Mike Rice should never be allowed to coach in the NCAA again and Rutgers University’s athletic director Tim Pernetti should be fired: two bold statements brought on by unspeakable actions.
On Tuesday April 2, ESPN’s “Outside The Lines” aired video footage of Rice, at the time Rutgers’ men’s basketball’s head coach, verbally and physically abusing his players during practice. The footage, which was filmed in November 2012, shows Rice hurling basketballs at his players, forcefully shoving them and chastising them with homophobic slurs.
Rice was hired at Rutgers in spring 2010 following two NCAA tournament appearances and a 73-31 record in three years as head coach at Robert Morris University.
The next three seasons, Rice led Rutgers to a dismal 44-51 record without any tournament appearances.
His team’s performances on the court, however, are far less concerning than his performances during practice. Rice crossed several lines that a coach simply cannot cross. Placing your hands on a player, even in a teaching scenario, needs to be handled very delicately, and Rice made no effort to exert caution.
By violently whipping balls at his players’ heads, he does not garner respect, but cultivates fear. How are his players expected to learn when they must constantly keep their head on a swivel, bracing themselves for abuse?
To take matters to a further level of incompetence, Rice bombarded his players with homophobic slurs as a form of punishment. He would address his players with these slurs when he felt they were performing poorly, forging a negative association in the impressionable minds of his young players.
In a sporting world that consistently struggles with sexual equality and acceptance, there is simply no place for a coach to preach such hate. College coaches are supposed to be teachers and advisers to their players, helping to show them the x’s and o’s of the game while also giving them important lessons on how to become an adult. Rice, however, was leading his players down a road of violence and bigotry.
Though the footage is over four months old, Rice was only fired on Wednesday April 3 following the national whiplash brought on by the “Outside The Lines” coverage. Pernetti became aware of the video in November through former Director of Player Development Eric Murdock. Opposed to the obvious decision to fire Rice on the spot, Pernetti opted to suspend him for three games in December, fine him $50,000 and send him to anger management classes.
Rice was Pernetti’s first “big splash” hire as athletic director at Rutgers and Pernetti was clearly trying to protect his asset. Rather than fire the coach for his inappropriate actions, Pernetti desperately tried to salvage the decision to hire Rice and avoid tarnishing his own reputation as an athletic director. Pernetti and the Rutgers athletic department kept the tape hidden from the public for four months, declaring the December suspension was due to foul language and inappropriate behavior.
By protecting Rice and his actions, Pernetti showed the Rutgers players that he cared little about their wellbeing and endorsed a man with no moral compass. While Pernetti eventually made right by firing Rice, it was too little too late. He is simply trying to save face in the wake of a national controversy and the only appropriate step now is for him to resign.
Because of his actions, I hope that no program gives Rice another chance. He does not deserve the right to coach or to teach because he clearly is teaching the wrong things. And while it is not easy to wish negativity, such as losing a job, on anyone, I do believe that Pernetti’s involvement requires his resignation.