Mike Rice practice video shows a coach whom Rutgers should fire
It's startling and troubling and more than enough for termination. I've sat in on hundreds of college basketball practices. I've seen coaches yell, scream and cuss at players. I've seen players buckle, cry and walk out. But I've never seen anything like this.
The first clip featured Rutgers coach (for now) Mike Rice throwing a ball at a player, cussing him and pushing him. Next came a clip of Rice shoving another player. Then another. Then he grabbed a player from behind. Then he threw a ball at a player's knees, at a player's chest and at a player's head (while the player wasn't looking). He also kicked a player. And, to top it off, he called a player a "f---ing fairy" and a "f---ing f-----."
It's startling and troubling and more than enough for termination.
I've sat in on hundreds of college basketball practices.
I've seen coaches yell, scream and cuss at players.
I've seen players buckle, cry and walk out.
But I've never seen anything like this.
"Your coach physically putting his hands on players, physically kicking players, firing balls at players at point-blank range," former Rutgers assistant Eric Murdock, who serves as the whistleblower in this case, told ESPN's Outside the Lines. "The verbal abuse. The belittling. I was in total shock that this guy wasn't fired."
Me, too, Eric.
Watch the video. Then try to figure out how Rutgers athletic director Tim Pernetti watched it and only fined Rice $50,000 and suspended him for three games last December. Three games! For pushing, shoving, kicking and cussing players. For throwing balls at players' knees, chests and unsuspecting heads. For calling a player a "f---ing f-----" at a school where, less than three years ago, an 18-year-old gay student named Tyler Clementi committed suicide by jumping off the George Washington Bridge and into the Hudson River that divides New Jersey and New York after he was outed by supposed friends.
"I saw all of it," Pernetti told ESPN's Outside the Lines in a one-on-one interview that aired Wednesday after the clips of Rice's behavior in practices were released. "None of that behavior is acceptable under any circumstances at Rutgers."
Then why did you accept it?
I mean, Mike Rice is still in charge of the men's basketball program at Rutgers despite the fact that Pernetti saw these clips months ago, isn't he? That, by definition, means the behavior was acceptable, which is embarrassing and inexplicable. Did Pernetti really not see what I saw when I watched those clips? Or what LeBron James saw? Or what Stephen Curry saw? Or what Jared Sullinger saw? Or what practically every important person of influence in New Jersey saw, including Gov. Chris Christie, a possible 2016 Republican candidate for the office of President of the United States.
"Governor Christie saw the video [Wednesday] for the first time, and he is obviously deeply disturbed by the conduct displayed and strongly condemns this behavior," read a statement released late Wednesday via Christie's office. "It’s not the type of leadership we should be showing our young people and clearly there are questions about this behavior that need to be answered by the leaders at Rutgers University."
Look, I'm not naive enough to think Mike Rice is the first college coach to do most of these things just like I'm not naive enough to think Larry Eustachy was the first college coach to drink cheap beer with coeds after a loss (or win). This stuff happens. But it shouldn't. And when there's undeniable evidence via photographs (in Eustachy's case) or videos (in Rice's case) of questionable actions (in Eustachy's case) or reprehensible actions (in Rice's case), then there's a price that must be paid, and that price isn't a $50,000 fine and three-game suspension.
How Pernetti could possibly think otherwise is a mystery. Why Pernetti would risk his own reputation and job -- and, make no mistake, his own job is most definitely at risk now given the traction this story made after a few hours in the national news cycle -- for an out-of-control coach who's never finished better than tied for 11th in the Big East through three seasons at Rutgers is baffling and, quite simply, dumb.
Either way, I know this: Pernetti must be regretting that decision now.
Hilariously, he's one of the Sports Business Award's five finalists for AD of the Year.
But now he'll be lucky to be an AD in a year.
Or, at least, he probably should be.
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