The Rutgers Situation

This month has always been my favorite in sports, but the Rutgers story that has gained national attention this week has tarnished it. For those who haven’t seen any of the footage that ESPN’s “Outside the Lines” obtained and ran a couple of days ago, click on the link to have a better understanding of what I’m talking about. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=rbaYqcMMZ6A
The footage is quite disturbing. It shows men’s head basketball coach Mike Rice repeatedly shoving players, screaming homophobic slurs, and time after time throwing basketballs at players during practice. And this isn’t just playfully throwing the ball at your buddy, but a grown man throwing balls at the knees, crotches, and heads of 18 and 19 year old kids.
Such behavior is completely inexcusable and Rice was justifiably fired this morning.
When the story broke, I really didn’t plan to write about it but the more I thought about it, the more I felt I wanted to as I had an experience in high school that involved a coach putting his hands on me. Granted, this incident pales in comparison to what happened at Rutgers but it made me think about it today so I wanted to throw my two cents in. When I was a sophomore, my basketball team played for the state championship. We lost the game and as the buzzer sounded, I happened to have the ball in my hands and being a 15 year old little punk who hates to lose, I kicked the ball up to the rafters of the arena in anger. Was it the mature thing to do? Of course not, but again, I was a 15 year old kid. As I walked to the sidelines to shake the hands of the state champs, my head coach grabbed my jersey and pulled me towards him as his other hand grabbed my throat and he yelled that there was no place for that kind of behavior on his team. He was right. I went back to the locker room, missing the medal ceremony and I never played for him again. I took my talents across town and he was soon replaced. Were my actions wrong in kicking the ball? Absolutely. But that did not give him the right to put his hands on me and the same can be said for the situation at Rutgers.
In a way, coaches are educators. Young men and women all across America look to them for guidance, to learn about the games we play, to learn about fair play, and to learn how to become better people. Mike Rice violated the trust of the parents that sent their boys to play for him. It’s okay to bring intensity to coaching. Some have made a career of it but this goes too far. Bob Knight thinks this behavior is out of control. So Mike Rice has been fired. Problem solved, right? Not even close.
When these tapes were first discovered last fall by the university, athletic director Tim Pernetti suspended Rice for three games and levied a heavy fine and the case seemed to be closed. It wasn’t until ESPN got a hold of the tapes and millions of people saw the footage that the decision was made to fire the coach. This is one of my biggest problems with this situation. Mike Rice should not be the only person who leaves Rutgers. AD Tim Pernetti and the university president Robert L. Barchi should follow. Mike Rice physically and verbally assaulted these young men. Pernetti saw the footage and did not take appropriate action until today when the whole world found out about it. Barchi also knew of the incidents in question and instead of taking action, he reviewed and renewed Rice’s $700,000 yearly salary, basically saying that physical abuse and shouting homophobic slurs isn’t that bad. This is a community that is still reeling from the story of Tyler Clementi, an 18 year old gay student who killed himself after being bullied at this same institution in September of 2010.
What message are you sending to that kid’s parents? Or for that matter, any parent that plans to send their child to Rutgers in the future.
Mike Rice was wrong and he’s been fired. So to Tim Pernetti and Robert L. Barchi: Step down. Do the right thing. Somebody in this situation needs to.

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