Monday, April 8, 2013

Fired Rutgers Basketball Coach Rice Signals End To Tolerating Bad Behavior

Many years ago when I taught high school, I coached the cross-country team. 

For those of you who do not know much about cross country, it is an event when a team of 7 runners compete against other team of 7 runners along a 2.5 mile route generally in terrain similar to a golf course. 

Won’t go into details how the event is scored, but the young men and women who compete in cross-country are a unique group of athletes.   They are too skinny for football and yet have the endurance to run and run.   And for the most part the runners are supportive of each other during training, during the actual event, and hangout together out of school. 

At the secondary school level, everyone made the team.  It was the one sport that an awkward teen could evolve and grow not only physically but socially as well.

One day of practice, the team was engaged in a great deal of good nature horseplay----for whatever reason disturbed this coach.   So after several warnings, I ordered the entire team to run an additional 2 miles.

As these kids completed the extra run, the look on their faces struck me.  They were tired, angry, and yet did what this coach asked them to do.  That look was seared into my memory and never again was I going to punish athletes for engaging in what was good nature teen-age exuberance.

An athlete whether at the collegiate, secondary or grade school levels generally does whatever their coach asks of them.   Yet, some coaches abuse their status and there are way too many stories of young athletes pushed to exhaustion and suffering fatal heat strokes or asked to perform even when injured.  

A young man or women who chooses to compete is already unique and they deserve adults guiding and molding them.

The recent firing of Rutgers Men’s Basketball Coach, Mike Rice probably should have occurred along time ago.  


Apparently, former NBA player Eric Murdock said he was fired as the team's director of player development for blowing the whistle on Rice’s bullying coaching methods.

Rice’s behavior was captured on a video by Murdock and distributed to ESPN.  In this now infamous video, Coach Rice is seen tossing basketballs at the players and apparently referring to them as faggot’ etc.

Sadly, albeit not surprising, Rutgers University Athletic Director Tim Pernetti wanted Rice fired when the incidents came to light but was blocked by other university officials who argued that firing Rice would be too costly and perhaps not legal.  So Pernetti fined the coach $75,000 and suspended him from 3 games. 

Pernetti, likely the university scapegoat,  resigned at University President Robert Barchi’s direction.  Barchi knew of Rice’s initial  fine and game suspension for his conduct. But last week Barchi  finally viewed the tapes—which he should have a long time ago before that they had gone public. (And judging from Barchi’s lack luster explanation of his performance, Rugers trustees might consider asking for his resignation also.) 

The moral of the story is that no coach should ever be physically abusive or physically intimidating to an athlete.  The  institutions have the duty to protect the athlete.   Most athletes will do whatever their coach asks of them---but it takes the men or women administering the athletic program to monitor their coaches and assure the athletes a safe place to engage in their athletic pursuits.

The days of tolerating bad coach behavior is long gone.


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