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December 18, 2011
John Feinstein
Author, "One on One: Behind The Scenes With The Greats In The Game"
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Info: Author and sports commentator John Feinstein discusses his new professional memoir, “One On One: Behind The Scenes with The Greats In The Game.” The book chronicles his many years of reporting on some the greatest figures in sports history. Feinstein talks about the case for federal government intervention in the administration of college athletics. He addresses the use of taxpayer money for football and baseball arenas throughout the country. In addition, Feinstein recounts his story of testifying before a House Judiciary subcommittee regarding baseball’s antitrust exemption, granted by Congress in 1922. He details two rules changes in the National Collegiate Athletic Association that occurred arising from the publication of two of his books. Feinstein reviews the salaries of college football coaches compared to the school’s administrators. He talks about his early writing career, and the 25th anniversary publication of his first book, “A Season on the Brink, A year With Bob Knight and The Indiana Hoosiers.” He speaks about his seven heart bypass operations, along with his early reporting days at The Washington Post.


Uncorrected transcript provided by Morningside Partners.
C-SPAN uses its best efforts to provide accurate transcripts of its programs, but it can not be held liable for mistakes such as omitted words, punctuation, spelling, mistakes that change meaning, etc.
BRIAN LAMB: John Feinstein author of ”One on One”, a new book. How much impact does the federal government have on the world of sports in this country?

JOHN FEINSTEIN: You know I go back and forth on how I feel about that. Because sometimes I think it would be best for government just to stay completely out of sports. A lot of the times, when Congress gets involved, the hearings are basically television shows. Designed to give the congressmen and women involved exposure to a different audience when they are running for reelection, which they always are, certainly on the House of Representatives side.

But the flip side is, sports is a multi, multibillion-dollar business in this country. It has a huge effect on the lives of people. And people as fans, people in terms of raising money for universities, for higher education. There are so many different ways that sports effects our lives. Many of the stadiums that exists are built with government funds.

So there are also times when I think the federal government should be more involved. And in fact, there have been times when I have suggested. And sometimes people think ingest. But that the president appoint for lack of a better term, czar of sports. Somebody who can sort of come in when there is a crisis. Whether it is a work stoppage, which we just saw in both the NFL, football, and in the NBA basketball in the last six months.

And say OK. You are going to come to me and we are going to fix this. We are going to work it out. Or when we have the kind of crisis we are seeing in college athletics nowadays. Which are you know topped off for lack of a better term by the horrors of Penn State in the last few months.

So more and more as I get older, I think the federal government should be more involved than it has been.

LAMB: You – we have got a clip of you testifying in a second. But how many years is this for you as a sports writer?

FEINSTEIN: Well I started when I was in college. So 35. I was a college sophomore.

LAMB: At Duke.

FEINSTEIN: At Duke when I first started working with the student newspaper there. I didn’t just write sports. I was always involved in the political side too. And covered – when I got to the ”Washington Post” I was a night police reporter. Covered cops, courts, politics too. But I have been involved as a sports writer for 35 years now. Started at ”The Post” when I graduated in 1977. And I have worked there in some form for most of the last 34 years.

LAMB: What’s your connection to them now?

FEINSTEIN: I am officially listed as a contributor. Which means I write columns on a regular basis, but I am not a full time employee, because really my first focus is the books. And I work for ”The Post” whenever I can, and I still enjoy it. I love daily journalism. I still believe in it, even with all of the changes that have occurred.

LAMB: If I counted right in the front of the book, 28 books plus this one?

FEINSTEIN: This is the 28th.

LAMB: This is actually the 28th.

FEINSTEIN: Yes. I have written five kids’ mysteries. Which are for kids 11, 12 and up. All with a sports genre involved. They are two heroes who are budding sports writers. Which I started writing mostly for my own kids. But this is my 22nd non-fiction book.

LAMB: This testimony in 1994, you start off by saying I didn’t write testimony. I am just going to wing it.

FEINSTEIN: I hear you.

LAMB: You get five minutes. Jack Brooks who is no longer in Congress was a congressman from Texas.

FEINSTEIN: Right.

LAMB: And subcommittee. Let’s watch this and you can explain why you said what you said.

FEINSTEIN: (Video clip) Mr. Selig made the point that government should not intervene in baseball. Congress should not intervene in baseball. Congress did intervene, or excuse me, government did intervene to the Supreme Court ruling in 1922 when it granted baseball this exemption.

To me, I am not a lawyer. But to me an exemption from a law means there is a special circumstance. If a police officer tells me I can drive my car 80 miles an hour to a hospital because my wife is about to give birth in the back seat of my car, that doesn’t mean he is going to grant me the same exemption from the speed limit when I drive my wife and child home two days later. Because presumably I don’t need that exemption any more.

LAMB: What were you doing then?

FEINSTEIN: You mean professionally?

LAMB: Yes.

FEINSTEIN: Or in my testimony? I had just written a book on major league baseball. That is why they asked me to come in and testify. I can’t believe how young I was back then. But and the subtitle of the book was ”The life in Troubled Times of Major league Baseball”. And the book came out a year-and-a-half before this testimony. And the reason I subtitled it that was because it was clear that the owners and players were heading for a collision.

The owners had hired a union busting lawyer to take over their negotiations. And he had basically promised them. I will break this union. Because the baseball Union has been the strongest in all of sports, dating back to the 1960s when Marvin Miller first started it. And sure enough the players ended up walking out and struck in August of 1994. There was no World Series that year.

That’s why the congressional hearings were held to try to get the owner and players back to the bargaining table. Bud Selig, the Commissioner was actually sitting right next to me during that testimony. And at one point, I can’t remember exactly what it was I said. And I like Bud Selig very much. And I talk about him in this book at some length.

And at that testimony, Bud put his hand on the microphone and leaned back and said, you can’t possibly believe that. And I said, I believe every word of it, Bud. And he is the kind of guy that we went and argued in the hallway when we were both through testifying. And the last thing he said was, OK. I completely disagree with you. Next time you are in Milwaukee, let’s have dinner.

And that is the kind of person Bud Selig was. The law that I am referring to, of course is the Anti-Trust law. And baseball was granted an exemption from it in 1922 and has maintained that Anti-Trust exemption.

