Sports Commentary 4/3/13
Scott on the Mike Rice Video at Rutgers
CAUGHT “RED FOXED” – NOW WHAT?
There must be something in the water in New Jersey. First “Snookie”, now this. Unless being a jerk is just contagious. At least two more Jersey-ites have emerged to assume the distinction, these two from the state university. Start with Rutgers men’s basketball coach Mike Rice, who was caught on videotape abusing his players, physically, including hitting them in the head with basketballs and shoving them to the floor, and verbally, complete with obscenities and homophobic slurs. Enter athletic director Tim Pernetti, who reacted to the videotapes by suspending Rice for three games this season and fining him $50,000, which might have been well and good, if, as Pernetti said, it was a “first offense”, and if he hadn’t fired the assistant coach who made him aware of the tape. The videotape of practices, which has now gone viral, dates back three years. Pernetti refers to one compilation of the three years in it’s totality as “first offense”. When the video became public domain Pernetti altered his approach to Rice, saying, “Now that the video tape is out there”, he will reconsider his position. In other words, if you’re caught “red foxed” in the hen house you might as well ‘fess up. If Pernetti uses the phrase “going forward” one more time the university should consider “going forward” without him, which leads to an even more interesting question. How much of this was the president of the university aware of, and for how long? It isn’t as if Rice’s coaching record alone was enough to secure his employment. The Scarlet Knights were a .500 team this season, 10-2 prior to Big East play, 6-14 after league play started. The three game suspension came in December, when such powers as Iona and Howard dotted the schedule. Motives should now come into question. Coincidentally, a Big Ten invitation was looming. If all wasn’t right in Piscataway, particularly when other leagues were openly discussing actions of coaches in evaluating potential expansion programs, that invitation may have been jeopardized. Which leads us to the NCAA itself. There are no clean hands here. This is the organization that annually, during the men’s basketball tournament, chastises the media for referring to players as, well, players. They are, the NCAA sternly reminds us, “student athletes”. It’s not the media that jeopardizes their status as “student athletes”. The coaches started wagging this dog 20 years ago when the NCAA tried to push back the start of practice to November 1st, with the opening games not scheduled until the weekend after Thanksgiving. Coaches pushed back, saying four weeks wasn’t long enough to prepare their teams. No sooner did the NCAA give the coaches October 15th back than they began pushing up season openers, many of them now played the first week in November. The more time coaches control the lives of their players the less time they have to turn over to academia. A decade ago the basketball season ended in March, this year it stretches into the second week in April. One more week at both ends and there will be no time for class at all. The NCAA should have learned it’s lesson about the autonomy they hand over to coaches for the sake of the dollar when they gave Joe Paterno too much power at Penn State when they negotiated the return of football to the NCAA. There are a lot of dirty hands here, Mike Rice’s are just one pair. He should only be the first one to go. With a comment from the sports world, I’m Scott Gray.