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Rutgers coach Mike Rice should have been fired before video release

Updated: April 3, 2013 4:27PM



Amid a firestorm of backlash, Rutgers athletic director Tom Pernetti did Wednesday what he should have done months ago.

He fired basketball coach Mike Rice a day after video footage of Rice physically and verbally abusing his players during multiple practices was revealed to the nation.

Pernetti knew about the video of Rice pushing and kicking players while also cursing and directing homophobic slurs at them but attempted to rehabilitate the third-year coach by suspending him for three games and fining him $50,000.

Anybody who has seen the video knows the punishment didn’t fit the crime.

“I am responsible for the decision to attempt a rehabilitation of Coach Rice,” Pernetti said in a statement. “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.”

He shouldn’t be given the chance. Not only should Rice be fired but any athletic official who saw the video and didn’t immediately demand that Rice be fired should be terminated, as well.

It’s the only way to begin to disinfect an athletic department that should be deeply ashamed of how it handled the situation.

Rice stepped so far across the line that there should have been no going back. Ever. It’s shocking to see a coach go to such insane lengths to motivate players. It’s scandalous the administration knew about it and didn’t immediately fire Rice for behavior that would result in immediate termination in any other profession.

These aren’t just players, they are sons, who were entrusted to Rice and Rutgers by their parents or guardians.

Any parent of a Rutgers student-athlete should be deeply disturbed by what was first revealed on ESPN’s “Outside the Lines.”

Rice apologized but there’s no excuse for what he did. It was the worst kind of bullying, the kind of reprehensible behavior that elementary school kids are being educated against.

And it happened by an “educator” at a state university.

“I can’t say anything right now except I’m sorry,” Rice said on local news broadcast aired by ESPN. “There is never going to be a time when I use any of that as an excuse. ...I’ve let so many people down — my players, administration, Rutgers University, the fans, my family sitting huddled around just because their father was an embarrassment to them. It’s troubling. At some time maybe I’ll try to explain it. But right now … there is no excuse for it. I was wrong. I’m going to tell everybody who believed in me that I’m deeply sorry for the pain and hardship that I’ve caused.”

Athletic culture changes slowly but it does change. The days of coaches physically accosting players has come and gone, which is as it should be. There’s no reason for it. The best coaches find ways to motivate without shaming, belittling or bullying.

Nobody is suggesting coaches today should not be demanding. It’s their job to wring the best out of their players but not all ways of accomplishing that goal are acceptable.

A coach is responsible for mental and physical welfare of players while under his direct guidance. That’s part of the deal when a student-athlete and his parent(s) agree to a scholarship. If the coach doesn’t protect the players’ safety and well-being it’s up to administrators to do so.

In this case, everybody failed so miserably that more jobs should be lost. Meanwhile, the players who were victims of this abuse should be allowed to transfer immediately and without penalty.



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