LAMB: Let me interrupt to ask you, what is an Anti-Trust law, and how does it – in Lehman’s Terms, how does it apply to this?

FEINSTEIN: Well basically the way it applies to – it applied to baseball, was it gave the owners the right to say to franchises, you can’t move from one city to another without our approval. And any other sport for example, when Al Davis tried to move the Oakland Raiders to Los Angeles, the NFL tried to block him. Al Davis sued and won on the basis of Anti-Trust. And said, you can’t tell me how to run my business.

Because baseball has an Anti-Trust exemption, it can say to a franchise, no, you can’t move unless you have owner approval. Now, of course franchises do move. Do get owner approval. We have lost two franchises here in Washington through the years. And another franchise moved to come here from Montreal.

But baseball was granted the Anti-Trust exemption for that reason, to protect cities from losing teams, and from being blackmailed by owners. Build me a stadium or I’ll move. That kind of thing. But it also came into play in this particular strike because the owners were – what the owners were trying to do, was say to the union, since we can’t reach an agreement, we’re just going to give you this new contract, and this will be the collective bargaining agreement.

The union eventually did go to federal court. And Judge Sonia Sotomayor who was then a Federal Court Judge, ruled against the owners, and for the players. Said no, you cannot invoke new rules, a new collective bargaining agreement. And that’s when the strike finally ended. But it wasn’t until the following spring.

LAMB: Why does baseball get an exemption and not football, and basketball and hockey, and the rest of them?

FEINSTEIN: Because baseball asked and got it. Judge Landis, Kenesaw Mountain Landis, who had been a federal judge was the Commissioner of Baseball in the 1920s. And they were able to get the exemption then. Other sports of course would love to have the exemption. But in – to me, something – a twist that doesn’t make sense. Congress has said to others, nope. You can’t have the exemption. But it has allowed baseball to continue to have it.

LAMB: Do you think that will ever change?

FEINSTEIN: It would change only if baseball did something that would anger Congress in such a way that they would finally say no more. You are abusing the exemption. I thought in the case of the strike in 1994, they were abusing the exemption. That’s what I was saying in that testimony. But the fact that it didn’t happen then. It took a federal court ruling to end the strike.

And the fact that after 2005, when the steroid hearings, the now famous steroid hearings, with Mark McGuire and Rafael Palmeiro and Sammy Sosa, that again, government chose not to intervene in any way leads me to believe that it won’t happen.

LAMB: Another clip we have from that same hearing where you testified. We watch.

FEINSTEIN: (Videotape) Fay Vincent, when he was the Commissioner of Baseball made the statement, that if there was a work stoppage, regardless of how it came about, that most fans would view it as a bunch of whiny millionaires taking on a group of greedy billionaires.

I think clearly, that’s the way many baseball fans, maybe a majority of baseball fans view this current dispute. That is not good for baseball. I think if the owners do impose their salary cap, and if they break this union next spring, they will win a victory. But it will be a pyrrhic victory. It’s one – it’s been said often that it would take an act of Congress to get the Chicago Cubs back to the World Series.

I would suggest that to you now that it will take an act of Congress to get the Chicago Cubs and the other 27 teams back on the field next spring. And I would ask you on behalf of many of my colleagues in this room who are neutral observers, and yet think that you need to take this action to seriously consider taking this action.

LAMB: Who is neutral about this question?

FEINSTEIN: Well I meant neutral in the sense that we’re trying to be fair to both sides. I was not neutral. I was clearly on the side of the players during the course of that work stoppage. I generally tend to be on the side of the players, because what happens frequently, in fact, every time, there are these disputes, it’s always the owners who want the change in the contract. It’s always the owners saying, we’re not making enough money.

It’s not that they are losing money. In the NFL dispute that we say play out over the first six months of this year, it wasn’t that the NFL owners were claiming that they were losing money. They just said, we want to make more money. So we want to change the rules.

And the owners always have the advantage. Because as wealthy as the players are, as I said, greedy millionaires versus greedy billionaires. The billionaires tend to have the leverage on the millionaires. So their probably going to end up quote/unquote winning. Although, in the case of baseball, because the union was so strong, and was so well run by both Marvin Miller, and Don Fehr, both very smart lawyers.

They won virtually all of the disputes for many years until the drug issue came up between the owners and the players.

LAMB: I have seen it stated that you have the all-time best selling sports book. Called ”Season on the Brink”. Is that still true?

FEINSTEIN: Actually, another book that I wrote, ”A Good Walk Spoiled”, which was about professional golf sold more than ”Season on the Brink”. It went past ”Season on the Brink”. ”Season on the Brink” was my first book. It was about Indiana Basketball Coach Bob Knight. It came out exactly 25 years ago, which again, was the reason for ”One on One”. I kind of wanted to look back on my 25 years of writing books, and go back to many of the people I had written about in past books.

Many of whom I hadn’t seen or talked to for years. Because I frequently get asked whatever happened to this person, or that person. Because many of the people I have written about are famous, but many of them are not. And so that was sort of the purpose of this new book.

LAMB: How many copies has it sold?

FEINSTEIN: ”Season on the Brink”?

LAMB: Yes.

FEINSTEIN: I am told worldwide it is somewhere past two million. Because it’s been sold in Japan, and in Italy, and in Australia, and in Great Britain and obviously here in this country too. And still – it still sells in paperback. In fact, the publisher just put out a 25th anniversary edition to commemorate it. So I was very lucky.

LAMB: How have you changed? Because when you wrote this …

FEINSTEIN: Besides gaining weight?

LAMB: Well, there are a lot of things that have happened in your life. But how have you changed when – the money alone. I mean you are undoubtedly at this stage, a wealthy man.

FEINSTEIN: I don’t know if I would say wealthy. I am divorced. So those of us who go through a divorce tend to be far less wealthy after than they were before. But no, I have absolutely no complaints financially. I mean the irony of ”Season on the Brink” was the advance on that book was $17,500. I had to take a leave of absence from ”The Post” to go to live in Bloomington Indiana during that basketball season.

