Opinion: Rutgers’ Mike Rice firing is too little, too late
Sorry, Rutgers, but the termination of Rutgers men’s basketball head coach Mike Rice is too little, too late.
We are now five months from the time when the school suspended him in December when his abuse of players and coaches was first learned. That suspension and his termination are summed up by ESPN’s expose on Tuesday of a head coach who pushed, cursed and taunted his way to mediocrity at Rutgers. Now, the university is left to wonder where they went wrong with their tyrant of an ex-head coach.
To start with, they should have fired Rice in December.
It was seen last summer at Penn State, where sordid detail after sordid detail painted a picture of an athletic department and a university involved in a cover-up to protect its powerhouse football program. Here at Rutgers, Rice’s intolerable actions of physical and emotional abuse of student-athletes was covered up in the hopes that the master recruiter could turn the program into a winner.
Everything that caused Rutgers to fire their head coach on Wednesday they knew five months before. The travesty here is that it took the program this long to do something so obviously right.
It knew that Rice was throwing basketballs at players and demeaning them and using slurs. He might be a changed man now but the actions of maniacal oppressor bent on dishing out pain to achieve wins should never be tolerated in a place where education and enlightenment should be at the forefront.
To all with a conscience, Rice should have been fired when the administration first learned of his behavior. Instead, Rutgers tried to sweep this under the rug. They avoided the situation and insisted on therapy for their coach. What they got was a prescription on how not to run a basketball program. They chose to run away from the problem rather than do what was right.
In doing the right thing on Wednesday, Rutgers said in a statement that their decision to terminate Rice was “Based upon recently revealed information and a review of previously discovered issues, Rutgers has terminated the contract of Mike Rice.” The information may have been “revealed” yesterday but Rutgers was aware of these tapes to the point that Rice was disciplined in December. What changed between now and five months ago?
It was only because these tapes came to light and created a media firestorm that Rutgers is now caving in on peer pressure to fire a coach whose Top-10 recruiting classes from the past couple of seasons are coming of age. The hope surely was that Rice’s coaching style could be altered and that the issues seen on tape would never come to light. Rather, ESPN documented his behavior to the nation and Rutgers was left to play the spin game and fire Rice as if the revelation was new to them.
But that isn’t the truth and it took the Scarlet Knights as an athletic department and Rutgers as a university five months to finally do the right thing.
Shame on Rutgers for taking this long to do what should have been obvious.
Follow Kristian Dyer on Twitter @KristianRDyer.