It’s official, Mike Rice has been let go by Rutgers, The State University of New Jersey. Wait… the dust hasn’t settled yet… but why? Maybe if Rice had been fired when Athletic Director Tim Pernetti went to the videotape back in November, the University could move forward? Now, moving forward for the University could involve the firing of AD Pernetti, as well as the resignation of University President Robert Barchi. The way AD Pernetti handled those first 24 to 48 hours after the story broke was very defensive… and frankly, he was very stubborn in his responses, for lack of a better word. University President Barchi was derelict in his duties as well, needing to get to the bottom of why his head basketball coach was suspended much, much sooner but doing nohting.
Some of the images on the viral video, first made public by ESPN’s Outside The Lines, run contrary to testimonials by former players and people close to the program. Defend the indefensible? I never thought there would be such support for a man who, in my opinion, overstepped his bounds. This individual was a player at Rutgers under Mike Rice, and has come out in defense of him.
During a radio interview after Rice’s dismissal, a former Rutgers hoopster defended Rice’s actions from the clip saying Rice was attempting to “make his players better” and he could see how “the public misunderstood” what they saw on the clip. To hear the young man from the video who Mike Rice flung a ball at (a ball that pinged off his head at point blank range), defending those actions and rationalizing the images from the clip was unbelievable. I can see how it would be hard to rake a guy over the coals who has become a father-figure type, but what’s wrong is wrong. My eyes saw examples of abuse bordering on assault, from the ball this former player took off the head to the kick another player endured.
I understand this player cares about Mike Rice very much, and in his words Rice “cares about his players,” but I know what I saw! Yes the video was edited to show Rice’s lowlights, but that doesn’t change the fact that each incident happened. Mike Rice wasn’t just a coach, no coach ever is. To a player, especially one far from home for the first time as some college athletes are, coaches are looked on as surrogate parents. Coaches don’t just teach a player how to play the game; they become an influential part of that player’s life… teaching life lessons along the way.
With Mike Rice gone, “Baby Rice” or Jimmy Martelli (Rice’s lead assistant coach), resigned. No matter how bad this all seems now, if Rice or Martelli have what it takes, they’ll coach again. I remember another head basketball coach of a state institution that was caught on camera in some very damning circumstances. At the time, Iowa State head man Larry Eustachey was photographed drinking and partying with coeds. Some thought he’d never coach again. Larry Eustachey is currently the Men’s Head Basketball Coach at Colorado State University (yes, another state institution!).
As we come back full circle to those charged with overseeing the former Men’s Head Basketball Coach, AD Pernetti and University President Barchi didn’t just let down the young men left in their care by parents hoping for the best, these men let down the entire Rutgers community. The outcry for firings and resignations in both popular media and the social media landscape is overwhelming. Faculty at the University have joined an ever-growing chorus of voices demanding AD Pernetti resign, or be let go. I believe AD Pernetti needs to go, but not for why you think.
When given chance after chance to fire Mike Rice prior to him actually doing so, Pernetti stood firm in his position that Rice had been punished already (a three-game suspension with loss of pay) and that was that… only to fire him the following morning. University President Barchi, if it’s true he only watched the video for the first time after the story broke, then shame on him for not being hands-on after Rice was suspended. When this is the example set by the people in charge of making decisions and handling the tough situations, how can the student-athletes rely on them in their time of need?
Assistant coaches did nothing, probably fearful for their jobs. We all know how assistants move around with head coaches until they land a head coaching gig of their own. Student managers & trainers did nothing, even though in their gut they had to feel what they were watching was unacceptable. Those within earshot of practice, other administrators, faculty, coaches, athletes, box office personnel, etc. that occupy the RAC turned a death ear to the slurs and a blind eye to the actions of an out-of-control coach. I don’t blame the athletes for not speaking up, who wants to lose their scholarship and be the one that tore down the program? I blame all those that could have done something… and did nothing. I’ll be satisfied with the removal of AD Tim Pernetti for his poor decision making and President Barchi for lack of thorough oversight after the situation came to his attention in November.
-Joseph Haas Editor, HCoftheNYJ.com