I expected to lose money doing the book. I just wanted to do it. I wanted to write a book. I thought this could be a good book. And my goal is writing it was for it to do well enough that someone would give me a chance to write a second book. And I never dreamed of anything beyond that. The initial book tour for ”Season on the Brink” was two days in the state of Indiana. The sent me to Indianapolis. They sent me to Bloomington. And that was supposed to be it.

But then when the book took off and became a number one best seller, obviously I was sent to a lot more places to do a lot more promotion.

LAMB: You say in the book that because of that book, two NCAA National Collegiate Athletic Association rules have been changed.

FEINSTEIN: That book and the next book, I did ”A Season Inside”. Because I had complete access to Indiana. I was in their locker room. I sat on their bench. And I had total access throughout the season. The NCAA after that book passed a rule that said no member of the media could be in the locker room of a team before or during a game. Half time, obviously. And that if one member of the media was allowed, then the locker room was then opened to all members of the media.

So by that rule, if I am in the Indiana locker room before their NCAA tournament game. Everybody who was in the Syracuse Carrier Dome, which was where Indiana played that year, with a media credential would have been allowed in the locker room. And clearly that can’t happen.

The other rule that was changed when I did my second book, ”A Season Inside”, I went on recruiting visits with coaches. I went into the homes of high school kids. They were recruiting to hear their pitch to the families. And after that book came out, the NCAA created a rule which said, no member of the media may go on a recruiting visit with a coach, because they deemed it to give that coach an unfair advantage, because it implied, if you come to my school, then you will get more media coverage. Because here is this guy coming on the trip.

And I asked the friend of mine at the NCAA who called me, and said, well what if I went on every visit that a kid had? You’re allowed to have five coaches come into your home. What if I went on all five visits? Then there would be no advantage. He said, we’ll think up a rule for that one too.

LAMB: So how long was Bobby Knight the coach at Indiana basketball?

FEINSTEIN: He was there for 27 years. He got there – excuse me, 29 years. He got there in 1971 and he was fired in the fall of 2000.

LAMB: How did you get inside, and why did he let you spend what was it, six months with him?

FEINSTEIN: Yes, it was six months. It was the entire season of 1985/1986. I had covered Bob Knight in my role as the National College Basketball Writer for the ”Washington Post”. Bob is – I have often said Bob is the most black and white person I have ever met. The only gray in his life is in his hair.

He either really likes you or really doesn’t like you. I have experienced both. And Knight liked me. Some other writers who he respected had spoken up on my behalf. Some coaches who he liked had spoken up on my behalf before I had ever really written a word about him. But then I covered his Olympic team in 1984. So I was around him quite a bit throughout that summer when the U.S. won the Gold Medal in Los Angeles, which interestingly was one of the great disappointments in Bob Knight’s life.

Because you remember, the Soviet block – boycotted those games. And all Bob Knight wanted to do was beat the Soviets. Because the Soviets had beaten the U.S. in 1972 in Munich, that famous game where they had the three replays at the end. And the Soviets ended up getting the winning basket.

And that was the first time the U.S. ever lost a game in Olympic competition. Henry Iba was the U.S. coach who was one of Knight’s mentors. And to Knight, beating the Russians was a way to get revenge for that loss. And he never got to play the Russians that year in the Olympics.

But after I covered that team, I had developed a good relationship with Knight. And I was actually writing a story on him the week that he threw the chair. The famous chair throw during a game against Perdue. And I wrote a piece about him in the Washington post in which I said look, throwing the chair is clearly wrong. There is no excuse for it. But among the crimes being committed in college athletics today, compared to the cheating and the grade fixing, and things like that. On a scale of one to 10 it’s probably a three or a four.

And he called me after I wrote that piece and thanked me for not just killing him after the chair throw, and invited me to a dinner he always had at the final four with his coaches. And I realized I was being invited into the inner circle. And I had never written a book. But I had always thought, if you could get inside a college basketball program with a great coach, there was a great book to be written.

So that night, I proposed the idea of spending the season with him. And the irony is, this book ”One on One” opens with that scene. Mike Krzyzewski the great Duke coach who has since surpassed Knight on the all time list for winning, games won, was in the room. And as we walked out the door, we were in Knight’s hotel room. The door shut, and Krzyzewski looked at me, and I will clean up what he said. And said, are you out of your mind? You are volunteering to spend a year with him?

Mike had played for Knight at Army . And I said, well I know what’s like. He said, no, you don’t. You have been around him for a day or two days. You don’t know what it’s like to spend an entire winter with him. And I said well, I want to do it anyway. He said, well then you are crazier than he is.

And of course I went ahead did it. And Krzyzewski was 100 percent right. You can’t know what it’s like until you are there. But I am still glad that I went and did it.

LAMB: But in your book, you know it seems like you are all over the place about how you really feel about Bobby Knight.

FEINSTEIN: Yes.

LAMB: And I will give you an example, something that there are a couple of examples of this, where – things that he would say in your presence.

FEINSTEIN: Yes.

LAMB: He said this. You know, John , Knight said. There are times when I am not sure that Hitler wasn’t right about you people.

FEINSTEIN: Right.

LAMB: And you also report in your book that he would introduce you as his liberal Jewish friend from the East.

FEINSTEIN: Right. What did you – you don’t seem to be bothered by that.

FEINSTEIN: Oh, I was certainly bothered by the Hitler comment. And discussed it with him that night, as I describe in the book. Knight – what I have learned about Knight. And a friend of mine, Dave Kinder was the first person to point this out to me. He said, the sound of Bob Knight’s life is uncomfortable laughter.

As bright as Bob Knight is, he doesn’t have a good sense of humor. He doesn’t have a good sense of what is funny. He once brought a whip and a chair to a press conference and pretended to be using them on one of his African-American players, because he was trying to make a point. Some kind of funny point about the fact that he wasn’t a racist, which I don’t believe he is, by the way.

But he will make jokes to his African-American friends. He will make jokes to his Jewish friends about African-Americans. About Jews. And they are not funny, Brian. But he thinks they are. And most of the time you just – you let it slide because you know it is just him not understanding humor. When he made the Hitler comment, it was in front of all of his coaches.

And I had been there long enough, doing – researching a book that I knew if I confronted him in front of his coaches, he had to win the confrontation. Because that is who he is. So that night, when he and I were in a car alone, we were driving to a speech he was giving. I said to him, you know Bob, I think I have a pretty good sense of humor about you know jokes about Jews and things like that.

