Critics say Mike Rice’s dismissal from Rutgers too little, too late


Rutgers University announced that it has fired head basketball coach Mike Rice after a video showing him abusing players was released. Rice is pictured here at Madison Square Garden on March 6, 2012 in New York City. (Chris Trotman/GETTY IMAGES)

Rutgers University has fired Mike Rice, its men’s basketball coach, after ESPN broadcast footage of Rice abusing players during practice. Cindy Boren writes at The Early Lead:

Video shows Rice throwing basketballs at players, kicking at them, cursing them and using homophobic slurs. The roughly 40-minutes of footage, which [athletic director Tim] Pernetti and Rutgers President Robert L. Barchi saw in December, was obtained from Eric Murdock, a former assistant with the team. ESPN says it has hundreds of hours of other tape of Rice from his three seasons at the school.

Pernetti and Barchi suspended Rice and fined him after viewing the tape in December. On Wednesday, according to the Associated Press, “Rutgers referred to new information and ‘a review of previously discovered issues’ as the reasons for Rice’s termination.”

Jonathan Capehart wonders why Rutgers didn’t let the coach go before the tape was made public:

Pity it took public embarrassment today to get school officials to do what they should have done months ago. . .

It’s great school officials fired Rice. But given the grip certain sports have on some college campuses, I have no confidence they wouldn’t let it happen again.

In her column “On Leadership,” Jena McGregor blames Pernetti and other university officials for keeping Rice in his position:

Now that Rice has been fired, the real question isn’t whether or not the coach should have a job (he obviously shouldn’t) but how closely Rutgers will review the actions of other leaders after Rice’s slap on the wrist last year. After all, there are a number of ways Pernetti’s decision put the university’s reputation, not to mention its students, in harm’s way.

Sports columnist Jason Reid makes the same point. He argues that Pernetti was mistakenly trying to save face for himself and the school, comparing the decision to the abuse scandal at Penn State:

Too often, the first instinct of some university officials is to protect their schools’ interests rather than doing what’s morally — and usually clearly — right when crises occur. When faced with potentially embarrassing situations, many decision-makers seem to first try to handle things as easily as possible for themselves. Minimize negative scrutiny, the thinking goes, in an effort to protect the brand. . .

As Rutgers top athletic official, Pernetti should put the abused players first. Pernetti is responsible for their welfare. So after watching Rice berate players profanely while essentially using them for dodgeball practice, it’s impossible to understand how Pernetti could muster such a weak response unless you first realize that protecting the players wasn’t his main concern.

Max Ehrenfreund is a blogger on the Financial desk and writes for Know More and Wonkblog.
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