The Daily Item, Sunbury, PA

April 3, 2013

Some actions are beyond rehabilitation


Daily Item

---- — If Mike Rice didn't know about viral video before Tuesday, he sure does now. The latest sensation cost him his job.

Rice is now the former men's basketball coach at Rutgers after a disturbing video was released Tuesday by ESPN showing Rice's extraordinarily inappropriate behavior at practice.

Rice, who was 44-51 in three seasons at Rutgers, was shown shoving, grabbing and even kicking players. It also shows him throwing basketballs at players' heads and using language that would make a modern drill sergeant blush.

Unfortunately, this was not new behavior. Rice was suspended by Rutgers in late November after the athletic director saw the video. Rice was benched for three games and fined $50,000, a punishment that the university president signed off on as well.

Wednesday, a day after the video went public, Rice was fired and Tim Pernetti, the Rutgers AD fell on the sword for the university. "I am responsible for the decision to attempt a rehabilitation of Coach Rice," he said. "I thought it was in the best interest of everyone to rehabilitate, but I was wrong."

The issues here are many, not the least of which is that Rice is a coach, a teacher and is supposed to be a molder of men. Instead, he comes off looking like the bully he actually is and, worse, Rutgers enabled him by allowing him to continue to represent the university after seeing what was going on. Then, when the school was publicly called on out Tuesday and appropriate outraged ensued, the university pulled the plug.

What if the video had not been released by ESPN and it had remained an internal issue with Rutgers? Would the university have sat on it and allowed Rice to continue his reign of physical, mental and verbal abuse?

Suppose Rice was more successful, would his leash have been a bit longer? There were grumblings for years about Indiana coach Bob Knight acting the same way. Knight survived a similar video, which actually showed him choking a player in practice, but was fired months later after breaking a zero tolerance policy put forth by IU after that incident.

For actions like this, there need not be a policy in place, it should be a given. Any one of the abuses should have been enough to get Rice fired, not rehabilitated or suspended, even if the outside world never knew about it.