Bobby Knight was elected to Indiana's Hall of Fame last month. The Hall had the order wrong -- you don't put Knight in ahead of the man who put him in his place.
Myles Brand was Indiana's president in 2000 when he took the brave and needed step of cutting Knight loose. That's what a lot of folks will remember first about the courageous NCAA president, who passed away Wednesday of pancreatic cancer at age 67.
It shouldn't be.
Brand was a better man, better human, a better leader than the controversial, cantankerous coach. He stood for something larger than winning basketball games. That should be his Hall of Fame legacy.
Sure, the winds were blowing just right for Brand to take a stand. Sure, Knight put himself in an untenable position nine years ago. But someone had to do it, and Myles was that man. Two years later, he was named head of the NCAA.
The association was never the same -- in a good way, a positive way. Brand has been the most reform-minded president in NCAA history. Although the position had no official power, the office had been used and, at times, abused in the past.
The volatile Walter Byers, the NCAA's granddaddy, negotiated television contracts and established the enforcement division. A good man, Dick Schultz, had his moments but resigned after irregularities were discovered during his time as Virginia's president. Cedric Dempsey showed the NCAA's profit motive when it ripped the headquarters out of its ancestral home in Kansas City for a $50 million promise from Indianapolis.
Made business sense, didn't make common sense. Lifelong employees were told to make a Sophie's Choice. Come to Indianapolis or get cut loose. That's where Brand came in. As the first academic to hold the position, Brand had immediate credibility with the federal government, other presidents, even coaches.
For the first time, a former jock was not running the show. More than that, Brand was a human being, which is more than you can say about some others in an association that sometimes has a public perception of being heartless.
"He had a huge intellect and an even bigger heart. He was a great herder of cats," said Bill Hancock, former long-time director of the NCAA Tournament. "He will really be missed. Miles' legacy will be one of reform. He took the NCAA in many new directions. He was not encumbered by that terrible, 'We've never done it this way before.'"
|Breaking the mold: Brand was the first academic to become president of the NCAA. (US Presswire)|
Even that enforcement division, so iron-fisted under Byers, seems to have softened under Brand. Gone, mostly, are crippling television and postseason bans. Alabama and Florida State are currently appealing vacation of victories, but that sure beats the heck out of losing scholarships.
In his heart, Brand wanted the NCAA to stand for something more than athletics. His legacy will include ushering in the establishment of the Academic Progress Rate, a stringent set of guidelines that penalized schools for not graduating at least 60 percent of their athletes.
Under his watch, it became easier to get into school but harder to stay there. Athletes have to make marked progress toward their degree. That was a departure from a system that used to encourage "majoring in eligibility."
There were scandals and legal battles, but under Brand, the NCAA had a direction, a mission. It didn't react so much in knee-jerk but with a conscience. It seemed like more athletes who applied won a sixth year of eligibility. Upon further consideration, the NCAA appeals committee was in the business of repealing penalties.
In his last state of the association speech in January, delivered by senior adviser Wally Renfro, Brand cautioned against the creeping professional influence into college athletics.
Unlike professional sports ... the bottom line in the collegiate model is not the bottom line. It is not creating profits for owners and shareholders. The reason America's colleges and universities sponsor athletics -- for more than a century and a half now -- is the positive effect participation has on the lives of young men and women. We should feel good in knowing college sports empowers these young people to become contributing members of their communities and country.
That's what should be remembered about a Hall of Fame legacy.