Neither the scarlet-colored varsity jacket hanging in my closet, nor my years of proud service in the athletic department, can influence my thinking enough to rationalize what I saw. Mike Rice definitely crossed the line. Take your line, draw it out as far as you like, but don’t tell me that the forcibly aggressive contact displayed in that clip is “coaching”. Parents left impressionable young men in the care of Rutgers University, and in particular, former Men’s Head Basketball Coach, Mike Rice. The sinking feeling I get when I see that clip playing over and over, how can any parent make that choice as long as Rice is still with the program? I just can’t see how one would. I’m glad they don’t need to make that decision anymore, as Rice was fired by the University today.
The details around how the University handled Rice’s three-game suspension during the season have bubbled to the surface, and the initial response from Athletic Director Tim Pernetti to recent media scrutiny didn’t cut it for me. When asked directly about parents being apprehensive of sending their youngsters to the University after seeing this video, AD Pernetti said he could “see how people would feel that way…” Really??
AD Pernetti admitted he knew Rice was “fiery” and coached “with an edge,” but assured him that he “knew where the line was”. After looking at that clip, I don’t think Rice would know where the line was unless it yelled it at him… and then whacked upside the head with a basketball. Yes, Rice was disciplined for his actions (3 game suspension), lost pay and was fined (nearly $50,000), and had players (five in the last year) transfer from the program. Rutgers Basketball is no powerhouse, but is this what is necessary for a program to make it big? Why wouldn’t the University want to separate itself from Rice, wash their hands of this mess? I’m glad they finally made the right decision.
AD Pernetti looked for “a line out the door of players or coaches complaining about the matter,” what did he need to see… villagers with pitchforks and torches. Just one voice should have been enough, one! How the tape came to light and what the motivations for that were are irrelevant. Coach isn’t just a title given, it’s a title earned. Bullying entitles nothing, and that’s all I saw. Bordering on criminal behavior, Rice seemed to run practices like a third-world dictator, throwing balls, tugging and pulling players around the gym. Missed shot, basketball! Missed assignment, basketball. Poor technique, basketball. I feel for the athletes as well as the student managers in the video forced to pass basketball after basketball to his “coach” knowing full well what would happen next!
-Joseph Haas Editor, HCoftheNYJ.com
Read my take on Who Should Follow Rice (CLICK HERE)