My mother used to tell a joke about a Jewish mother on the beach. And her baby’s washed away to sea by a giant wave. And she looks up at the sky, and she says oh God, oh God, if you will spare my child I will be eternally grateful. And a wave washes in, and there is the baby completely unharmed. And she looks back up at the sky and says, he had a hat. Now, that’s funny. That’s a good joke.

What Knight had said wasn’t at all funny. And I pointed it out. I said, Bob, there is nothing funny about Hitler on any level. And there was a long silence. And for a second, I thought he was going to pull the car over. We were somewhere in the middle of nowhere in Indiana. And just said get out. And finally he said, you know what I hate more than anything? When I say something stupid. And that’s the closest I ever heard Bob Knight come to say, I am sorry to anybody. Because he knew he was wrong. He knew he had gone over the line.

And because he did grasp that, I was able to get by it. But I had to have that conversation with him or I wouldn’t have been able to sleep at night.

LAMB: Now he is retired. He went to Texas Tech for a number of years. Did you ever see in his operation, anything scandalous?

FEINSTEIN: I have said this often. That if I had to bet my life on one coach in college athletics who I am convinced never cheated, it would be Bob Knight. He had many, many, many flaws. But he was absolutely rigid about the rules. At one point during the year I was there, he heard that there was a gas station owner in town who was giving his players free gas. And he got in the car. I went with him. Drove to the gas station.

And Bob Knight is a big guy, he is six foot five. He is a big intimidating guy. And he walked into this guy. It was a little guy. And basically said to him, if you ever give anything free to one of my players again, I will run you out of town like that. And then he went back to the players, and he said, if I hear of you taking anything free from this guy, or anybody else, no questions. You are off the team. You will lose your scholarship. He was absolutely rigid about that.

LAMB: Ok switch to the University of Miami.

FEINSTEIN: You are going to the other pole there.

LAMB: Well on purpose. Because what I really want you to analyze is, how much again, should the government get involved in this?

FEINSTEIN: Yes.

LAMB: What happened at Miami recently?

FEINSTEIN: Well what happened at Miami is there was a former booster who has photos of himself giving money to Donna Shalala, the President of Miami, who of course has been involved in the federal government, very high up in the cabinet.

Giving money as a contributor to the president of the university. There were pictures of him, or there were pictures of him in the basketball arena. And it turned out he was kicking back money under the table against the rules for years and years to many Miami athletes. Mostly football players. There is one current basketball player involved.

But he is in jail now. And he was involved in a ponzi scheme. And he apparently felt that as soon as he wasn’t giving money to the school anymore, the school went away. We’re not your pal anymore. So he turned on them. And said, this is what I did and gave details to a reporter, and now is testifying.

This is a case where it’s funny, because NCAA rules are so different than law. Whether they be local law or federal law. And the Penn State case, for example. Even though if Jerry Sandusky is guilty of sexually abusing these children, clearly it’s a huge criminal case going forward. There is no evidence at the moment that there are any NCAA rule violations.

So how do you sort of figure that out so that if something – a crime is being committed, that there is a way to enforce a law as opposed to simply enforcing NCAA regulations, because the NCAA tends frequently with schools like Miami that are important schools that play on television a lot and make them a lot of money to just slap them on the wrist, and say don’t do that again.

LAMB: You write, page 466 of your book. I really don’t like the NCAA and what it stands for. And I think it is fair to say that people in Indianapolis aren’t my biggest fans. Why Indianapolis?

FEINSTEIN: That’s where the NCAA is located. That’s where their headquarters are.

LAMB: And what is it?

FEINSTEIN: Well that’s a very good question. The NCAA administers the rules of college athletics. They also put on every championship in college athletics. Other than football, the Bowl Championships Series which determines the quote/unquote National Champion in college football is administered by the conferences and by something called the BCS. That’s separate from the NCAA, even though the schools involved are all NCAA sanctioned schools.

Every other championship, men’s basketball, women’s basketball, swimming, fencing, whatever you want to name is organized, run and paid for by the NCAA. All the money for that though comes from television that is paid to the NCAA by CBS and Turner for the right to televise the men’s basketball tournament. That is the biggest moneymaker for the NCAA. And this television runs the NCAA as much as Mark Emmert, who is the president currently, former president of the University of Washington runs the NCAA.

LAMB: So again, should the government have anything to say about this?

FEINSTEIN: I believe that what should go on is this. Someone, and if it’s the government, that is fine with me, because I am not sure anybody else has the power to do it. Needs to step in and say to Mark Emmert and the people who run the NCAA. Let’s be realistic here.

What goes on in college football, and the rules that need to be applied there, is entirely different than college basketball. In large part because there are 85 athletes on scholarship in football, versus 13 in basketball. The expenses are totally different. I mean you are talking about 100,000-seat stadiums versus arenas that are as small as 2,000 or 3,000 for top-level college basketball teams that are eligible to play for the National Championship.

And then you have what are called the non-revenue sports. The sports that don’t make money. And that is every sport really, except for football and men’s basketball. There might be a handful of women’s basketball teams, Connecticut and Tennessee for example, that make money. But essentially you are talking football, you are talking men’s basketball.

I believe there should be a commissioner, who runs football. There should be a set of rules for football. And instead of a 400-page rulebook that is never enforced, there should be a 10-page rulebook that is enforced. Same for men’s basketball. Same for the non-revenue sports because their needs are entirely different.

The way you run fencing is completely different than the way you run football or men’s basketball. That way you can have sensible rules. Because to apply a rule to football that you are applying to fencing and vice versa, often makes no sense. And I think that is where you need to start. You need to break it up. You need to stop pretending.

You know the NCAA runs these PSAs during the basketball tournament that are on TV all the time, in which they constantly refer to their student athletes, which I find, first of all, it’s a redundancy. By rule, you have to be a student in order to be an athlete.

So it’s a redundancy to begin with, as I tried to point out to Miles Brand when he was president of the NCAA for years. But beyond that, what they are trying to imply is that the football and men’s basketball players, the elite among whom graduate at a rate far below 50 percent. The NCAA likes to quote the total statistics. But frequently, those include kids who start as walk-ons.

