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Blood, Give Us More Blood: Now Everyone Wants Rutgers Hammered

angry mobEx-Rutgers basketball coach Mike Rice did some very bad things.  He shoved his players during practice.  He was verbally abusive towards them, even using homophobic slurs (not that he’s the first coach to do that).  Worse, he actually threw basketballs at them.

Mike Rice deserved to be fired.  End of story.

But it’s not the end of the story.  Rice is being obliterated in the national media.  ESPN’s numerous talking heads have jumped in to trash Rice.  Except for Bobby Knight, of course, who was conspicuously absent from the network’s pound-it-into-the-ground coverage on its 6pm ET “SportsCenter” broadcast yesterday.

You remember Knight.  He was the guy who threw chairs, verbally abused players, and finally lost his job at Indiana after he laid hands upon one of his Hoosier players and — like Rice — was caught doing so on videotape.  He’s also the guy who now serves as a top basketball analyst for ESPN and who fellow analyst Dick Vitale raves about.

Vitale got in on the Rice story yesterday via Twitter:

 

vitale-tweet

 

Coaching suicide, eh?  Must depend on how many games a guy’s won.  Knight lasted a long time before a video clip brought him down.  It can be argued that Rice’s taped incidents were worse than the biggie caught on tape involving Knight, but at that point we’re just splitting hairs.

Knight was a bully to his players.  Rice was a bully to his players.  Not all of their players hated them.  Some came to Knight’s defense.  Some have come to Rice’s.  It’s not unlike the Marine who hates his drill sergeant only to later say he appreciates him for “making a man out of him,” or some other such macho thing.  (Perhaps there’s a little bit of Stockholm Syndrome mixed in there, too.)

In Knight’s case, he had hundreds of wins and three national championships on his resume.  Rice had only been a head coach for six years.  He took Robert Morris to a pair of NCAA Tournaments, but in three years at Rutgers he was a disappointing 44-51 overall.  Winning masks a lot of ills.  Losing magnifies them.

Knight also coached — mainly — in an age before Twitter and wall-to-wall sports coverage across television networks and the internet.  Rice screwed up and got caught in the age of social media.  Once ESPN aired video of him flinging balls at this players’ noggins, he was doomed.

But just as predictable as the piling on session we’re now witnessing, and just as predictable as the losing coach being an easier fire than a winning one… we now have people fanning out to call for more punishment.

Hey, Rutgers AD Tim Pernetti knew about Rice’s deeds in December, but he actually gave his coach a second chance.  Why that evil bastard.

Pernetti didn’t just tsk-tsk his coach when he was shown the basketball-toss video, mind you.  He fined him $50,000, suspended him for three games, and forced him to attend anger management classes.  In reality, that’s not exactly looking the other way.  That’s a punishment and a path to redemption.  That’s a second chance.

Oh, but here in full-on, bloodlust, lynch mob mode, Pernetti might as well have given Rice a raise.

ESPN’s “Pardon The Interruption” broadcast opened yesterday with this question at the bottom of the screen: “Is Firing Coach Enough?”

Jena McGregor of The Washington Post writes:

 

 

“Now that Rice has been fired, the real question isn’t whether or not the coach should have a job (he obviously shouldn’t) but how closely Rutgers will review the actions of other leaders after Rice’s slap on the wrist last year.  After all, there are a number of ways Pernetti’s decision put the university’s reputation, not to mention its students, in harm’s way.”

 

Don’t know about you, but I’d think a three-game suspension and a $50,000 dock in pay were more than a “slap on the wrist.”  McGregor goes on to so state that career rehabilitation might have been appropriate if the coach had “only thrown a ball once, or had made a couple of angry comments to another employee of equal stature.”  Ah, so Rice broke the old “you can throw one, but not two balls” rule.

McGregor isn’t alone in calling for more blood.  Mike Bianchi of The Orlando Sentinel compares the Rutgers scandal to the scandal at Penn State.  Lawmakers are calling for investigations.  Heads are being demanded on social media platforms.

