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The Mike Rice Problem

There seems little doubt that Mike Rice will be fired as men’s basketball coach at Rutgers University and I wouldn’t be surprised if the dismissal occurred before this day is over. 

Mike Rice
Mike Rice (Chris Trotman/Getty Images)

However the question that many are asking this morning is how he was not fired after the school’s athletic director and president saw a video months ago that became public on Tuesday.  ESPN aired a videotape of Rutgers practices in which the volatile Rice was seen very clearly throwing basketballs at players, grabbing and shoving them and even yelling gay slurs.  It was not pretty and it was that video which Athletic Director Tim Pernetti first saw in late November.

After what he said was further investigation and consultation with the school president Pernetti chose to suspend Rice for 3 games and fine him $50,000 in December while ordering him to get help with anger management.  The public was told that the action was handed down for Rice’s behavior at practice and yesterday everyone got a look. A close look.

Give Pernetti credit for one thing and that is he’s not passing the buck.  During both an appearance on ESPN and a radio interview later the recent nominee for the Sports Business Awards’ Athletic Director of the Year said the decision not to fire Rice was his, although he did consult with Rutgers President Robert Barchi and the Board of Governors.

Rutgers University Athletic director Tim Pernetti l
Rutgers University Athletic director Tim Pernetti (Elsa/Getty Images)

Pernetti said the decision to suspend but not fire the coach was made in part because Rice was remorseful and admitted he made mistakes and was working hard to improve himself through counseling.

I am all for not making decisions based on emotion and letting the process play itself out but honestly you have to question the reasons for Rice being given a second chance.   It’s also fair to question the timing as the story first circulated in late November and shortly after the euphoria over Rutgers’ admittance into the Big Ten.

Was this a case of the school not wanting to deal with a fired coach amid all the pomp and circumstance?  Regardless Rutgers clearly has a problem and firing Rice is no longer an option but a must.

Let’s face it, he has not been very successful and there is no reason to expect it to get any better. Yesterday’s development will make recruiting nearly impossible.  What parent would want their son to play for a coach like him?  At least Bob Knight won and graduated players at Indiana. Rice was 16-38 in the Big East the last three seasons and five players have now left the program.

Say goodbye Mike.  As for Pernetti and the President, let’s hope their decisions were simply bad ones and not motivated by other factors.

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