They are not on scholarship. Coaches are very smart. They pick four kids who are pretty good players, but most important have high GPAs and put them on their team, so that increases your GPA and your graduation rate. So you are talking about graduation rates over here that are 40 percent, versus graduations rates over here that are probably 100 percent or close to it.

Because if you go to college as a swimmer or a fencer or a basketball player, whatever. Not a basketball player, a wrestler, you know you are going to have to get a job when you graduate. Many of those playing football and basketball just assume they are going to make a lot of money. Because a small percentage will playing their sports.

So the rules that are needed are entirely different. And if the federal government is stepping in and saying to the NCAA, look. Your way is not working. And we’re telling you right now to change, I am all for it. The other thing that I am 100 percent for, and I have written this. Is, the Bowl Championship Series is the single most unfair entity there is in any sport.

And the reason I say that is, the University of Houston, finished its regular season this year undefeated. Didn’t lose a game. They have no chance to compete for the National Championship because of the way the BCS is structured. Only two teams can play for the National Championship. There is no tournament. And you have to come from one of these six power conferences that include the Big 10, ACC, SEC, Big 12. Excuse me, Big East and PAC 12.

If you are not from one of those conferences, even if you are undefeated you are not getting in the Championship Game. There is no other sport in the world, Brian, where you cannot lose once, and not play for the championship. And I have advocated for years, there should be a tournament as there is in every other college sport.

And the way my – my solution for it, is for President Obama to call the 66 presidents of the Bowl Championship Series schools. Invite them to the White House. Give them a drink, and say gentlemen, ladies, if there is not a playoff in two years, I’m taking away your 501(c)(3) status. Because all of these athletic departments have 501(c)(3) status.

LAMB: Tax exempt.

FEINSTEIN: Exactly. And I don’t know how, because the charity that they give their money to is themselves. So if he said that, you have got two years to set up a tournament. Here are your M&Ms. Thank you for coming. We would have a tournament in two years.

LAMB: Well talk about the 501(c)(3) tax-exempt corporations, and the salaries. I picked here some statistics from the Big 10, which is really 12 schools.

FEINSTEIN: Right.They can’t even do the math.

LAMB: And we’re going to put this on the screen. There you can see that the – there is Illinois, Indiana, Iowa, and Michigan. The left is the coaches salary. And we’re not even sure that is the salary. That is what we could find.

FEINSTEIN: Right.

LAMB: On the right, is the president of the school. And you can see almost without question, it is at least twice as much, and many times, look at the difference there in Iowa, 483,000 for the president of the school, a state school. That is not a land grant college. But eight of the 12 schools in the Big 10 are Land grant colleges. Give it a connection to the national law.

What is your – let’s look at some other schools there. Michigan State, coach gets $1.9 million.

FEINSTEIN: This is football by the way.

LAMB: This is football. Nebraska is $2.7 million, and the president of the school is $411,000. At least that is what we can find. I know that they put some of the money in the foundations for the president to tell you the …

FEINSTEIN: Well there are also, there is also hidden money for the coaches. From speaking, from camps, from television shows too. So that is not all they’re making.

LAMB: I think we have one more slide on that to look at. The Ohio State Coach, Urban Meyer, brand new. Just recently, $4 million. But the president of Ohio State, Gordon Gee, makes the most of any president, $1.6 million.

FEINSTEIN: He has a very high bow tie budget.

LAMB: So what do you think of it? I mean it does have – also all of these Big 10 schools get federal – a tremendous amount of federal grant money.

FEINSTEIN: Yes.

LAMB: Two to $300 million a year. Michigan is – I mean not Michigan, but – yes. Michigan has – I think gets the most of the Big 10. Somewhere close to $1 billion. It’s not all federal money, but it is a lot of federal money.

FEINSTEIN: Right. Well let me say a couple of things. First of all, when I see those numbers, I am reminded of the famous Babe Ruth line, when he was asked about the fact that he was making twice as much money as the president of the United States. And he said, I had a better year than he did. And excuse my cough. The fact is, that athletes and entertainers, and coaches of athletes have always made more money than it seems they should make.

You know we know about Tom Cruise making $10 million a movie or whatever it might make. And I am not defending those salaries. But I will say this. The successful football coach, the successful basketball coach, makes more money for the school by far, than the president could ever hope to make. Because when his team wins games, wins tournaments, wins championships, they sell tickets. And they also – booster money goes way up when you are making – admissions goes way up.

And for example with Duke. Whenever they have a major fundraiser, who is the speaker? Mike Krzyzewski. Because he is – he is the symbol of Duke University. Joe Paterno was Penn State University. The amount of money that these guys bring into the university by being successful, you almost can’t calculate.

LAMB: But let me go back to – I have got a newspaper here that I saved. This is the ”Wall Street Journal” from back in November. And in the front page, big story. It says a discipline problem.

FEINSTEIN: Absolutely right.

LAMB: And this story points out that the person inside the university who is responsible for students, what had to go along with the university when it came to football players that weren’t living up to the student performance.

FEINSTEIN: Joe Paterno said, I will discipline them. Not you.

LAMB: Yes.

FEINSTEIN: They will play under my rules, not yours.

LAMB: And wasn’t his fund completely separate from the university?

FEINSTEIN: Always is. That’s the way it is at virtually every school. And this is – that’s an example of a simple truism. Absolute power corrupts absolutely. And that is the problem, that because these coaches are so important, and because they do make so much money for the universities that they basically do have absolute power.

When Joe Paterno had four losing seasons in five years, Graham Spanier, the now deposed president of Penn State went to his house. And Joe Paterno was 75. And said coach, you know it might be time for you to start thinking about retirement. Joe Paterno threw him out of his house. So who is the most powerful man at Penn State? The president or the football coach? Clearly it is the football coach.

And that is a problem. What I am trying to do is explain to you why those numbers exist. There is a reason why they exist. But there are obviously huge pitfalls in having those numbers. When Richard Brodhead took over as President at Duke, Mike Krzyzewski had not gotten along with his predecessor, Nan Cohan . I happen to agree with Krzyzewski on their disputes, but that is a whole other story.