And just how horrible was Rutgers’ “cover-up?”  Bianchi quotes an image consultant named Ed Berliner from the website TheUndefeatedImage.com:

 

“When you boil it down, this is exactly the same story as Penn State and so many other programs.  They all think they can get away with it and cover it up and that nobody will notice.  That’s crazy in today’s world.  If they would just do what needs to be done from the outset, they’d be much better off.”

 

I’m sorry, Berliner lost me at “this is exactly the same story as Penn State.”  Yes, tossing balls and shouting homophobic slurs at young adults is roughly equal to multiple counts of child rape.

Look, I’m not defending Rice.  Again, read the fifth sentence above.  No one can argue that he didn’t deserve firing.  But I also think someone can defend Rutgers’ brass on this one.  Or at least not lump them in with the folks at Penn State who actually faced jail time for their deeds — or non-deeds.

Pernetti punished his coach and gave him a path to redemption.  His coach was an oaf, but he wasn’t a rapist or a murderer.  I’m amazed that no one else seems to see it that way.  There’s bad and there’s worse.  Bullying athletes is bad, child molestation is worse.

But, hell, I’m tired of being on the wrong side of these things.  Last summer I argued that the NCAA had no business — literally none according to its bylaws — to hand down unprecedented sanctions against a Penn State program where everyone involved in the actual scandal had already died or been brought up on criminal charges.  The only thing Mark Emmert did was give America a bit more blood with which to intoxicate itself.

There weren’t many who agreed with my take that PSU had been punished enough.  To some, there’s never enough punishment.

So knowing that, I’ll just join the anti-Rutgers mob now before it’s too late.  I want the athletic director at Rutgers gone.  How dare Pernetti try to help a man change his life — via anger management courses — and save his job.  Fire Pernetti.

I also want the president at Rutgers fired.  The AD says he told his boss, Robert Barchi, about the situation.  Barchi didn’t demand Rice be fired and he didn’t fire Pernetti for not firing Rice.  So shouldn’t Barchi be gone, too?  Of course he should.  Fire him.

And what of the board of trustees who put such miscreants in charge of the state university of New Jersey and its athletic programs?  The board should be sacked as well.

What of the many managers and assistant coaches who worked for Rice and failed to rat him out?  Are they not guilty of looking the other way?  Did they do all that they could have done?  Hey, people wanted Mike McQueary drawn and quartered for failing to go over his boss’ head at Penn State.  Should the managers, assistants, trainers, and any other Rutgers support personnel who knew what Rice was doing but didn’t act to protect the chil, er, young adults be treated any differently?

For that matter, what about the Rutgers student body?  A number of students must have been told by the Rutgers players about their coach’s behavior?  Toss them out of school.  And the dorms and classroooms where they all sat zip-lipped while their fellow students were cursed and shoved?  Raze the Rutgers campus. Hell, we should have done that to Penn State’s campus, too.

You know what?  It’s never too late.  I say we demolish both sites.

After all, since we “don’t have universities policing themselves” and “we have the media doing it for them,” isn’t it my duty as a media member to demand more punishment, more firings, more blood, more bodies on spits?

Man, this bloodlust thing is pretty easy.

Oh, I know some of you out there won’t like me taking things to such hyperbolic ends.  Some will say that I’m defending Rice, which — for the third time now — I’m not.  Many of you are already outraged right along with McGregor, Bianchi, and the image consultant he quoted.

But I bet every single one of you who agrees with those calling for more punishment would sing a wholly different tune if the school in question was the one you pulled for instead of Rutgers.

To me, that might be even sadder than the horde of judgmental people currently clamoring for more heads to roll.

 

UPDATE – And here we go.  A group of 13 Rutgers faculty members are demanding the resignation of school president Robert Barchi.  By this time next week, people will indeed be calling for the school to be burned to the ground.

