April 8, 2013
(NewsUSA) - The situation at Rutgers is what happens when priorities are out of line.
Shame on the players and any parents who knew what was going on at Rutgers.
And if you don't think some players told their parents about the horrors going on at basketball practice, you're naive.
This is not to let Mike Rice off the hook one bit. He physically and verbally abused his players and it led to him being fired as Rutgers' men's basketball coach on April 3.
Sadly, Rice's dismissal only came after ESPN obtained and broadcast a video of the out-of-control coach pushing and kicking his players. Also heard on the video is Rice using gay slurs.
"Coach Rice's abusive language and actions are deeply offensive and egregiously violate the university's core values," said Rutgers president Robert Barchi in a statement.
Rice, of course, shouldn't be allowed to coach kids or young adults again. His actions can never be accepted under any circumstances, especially not in an educational setting. This is a place to teach and nurture young people, not degrade and abuse them.
Which leads us to the players. It's simply mindboggling that Rice could have acted out abuse against them and they simply accepted it as normal.
A scholarship is never more important than your dignity and self-respect.
His behavior wasn't tough love or hard-nose coaching. It was flat-out abuse. Anybody who watches the video finds it difficult to their eyes. How could people being kicked and pushed -- on a college campus, no less -- believe this was OK? They saw this with their own eyes and ignored it.
Players could have stopped this monster. That's what he is; he's not a coach. It wasn't like this was a single incident or occurred without witnesses. There would have been no "he-said, he-said" skepticism. That would have been a tougher situation to prove and would understandably put players in a vulnerable position.
This was out-front, in full view to most around the basketball program. Furthermore, it was taped.
Plus, these aren't nine-year-olds. These are smart, young men, in their twenties; guys who wouldn't accept that treatment from any of their peers.
I don't believe for one moment that my nephew, a former Division II basketball player, would have allowed a person -- a coach, an educator -- to push and kick him without telling his father or even me.
That's the part that is so scary. You know there are some parents of players on that team that are guilt-ridden, today. They know that their son came home or called them and told them about his abusive coach.
Instead of going to the AD or school president, they kept their mouths closed because the only thing that matters is that their son stays on the team and gets his free college education.
It's where we are as a people. We'll accept almost anything as long as it's on someone else's dime.
The only thing worse is the idea that athletic director Tim Pernetti and the school president saw the tape back in November -- given to them by a former employee -- and only suspended Rice for three games and fined him $75,000.
That's a joke.
It tells you what's wrong with college sports in this country. It's money over kids. We saw it at the worst level at Penn State in the sex abuse scandal.
In this case, Rice's suspension should have sent a red flag to parents. They should have demanded to see the tape and question why the coach was just being disciplined and not fired.
And if they couldn't get answers, they should have taken the story to the media to get attention.
If a player had engaged in such behavior, they would have been thrown off the team, if not banned from college sports forever.
We all remember 1997 when Latrell Sprewell choked Golden State Warriors coach P.J. Carlesimo during a practice. Sprewell, who said he couldn't take the verbal abuse from his coach anymore, was suspended 68 games from the NBA.
Sprewell was wrong and punished just like Rice.
We can only hope that this sad situation serves as notice to coaches that this behavior won't be tolerated. More importantly, we can hope that other players, from the star player to the last man on the bench, will never allow this behavior to ever happen again.
Players shouldn't be afraid that they will be thrown off the team or blackballed from college sports for telling the truth and stopping abuse or any wrongdoing.
This abuse from Rice would have stopped long ago if the players simply had stood up for themselves.
This story is courtesy of "The Shadow League." For more sports stories, go to www.theshadowleague.com. Rob Parker is a Detroit-based columnist for The Shadow League. You can read his column every Thursday or when news breaks.