Rutgers Coach Mike Rice Should Have Been Axed Months Ago

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NCAA

Right now basketball fans, and sports fans in general, should be talking about the Final Four of the NCAA Men’s Basketball Tournament with Louisville, Michigan, Syracuse, and Wichita State. Instead, everyone is discussing the actions and firing of Rutgers basketball head coach Mike Rice.

If for some reason you missed what we’re talking about here, Rutgers University gave their basketball head coach the pink slip after an ESPN ‘Outside the Lines’ report discovered that coach Mike Rice was shoving, grabbing, and throwing balls at his players, as well as, shouting gay slurs during practice. The former Scarlet Knights coach was caught on video, with ESPN airing the footage on April 2. The school quickly responded by relieving Rice of his duties the following day.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=0wZ3z0HeLq4

Of course people are outraged, and Rutgers did the right thing by letting Rice go as quickly as possible. Instead of dragging this situation along or doing some halfhearted internal investigation, Rutgers seemingly put an end to the controversy.

Oh, wait. Rutgers did conduct an investigation?

The school knew what Mike Rice was doing for months. It’s been reported that a former employee actually gave Rutgers athletic director Tim Pernetti a copy of the incriminating video back on November 26. This occurred after the former employee had met with Pernetti in June of last year to discuss Rice’s troubling and abusive behavior.

Pernetti recently stated he investigated these allegations not once, but twice. The first was in June and then again in November. After the investigation, Pernetti suspended Rice for three games last fall, fined him $50,000 and ordered him to attend anger management classes. Here’s what ESPN said about the investigation:

It’s unclear what sort of investigations Pernetti led; on Tuesday, he told “Outside the Lines” that the investigations were “independent” and took “hundreds of hours” and that he and investigators talked with current and former players in addition to basketball staffers. On Wednesday, Rutgers acknowledged that John Lacey of Connell Foley LLP was hired to conduct an investigation that began on Nov. 27 and lasted approximately two weeks.

That’s the most disturbing part of this whole fiasco. Rutgers knew that their basketball coach was abusing his players during practice, which also wasn’t working since the Scarlet Knights had three losing seasons under Rice. And all they did was suspend him for three games and slap him with a $50,000 fine? Rice should have been axed last year.

Furthermore, the athletic director knew everything this entire time, and presumably the university’s president Robert L. Barchithat as well, and that was the only punishment Rutgers dished out to a mediocre coach.

Personally, if Pernetti was aware of what Rice was doing, then other school officials knew as well. Now, the NCAA will conduct some bologna investigation of their own. They may leave it alone, since Rice is gone, but they may go ahead and issue sanctions against Rutgers. And who will that benefit? The kids playing basketball who were beat up by their head coach?

This entire issue should wake the NCAA up, just like the Penn State scandal should have. If they ever want colleges to learn a lesson when a coach or school official commits a heinous act, they need to hit them where it hurts. Financially. The school needs to pay for what they didn’t do. And, preventing the school from qualifying in tournaments isn’t just or fair to the players who had no part in these actions. Instead, all ticket sales should go to a charity, scholarships, or just anywhere else besides the school. If the school doesn’t make any cash, they’ll change their ways because money talks.

And, since I’m on a tangent, school officials should also be held accountable. It doesn’t matter if you’re an assistant coach or the president of the university, if you know that something horrible is happening in your school and neglect it, you need to get your walking papers. Heck, you should even have legal actions taken against you if the action are considered a felony, which it looks like New Jersey may be doing. Schools can’t just fire their head coach and say that’s that. There’s more people at fault then the person taking the fall.

If the NCAA wants to be taken seriously, and to prevent future problems like the Mike Rice incident at Rutgers, they need to toughen up and hit these schools hard. By any means necessary. While the actions themselves are inexcusable, it’s just as bad, if not worse, that colleges continue to allow these sort of incidents to take place. If Rutgers isn’t held accountable for Mike Rice, then the status quo will remain for schools across the nation. And, no one will have learned their lesson that this sort of behavior isn’t acceptable or tolerated.

Image via Wikimedia Commons

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