Rutgers head basketball coach Mike Rice was finally fired on Wednesday. This shouldn’t come as a shock to anyone who watched the video that ESPN released showing Rice abusing players. The video, recorded by former Rutgers director of player development Eric Murdock, is over thirty minutes long and is a series of practice sessions that show Rice swearing at players, shoving players, and hurling basketballs at players’ heads and bodies from close range.
When Murdock showed the Rutgers athletic department this video in December, the result was Rice being suspended three games and being fined $50,000. Rutgers suspended him, citing “inappropriate behavior and language.” But he remained the basketball coach. Murdock believes that this video and attempt at whistle-blowing led to his firing and he plans to sue Rutgers for wrongful termination. Murdock also claims that this behavior by Rice led to three players transferring.
This isn’t “tough love” or just “intense coaching,” this is physical, mental and verbal abuse. This behavior is the result of a coach not being able to properly motivate his team. Rutgers finished 15-16 in the 2012-2013 season and I don’t think anyone wonders why anymore.
Think Coach K would shove a player or two? Is Rick Pitino calling kids homophobic slurs and swearing at them? Bill Self hurled a basketball at anyone lately? Didn’t think so.
Imagine if one of those abused players had actually retaliated. That player would no longer be on the team, period. But Rice still would be. Maybe Rice should stand against a wall and face the point-blank basketball firing line. It’s only fair.
ESPN aired the video that was accompanied by an in-depth piece by the great Don Van Natta Jr. There was a national outcry, numerous negative “Seriously, this guy still has a job?!” columns, LeBron James and Chris Christie weighed in, and Rice was finally fired by the apparently not-so-media savvy Rutgers athletic director Tim Pernetti.
Another damning development for Rutgers was the fact that Pernetti supported Rice yesterday, and repeatedly mentioned that it was Rice’s “first offense.” How do you quantify a “first offense?” Is it the first time Rice ever did that to a player? Is it the first five seconds of the 30-minute video that is brimming with cut-together examples of Rice’s practices? I’d love to know what Pernetti qualifies as a “first offense.”
If this story was not told by ESPN, Rice would still have a job. Also, if there was no video and it would be simply Murdock’s word against Rice’s and Rice would still have a job. He’d still be “motivating” his team by whipping basketballs at player’s heads and calling them “f—-ts,” “m—–f—–s,” “p—–s,” “sissy b—–s,” and “c—s,” among other epithets,” according to ESPN.
ESPN’s Dana O’Neill summed it up succinctly, saying:
“Every time a university looks the other way or dishes out a dismissive punishment, it’s like sending an abuser back into the home of a domestic violence victim.”
Good job, Rutgers. You finally did with what the rest of us would’ve done immediately.
Van Natta Jr. wrote:
“You put your [athletic director] shoes on and you witness this video of this coach abusing these players physically, mentally, emotionally — 99.9 percent would have fired that coach on the spot,” Murdock said during an interview at his home last weekend in Bridgewater, N.J.
“This is Pernetti’s big hire — he wants this guy to be successful,” Murdock said. “I have to believe that 99 percent of the ADs would have fired him — for him to only suspend him three games and $50,000 you think it’s significant — but watching the video you’d think it was not nearly enough of a penalty.”
Rutgers assistant basketball coach Jimmy Martelli resigned Thursday, Pernetti is on the hot seat and some have even called for Rutgers President Robert Barchi to resign as well.
The cover up is always worse than the crime, ask Penn State. Rutgers, after everyone but the administration expressed their negative feelings toward this story, finally made the right decision in firing Mike Rice. He shouldn’t be allowed to coach again.