And at that moment, as it happened, Krzyzewski was offered the job coaching the Los Angeles Lakers. He had no intention of taking the job. But he let it leak out that he was considering it. And the reason he let it leak out that he was considering it was because he wanted Brodhead to know, I am in charge here. I am the most important person here.

And when they held the press conference to announce that Krzyzewski wasn’t leaving, you know they held a press conference to announce that nothing had happened. If you had listen to President Brodhead speak about Mike Krzyzewski, you would have thought that Mother Theresa and Gandhi had nothing on him as a human being. That is what powerful coaches can do.

And Mike Krzyzewski is one of those who won’t abuse the power, fortunately for Duke. But there are coaches clearly, who do.

LAMB: What was your personal reaction when you heard about Penn State?

FEINSTEIN: Stunned and broken hearted.

LAMB: And let me add to that, Syracuse.

FEINSTEIN: Syracuse is a different level. There is not a Grand Jury report. We don’t know that Jim Boeheim had any knowledge at all of what his assistant, Bernie Fein has alleged to have done. Joe Paterno did. We know that he was told about it in 2002 at the latest.

LAMB: I should say we are recording this in early December, in case something has happened in the interim.

FEINSTEIN: Right. And I was – I have always been a great admirer of Joe Paterno. I have written that to me, the two most important men in college athletics in the last 50 years are Joe Paterno and Dean Smith, the long-time basketball coach at North Carolina who did far more than win games. And he helped desegregate restaurants in Chapel Hill in the 1950s. A truly great man beyond being a great coach.

And I felt pretty much the same way about Paterno. And so when I heard this, I mean I was stunned, obviously. It’s most heartbreaking for the boys involved and their families. But the life at Penn State will never be the same. Because there was always a feeling at Penn State that we have the coach who can win games and do it the right way.

We graduate our players. We don’t break the rules. We do the right things. And all of that feeling – none of that part is changed. They still graduated all of those players. But all of that feeling is gone now. There will never be an old normal at Penn State. There will only be a new normal some day. And none of us knows that it will be.

LAMB: How much of all of this is caused by the money? The power of the coach. The insulation and the lack of leadership on the part of the presidents on these universities to – should the football players be disciplined the same every other student is?

FEINSTEIN: Yes. When they violate rules, that – where they are acting as students. I mean if they are late for practice, that is up to the coach to discipline them. If he feels they are not doing what they are supposed to do as football players. But if they do something as students, or if they do something as citizens, as in break the law and get arrested, they should absolutely be treated the same way.

LAMB: Should the government get involved in this?

FEINSTEIN: That’s a hard one. Because I don’t know if government can come in and say to a university, you must do this. I don’t know that there is a law that you can pass.

LAMB: Well I am going back to the 501(c)(3).

FEINSTEIN: Oh yes. Now that is a different issue. Yes.

LAMB: I mean the churches are exempt from paying tax. And if they go too far everybody starts making noise like they are going to take the tax exemption away from them.

FEINSTEIN: Well I would go back to what I said a couple of minutes ago. I don’t know what the justification for 501(c)(3) status is regardless. Because the money as I said, the charity that the schools are pumping money into is themselves. And much of that money goes to build bigger locker rooms. To make sure that the teams can travel on charter airplanes. To add to the recruiting budget.

Duke’s recruiting budget in basketball for example, is about $900,000 a year. To recruit eventually maybe three players. Because in a basketball team, you only have 12 or 13 guys. Many of these schools have huge recruiting budgets. That money comes from the money they make.

LAMB: I want to go back to 1999, another clip of you. It’s interesting how often you have appeared on CSPAN, even though you write about sports all of the time, and the connection. But you gave a speech up at Stanford, Connecticut about ”Season on the Brink”, still it’s not your best seller. Your best seller …

FEINSTEIN: Is ”A Good Walk Spoiled”.

LAMB: ”Good Walk Spoiled” let’s watch this.

FEINSTEIN: (Videotape) When the book came out, it was called the ”Season on the Brink”, and it did much better than any of us dreamed. And the one person who wasn’t too happy about it was Bob Knight. It seems I was in the – I think, unique position of having angered a subject by reporting what he said too accurately. You see, I left in those words that rhyme with luck and duck.

And he didn’t – when he read this in the book, he wasn’t pleased. So at one point he called me a pimp. At another point he called me a whore. And this became fairly controversial. I was banned from getting press credentials to games at Indiana.

And I was interviewed on NBC at one point by Ahmad Rashad. And he said to me, well know Coach Knight has called you a pimp. And he has called you a whore. How do you respond to this? I said well, I wish he would make up his mind so I know how to dress in the morning. VIDEOTAPE ENDS

LAMB: What is your relationship with him today?

FEINSTEIN: I would say at best, civil. It has ebbed and flowed since 1986. For eight years we didn’t speak at all. A I said there, he called me a pimp and he called me a whore, among other things. In 1994, I was walking into a hotel in Hawaii, I was covering a basketball tournament out there because somebody had to do it. With Gary Williams, who was then the coach at Maryland. And we encountered Bob and a friend of his. And much to my surprise, Bob turned and just started talking to me and to Gary as if nothing had ever happened.

And after he walked away, Gary said to me, well, why would you even speak to him after all the names he called you? I said, because he built my house, which is essentially true. And when I did a book in 2003 on Red Auerbach I talked to him about Red for two hours, because he loved Red. He looked up to Red, and Red was a mentor of his.

And he could – he is a great interview. When he wants to be. But since then, when we see each other we say hello. It is almost cordial. But in this book, I had decided at the very beginning, that the last thing – that the end of the book was going to be me going back to Knight 25 years later, and saying OK Bob. It’s been 25 years. Do you want to sit down and talk about all of this or not?

And that is essentially what I did. I went to Madison Square Garden. He was broadcasting a game for ESPN. And he wouldn’t speak to me at all. Which didn’t surprise me, because that’s who Bob is. If he feels you want something from him then he thinks he has control. And that’s the way he likes it. So I had told people, there is no way he is going to talk to me. And they had said, well it’s been 25 years. For God’s sake. I said, no that’s who Bob is. He is not going to talk to me. And he didn’t.

