentucky program to petulant levels last season by refusing to say "Kentucky" by name. That childish game finally came to an end in late March with Kentucky on their way to a national title. This year, Knight will get to take his newfound freedom to use the given name of the Bluegrass State to the next level, with a bizarre caveat of course…
Knight will be reassigned to call SEC games — alongside play-by-play announcer Rece Davis on Thursday nights — including Kentucky action. But Knight won't be at games in which things might get a little too edgy. ESPN spokesman Mike Humes on Sunday said that Knight will work Kentucky games — but not ones on the Wildcats' home court. Knight was unavailable for comment Sunday but said in an ESPN statement that "the SEC has a lot of good matchups, good play and good coaching. I'm looking forward to watching and describing these games."
So Knight will call Kentucky games, but only road Kentucky games? Weak sauce.
What other national announcer has a sweetheart deal where he only announces select games for a team depending on whether they play at home or away from home? Please. It's a halfway measure from ESPN that ensures Knight becomes a story… but not the story. Why else move Knight from the Big 12 to Kentucky and the SEC, other than to titilate the masses looking forward to a potential Knight/Calipari showdown. I'm telling you now, it's not for the great basketball being played between Alabama and LSU. This ain't the BCS.
In this scenario, ESPN gets to protect Knight from his critics in Lexington while giving his checkered past with the school a furthered national platform. Can't you just see Knight and Calipari's first production meeting being given its own ESPN special? It's just another unfortunate example of ESPN jumping at the chance to make themselves a story once again. Have a high profile commenator embroiled in a high profile feud with a high profile program? Why not take full advantage of it! Why not pour a few carefully calculated drops of gasoline on the fire!
In no way has Bobby Knight shown he can cover Kentucky and John Calipari as a professional, unbiased broadcaster. If ESPN wants Knight to cover SEC games on Thursday nights, he needs to cover ALL SEC games, even ones played in Rupp Arena, like every other college basketball announcer that works for ESPN. Anything short of that reeks of a troubling level of favoritism and hypocrisy. Then again, what else is new with Bobby Knight's ESPN tenure.
Good luck, Rece.