In December, Rutgers University suspended men's head basketball coach Mike Rice for three games and fined him $50,000, but did not specify what he'd done wrong.
Now we know. Extensive video has emerged showing Rice physically and verbally assaulting his own players during team practices. In the video, Rice is seen pushing, shoving, kicking, and hurling basketballs at his players, while peppering them with derogatory and sometimes sexual slurs.
A former Rutgers staffer had previously alleged that such behavior went on at practices. But until today, there was no hard evidence. Now that the full video — which is over 30 minutes long and compiled from multiple practices — is out, does Rutgers need to give Rice the boot?
"It's startling and troubling and more than enough for termination," says CBS' Gary Parrish. "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."
Former college coach Bobby Knight had a notorious temper and a reputation for being brutally tough on his players. Indiana tolerated his behavior for decades, but when old video surfaced of him apparently choking a player during a practice, the university terminated his contract even though he was a legendary, popular figure on campus.
The video evidence against Rice is clearer and more extensive than the footage that downed Knight. Yet after viewing the tapes last year, Rutgers Athletic Director Tim Pernetti opted only to hit Rice with a brief suspension. That Pernetti could watch that footage and not immediately fire Rice highlights the different standards for college academics and athletics, says Yahoo Sports' Pat Forde.
College campuses are stereotypically billed as citadels of enlightened thought and tolerance. Then you get to the athletic side of campus and see the millionaire tyrant coaches who believe physically accosting young athletes and screaming gay slurs at them will make them play better.
It's called "intensity," in Cult of the Coach parlance. And the more the Cultists praise "intensity" and excuse churlish behavior, the greater leeway coaches believe they have. [Yahoo]
In an interview with ESPN's Outside the Lines — which obtained the video and whose planned segment on it prompted Rutgers to release the video on its own — Pernetti said that he still stands behind Rice, and that he'd only suspended the coach because it was a "fair" punishment for a "first offense." Yet Rice, as the video shows, repeatedly assaulted players.
"So, just wondering, how many chances do you get to assault an athlete?" asks ESPN's Dana O'Neil. "Missed that information in the student-athlete handbook."
Rice isn't the only one facing calls for his termination. Many are saying Pernetti must get the ax, too, for not taking stronger action once the tapes reached his desk.
"Whether AD Pernetti was protecting a friend or whether he badly misjudged the situation, I think it’s safe to say that Rutgers President Robert Barchi may very well have two firings to levy in the aftermath of this fiasco," says Patrick Rishe in Forbes.
Update: Rutgers fired Rice on Wednesday morning.