And I ended up not finishing the book with Bob Knight because of all the people I have dealt with, the group of athletes that affected me the most were the ones I wrote about in ”A Civil War”, which was a book I did about the Army Navy football rivalry 15 years ago. And there was a horrific incident involving one of the young men that I had written about in that book, in which his wife committed suicide.

And I had – what – I was amazed by – not amazed by, knowing the young men, the kids’ as I – they were young men then, was that the day of his wife’s death, I got a call from one of his friends to tell me what had happened. And he said, there are 10 army football players in Derek’s living room right now. Because when they heard the news that day, they – all 10 of them literally dropped what they were doing in their lives, whatever it was, got on a plane and flew to Dallas to be there for their team mate. Because he was still their team mate 15 years later.

And I spoke to Derek Klein on the phone the day after his wife’s death. And we talked for a long time about how he was trying to deal with it. And it was awful, obviously. But the next day, I got an e-mail from Derek . And there is this – every football team has a sign over the door of their locker room. It is usually something that is meant to be inspirational. The most famous one is Notre Dame’s. it says ”Play like a champion today”.

And as the players exit the locker room, they all touch the sign for inspiration. And the one that was over the Army locker room for years and years, said, ”I lay me down now to bleed for a while, and I will rise to fight with you again”. Which I always thought was just brilliant. And especially for a team of kids who were going to be in the military some day.

And Derek wrote – sent me an e-mail thanking me for calling him and for being his friend. And at the end of the e-mail, he wrote, I lay me down now to bleed for a while, and I will rise to fight with you again. And I remember, as I read this, just crying. Because of the real courage involved in dealing with this tragedy, and that that was his response. I am going to get up and fight. And fight for my children.

And it struck me that I have been so extraordinarily lucky for over 25 years, not only to know Bob Knight and Mike Krzyzewski and John McEnroe and Tiger Woods. But to know Derek Klein . And to know people like him, who may not be rich and famous, but who had stories to tell.

LAMB: How much of all of this was the cause of your heart bypass operation? And I don’t know that I have ever met anybody that had seven.

FEINSTEIN: I think I have the record, actually, yes.

LAMB: Seven bypasses.

FEINSTEIN: Yes.

LAMB: How many are there?

FEINSTEIN: There are only – I think there are four arteries, but you can have more than one blockage in an artery. That’s what the doctors told me anyway. And it was – to say it was stunning to hear that I needed bypass surgery. I went in for a routine stress test. Both of my parents had heart issues. So my doctor had said you know you ought to get a stress test once a year.

And I was a swimmer, and I still swim. Still try to swim competitively against other old guys. And I went in for the stress test, and I did well on the treadmill. And the doctor said oh you are fine. And called the next day and said well, there is one little black spot. Better go in and have an angiogram just to be safe. I said OK. I’ll have an angiogram just to be safe.

The doctor walked in after the angiogram and said you have got seven blockages, you need bypass surgery. And that was on a Friday afternoon. I had the surgery on Monday morning. I went home on Thursday.

LAMB: What year is this?

FEINSTEIN: This was 2009. Two years ago, a little more than two years ago. And I don’t think what I do had anything to do with it. I think the fact that I ate far too much red meat had a lot to do with it. And the fact that the doctors told me that it was hereditary, because of my parents. My cholesterol level on the day I had the surgery was 160.

So it was as much hereditary as anything. But you know I am still overweight. But I still swim, and I have done well on my stress test for the last two years. And I have a one-year-old daughter, and I hope I will continue to do well.

LAMB: You said you were divorced, but you have remarried.

FEINSTEIN: Yes.

LAMB: Mom and dad. Dad ran the Kennedy Center here in Washington?

FEINSTEIN: Yes. He was the first executive director of the Kennedy Center.

LAMB: What was his name?

FEINSTEIN: Martin Feinstein. And then he was the general director of the Washington Opera, and also for a while ran the National Symphony Orchestra. Really remarkable person. Grew up in Brooklyn. His father ran a cafeteria shanty for the long shore man that worked near the neighborhood, Crown Heights, where my dad grew up. And loves the arts. Loved music. And would ride the subway into Manhattan to go to the Metropolitan Opera, sold librettos there.

Went to city college, was in the Army. And came out of the Army after World War II and got a job working for Sol Hurok, the Russian Impresario , and went from there.

LAMB: What about your mom?

FEINSTEIN: My mom, also grew up in New York. And got her Ph.D. in music history from Columbia, while she was raising her three children. She had worked with my father at (INAUDIBLE). That’s how they met. She stopped working when I was born. I was the oldest. Then went back to college, went back to Columbia to get her Ph.D. and then taught at Columbia. And when my parents moved down here, also taught at George Washington until her death.

LAMB: Your brother named you Junior?

FEINSTEIN: No, actually it was Tony Kornheiser who nicknamed me Junior. When I was very young at the ”Washington Post”, I wrote a long story on John McEnroe. I was – it was my first encounter with McEnroe. We became very friendly afterwards. But I wrote this long story on McEnroe. And a bunch of people in the newsroom were saying well, how did you get McEnroe to talk to you?

It’s really not hard to get McEnroe to talk to you. McEnroe will talk to you know someone in the street if he has got something to say, which is almost always. But while we were having this conversation, Tony Kornheiser walked up and said, well of course McEnroe talked to him. They’re the same person.

Because McEnroe is from New York. McEnroe is left-handed. McEnroe has a temper. McEnroe is a great tennis player. I am three of those four things. I am from new York. I am left-handed, and I have a temper. So because I was the youngest guy on the staff, McEnroe’s nickname was Junior because he is John Patrick McEnroe Junior . And so his friends called him Junior. And Tony Kornheiser put Junior on me, and that was 30 years ago. And I still have strangers walk up to me in the street and call me that.

LAMB: And you don’t like that.

FEINSTEIN: I don’t really like it just because it is an oxymoron at this point. And I don’t think that strangers should be that familiar with you. But having said that, when you are – I call myself a semi-public figure. There are people who recognize me. I have been on television, I have written 28 books.

When you – you get a lot of perks from that. And if you are going to accept the perks, then you have to deal with the responsibilities. And if one of the responsibilities is somebody occasionally coming up and calling you Junior, that is not the worst thing in the world.

