Rutgers University fired head basketball coach Mike Rice following the controversy over a video showing the former coach verbally and physically abusing players. Rutgers knew about the video for months, but decided to conduct an internal investigation first. However, once the video went viral, the university had no choice but to respond.
The school’s Director of Intercollegiate Athletics Tim Pernetti stated, “I am responsible for the decision to attempt a rehabilitation of Coach Rice. Dismissal and corrective action were debated in December and I thought it was in the best interest of everyone to rehabilitate, but I was wrong. Moving forward, I will work to regain the trust of the Rutgers community.”
That may prove difficult. When Eric Murdock first brought the video to the school’s attention, they fired him:
ESPN got the video from former NBA player Eric Murdock, the team’s former player development director. He told the network the school fired him for blowing the whistle on Rice. The school says he was let go for “insubordinate conduct” unrelated to the video, according to ESPN.
In the video, Rice is shown several times throwing basketballs at flinching players, shoving one in the back, kicking at another. He frequently berates players in the clips.
“To see your coach physically putting his hands on players, physically kicking players, firing balls at players from point-blank range, the verbal abuse, the belittling, I was in total shock that this guy wasn’t fired, immediately on the spot,” Murdock told ESPN.
I am not shocked Rice was not fired. Schools tend to support those bringing in money over protecting players. We have seen this with sexual abuse cases, so it comes as no surprise that we would see it in this kind of case.
Of course, the left-leaning media is making bigger hay out of the “fairy” and “faggot” insults than the physical abuse. I think the latter is truly the problem. Rice threw basketballs at players, including at their heads, from pointblank range. He kicked one player and grabbed and pushed another in the video. That is unacceptable. We cannot have coaches physically assaulting players.
Unfortunately, this kind of behavior is hardly unique. Former coach Bobby Knight was known for throwing chairs and losing it on the court. Many coaches shout and yell at players, insulting them to motivate them. What is unusual is that it was caught on camera. As John Amaechi stated in an interview:
“What I think is stark here is how we can be surprised, at this point, by this. You can walk on any sideline almost anywhere in America or Britain, on any given weekend, and see similar behaviors. There is no context in the universe where that kind of behavior is acceptable. It’s physical and verbal abuse. It’s psychological and emotional abuse. [Rice] should not be allowed near anybody. I mean forget sports, there is no context where his management style is appropriate.”
Amaechi is right. Nowhere is this acceptable, yet we can see it every time we watch sports. The question now is what can we do about it. One option is placing heavy fines on coaches who engage in this behavior. The other is to change the culture that prompts this behavior.
Part of this happens simply because people like Rice and Knight have hot tempers. However, part of this also happens because the coaches want to win. They seem willing to do whatever it takes to win, even if that means berating their own players. So much of this is about having your moment in the sun, and it I think the whole point of sports — the fun of sports — gets lost in that competitive attitude.
This does not mean we should get rid of the competition. No one wants to see college-level sports turn into the “everyone wins” mess that children deal with. However, it would not hurt to turn things down a little.