By Ron Morgan
Corsicana Daily Sun
Rutgers has been all over the TV the past few days. No, Rutgers didn’t make the Sweet Sixteen. In fact, what got Rutgers press coverage wasn’t sweet at all.
A video surfaced that showed just how coach Mike Rice treated his players. The video shows Rice repeatedly throwing basketballs at players, shoving, kicking and grabbing players. If that wasn’t enough, he could be heard cursing and using gay epithets at the players.
I’m sure it’s just a stereotype that I have, but I always picture East Coast schools as bastions of political correctness. While cursing may be politically correct in “progressive” schools, I can’t imagine that physical abuse is. And, I certainly can’t imagine that they would put up with the gay epithets. I guess I’m wrong.
Oh, Rutgers fired Rice, but only after the video went viral. A whistle blower went to the school almost a year ago about the coach’s treatment of the players. The whistle blower was fired.
Last fall, the video was given to the school’s administration. The athletic director said that he erred. Instead of firing Rice then, he elected to, in his words, “rehabilitate Mike Rice.” Rice was suspended for four games and fined $50,000. I don’t think it worked.
The idea of rehabilitation sounds good. It fits the image of a progressive institution of higher learning. However, if you think that was their motivation then Dick Platt has a map to the Fountain of Youth where he’s living in Florida that he’d sell you.
About the time the video was shown to Rutgers’ officials, the school was in negotiations with the Big Ten about membership. A dust-up over the basketball program wouldn’t look good to Big Ten officials, now would it?
Believe me, it has cost Rutgers. Not only has the publicity been worse that it could have been, they were paying Rice over $650,000 a year plus incentives. In fact, by finishing the season, Rice is due a $100,000 bonus which they are obligated to pay. All of this was over a sub .500 coach. It’s not like they were protecting John Wooden.
Believe it or not, I have heard commentators defend Coach Rice …scratch that, Mr. Rice. (After what I’ve seen, I can’t use the title “coach” with the man.) I’ve heard comments about how that is just common practice among coaches. “Everybody does that.” No, it’s not.
Never in 25 years of coaching did I ever do anything close to that. I played for some pretty tough coaches in high school, a group of men that I feared but in a respectful way. I may have feared running more bleachers, but never for my physical well-being.
In discussing Mike Rice and the video I’ve heard more than one person compare him to Bobby Knight. No one has been more vilified than Coach Knight. He was tough. I was recruited by Coach Knight. I’ve met the man, know people who have played for him and who coached with him. Knight could be a bit bellicose (I’ll let Si Kormos look that one up). He was famous for chair abuse. However, the only person I ever heard about him physically touching was his own son.
Mike Rice was the exception, not the rule. The Mike Rices of the world have no place in coaching whether it’s in high school, college or the pros. I’m about as old school (or just plain old) as it gets. I strongly believe in tough love. What Mike Rice did was far beyond tough love. I hope that his career in coaching is over. I hope that Rutgers pays the price for their silence. And, I hope that the idea that this is just something coaches do is dispelled. Tough only goes so far.