LAMB: Talk about the difference between sports journalism, and regular political journalism. And what I am getting at hear is, you are in the middle of these families. You were asked to introduce people, and give awards out to some of these people. You dropped off Bobby Knight’s kids at school.

FEINSTEIN: I did.

LAMB: And picked them up and all of that. Too close?

FEINSTEIN: It’s a very fine line. Now, if you go back to political reporting, remember Ben Bradlee’s book on John F. Kennedy. It was not – and when I covered politics, I went out at night and drank with politicians because that was one way to get – earn their trust, and it was also a way to get them to talk. Not that you would quote them on something they said after three drinks. But maybe you went back to them the next day, and said we need to talk about this.

That was part of political reporting too, to establish rapport and relationships. And I think it still is to this day, even though everything has changed in all forms of journalism. But there is a line. And it is an invisible line. And the line moves. And I think the time I was most uncomfortable with that line, and I wrote about that in this book, was with Jim Valvano, who was a great basketball coach. Who won a National Championship at North Carolina State in 1983 at the age of 37.

And Jim was as bright as anybody I have ever met. And when he won that championship, that is what he aspired to do his whole life. He felt like he had quote, done coaching. He had done what he came to do as a coach. And he began looking around for the next thing. And while looking around for it, he stopped paying attention to what was going on in his program.

And his assistants brought in some players that probably shouldn’t have been there. They ended up getting investigated by the NCAA and he was forced to resign. Jim and I had become close. We would sit in his office after games until 3:00 or 4:00 in the morning. And he would say to me, what am I going to do when I grow up? I can’t just do this. I am not Dean Smith. I am not that driven. I am not like Mike Krzyzewski. I need something else.

And when he was forced to resign, I wrote about some of these things. And said, he did stop paying attention. And that when he made excuses for what had gone wrong, he sounded nixonian . And Jim was furious with me. And he took me aside at a game. He was doing television after resigning, because that is what all coaches do when they are not coaching anymore. And he said, how could you – how could you of all people say these things about me?

And I said Jim, if I just blindly defended you, then when I defend you when you deserve it, it won’t have any legitimacy. So – and he looked at me and he said, but you. It would have meant something to me if you had defended me because we’re friends. And I realized at that moment, I probably had crossed the line, because we were friends.

And I was right to write what I wrote. But he was right too, that I was his friend, and that therefore it hurt when I wrote what wrote.

LAMB: On journalism, the – tell the story about Ben Bradlee, and the Washington Redskins. And put it into context. Because the Washington Redskins owner’s box is often full of politicians, or it used to be.

FEINSTEIN: Yes. LAMB: But what about that?

FEINSTEIN: Well when I was a young reporter at ”The Post”, Edward Bennett Williams was the president of the Redskins. He was ”The Post’s” lawyer. And a very close friend of Ben Bradlee’s. And then Bradlee and his wife would sit, as you said, many politicians did and other journalists, in Edward Bennett Williams’ box at the Redskin games every Sunday. And one of the things I learned when I first came to ”The Post”. I was a 21-year-old punk, was that there was no beat at ”The Post” more important than the Redskins. And I am including the White House, the Supreme Court, Congress. The most important beat was the Washington Redskins.

And I was sitting at my desk on the day of the NFL draft. This was before it was on television. And Ben Bradlee came walking back into the sports section. And he yelled at George Solomon who was the sports editor. Hey George , who did we get? And because I was a wise guy, I turned around and I said, gee Ben , I didn’t realize ”The Post” had a pick in the NFL draft.

And Ben whirled on me. And you know Ben was – talk about an intimidating figure, especially for a 21-year-old kid, and he pointed his finger at me. And he said, Feinstein, if you don’t like the blanking Redskins, you can get the blank out of town right now. And he meant it. And I knew he meant it. Yes sir, Mr. Bradlee. And I went back to working on my story about the local soccer team.

But there was no question, that ”The Post” never referred to the Redskins as we. But I think everybody knew that when the Redskins won, it was better for ”The Post” and better for everybody in town, than when they lost.

And the mood around the newsroom and around the city was completely different when the Redskins won than when they lost. It’s still true to this day about the Redskins and their importance in this city.

LAMB: Here is some more video of you. And this is a local Comcast sports network. It’s talking about Washington, the University of Maryland phenomenon. But it – I want to connect that with all of the money that is spent on football and basketball.

FEINSTEIN: (Videotape) Well, it’s a decision that as of this moment, Michael , they had no choice because they just don’t have the money. However, there are creative ways to get around something like this.

Now the number is deceiving. If you add up all the dollars it takes to fund these programs, it is about 3.5 million a year. But if you are going to sustain them over a period of years, you need to endow them. You need to probably raise $25 million or so to do that.

What I think Maryland should do, is they should go to their really rich alums. Dan Snyder could be a hero in this. He is a Maryland guy. Why not have – go to Dan Snyder and say, give us all 25 million. Or if you can’t give us 25, give us 10 or 15. Get another 10 from Kevin Plank who owns Under Armor, one of the richest guys in the United States.

Get some money from Larry David, Seinfeld. These are all Maryland people with huge dollars. You have to think out of the box, not just say, OK we give up. You have to try to do something. California did that with their baseball program, and they made a college World Series last year after they were ticketed for demise.

LAMB: That’s only a couple weeks ago. What are you talking about?

FEINSTEIN: Well, the University of Maryland, like many schools, athletic department is in a financial crunch. A lot of it is because they have had so many failures in football recently. And football is a big ticket item in terms of raising money. As I said before.

And they have targeted eight non-revenue programs for extinction at the end of this year. The kids will – if they want to continue to compete in their sport, they are going to have to transfer to another college. If they stay at Maryland, they can still have their scholarships, but they can’t compete in their sports, which they all want to do , obviously.

So what I was talking about was that in an ideal world, those big money people I am talking about Dan Snyder , Larry David, Kevin Plank would give money for a new library, or would just give the money for a new library. Or would just give the money for a more important cause than sports teams.

But in the real world, they don’t.

LAMB: Thank you, John Feinstein for joining us.

FEINSTEIN: Thank you, for having me, Brian.

End




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