By Ashley Steeb
CLEVELAND – The beloved and controversial Hoosier college basketball coach Bobby Knight shared a short message of support Thursday with an energetic crowd at the Republican National Convention.
“I’m proud to be a part of team Trump, working toward making America the greatest there is,” Knight said in a video. “As a coach, my main objective was to win. And I know Donald Trump will always have winning on his mind.”
Knight endorsed Trump in April during the Indiana primary race. Former state party chairman Mike McDaniel said Knight’s endorsement was key to Trump’s state primary win. He said it was especially important for the older and middle-aged Hoosiers.
“He’s a very popular person with a good segment of the society [in Indiana],” McDaniel said. “He had a long and distinguished coaching career in Indiana. Won national championships. We’re a basketball crazy state. So he’s always been kind of a hero figure there.”
Jeff Cardwell, Indiana Republican Party chairman, agreed that the endorsement helped Trump, but he said it was also important to the younger generation.
“Bobby Knight is the gold standard in Indiana and everybody remembers his leadership and he absolutely made a very positive impact on the election,” Cardwell said. “He reached out to a new demographic and it absolutely made a difference in bringing more people out. He’s brought more people to the table to vote.”
Bobby Knight wasn’t the only beloved Hoosier sports figure that was mentioned at the convention. Fran Tarkenton, a retired NFL quarterback, mentioned the Colts former quarterback, Peyton Manning.
Tarkenton compared Pastor Mark Burns, who made the passionate remarks during his benediction Thursday, to Manning during a football game.
“Pastor Mark Burns was back in the green room with me and he was so quiet. He was humble. He was in prayer. And I put my hand on his head and I said, ‘Loosen up!’” joked Tarkenton. “I then—after hearing him back there—I thought of my good friend Peyton Manning, when he gets over the center and he looks over the defense he’s yelling ‘Omaha!’”
Ashley Steeb is a reporter for TheStatehouseFile.com, a news website powered by Franklin College journalism students.