UPDATE II – More calls for the scalps of both the athletic director and the university president.  The court of public opinion has sealed their fates.  They are both doomed.  (When a player beats a fellow student unconscious and admits it to police, there’s a call for due process.  But when someone doesn’t fire a coach who bullies his team, there’s a swift — as in less than a week — call for multiple dismissals of leaders and administrators.  And here I’d think the actual beating of another human being would be the worse crime.)

 


16 comments
AllTideUp
AllTideUp

There's probably some janitor walking around who knew what was going on too.  Personally, I think they all deserve public hangings. (sarcasm)

vol66
vol66

http://www.onthebanks.com/2012/3/22/2893468/thoughts-on-gil-birutas-decision-to-transfer

also read the comment section and keep in mind this was a year ago.

If Gil Biruta was sitting in an English class and the professor addressed him as a Lithuanian F*****!, how many more chances would that professor get to teach that class? My guess is that every student in the class would complain and that would be the end of that professor's tenure.

5LittlePiggies
5LittlePiggies

@vol66  I think the name calling in this case is different than the example you used, but I get your point.  He's calling kids "fairies" and "fa***ts" who probably aren't gay.  Using "Lithuanian F*****" would be more personal because it's the guy's ethnicity.  That being said, it's amazing that the coaching profession has gotten away with this for decades.  Who hasn't played a sport and been yelled at/berated by the coach, and probably called a couple of names that Coach Rice likes to use? I guess it's the old military mindset of many coaches to tear the players down, teach them discipline, then build them back up.  Like John said, there's kind of some hypocrisy in those who have been calling for blood in this case, seeing that many of the coaching legends who have been praised over the years used these techniques to bring success to their programs (e.g. Bobby Knight).  I, for one, am glad this bullying mentality of coaches is being brought to light.  Coaches should be teachers and mentors, not bullies.  After seeing more evidence of how Rice has used these methods for years, he definitely needs this break from coaching to get his act straightened out.  I am in the teaching profession, and I agree with you 100% if a teacher put their hands on 1 student that's it for that teacher.  Calling a kid a name one time might only get a teacher suspended, but better not do it again.  There has definitely been a double standard when it comes to coaches.  They seem to get a pass for being hard on kids, getting in their face and yelling at them, embarrassing them in front of their peers.  There's a difference between being firm and disciplined, and being a bully.  

vol66
vol66

@5LittlePiggies @vol66 

The former player development coach, the one that made the video, the one who lost his job for going to his son's practice ...that guy said, the coach used "Lithuanian fa***t as a "nickname" implying that he was called this on a regular basis.

As for the video, I see very little coaching and a whole lot of cowardice.

Let me be perfectly clear. Biruta transferred. He was willing to sit out a year just to get the F out of there. Bobby Knight was from a different time, and by the time he caught up to modern society or vice versa, he'd already been given multiple shots at keeping his job...maybe because he won. Since everyone else, including this site, is speculating...I speculate that Pennetti was done with Rice anyway. His conference record sucked and he was not going to be the coach when Rutgers began play in their new conference, the Big whatever. However, why pay a buy out before you have too? Why risk letting this mess come up WHILE you are negotiating with Jim Delany, or maybe Pernetti was so all consumed with conference realignment he couldn't be bothered? My guess is that Pernetti will be out of job soon as well, not because I'm part of some lynch mob out to sway public sentiment, but because Mr. Pernetti showed very poor judgement, and most importantly, he did not put the players first. Average fans of the program recognized there was a problem and those around the program chose to ignore it, or keep mum because "what goes on at practice stays at practice". In other words, they were cowards.

5LittlePiggies
5LittlePiggies

@vol66 @5LittlePiggies Thanks for the info.  Didn't hear the part about what the former player development coach had said about Rice.  Just saw the video.  The more I learn about the situation and how entrenched his behavior had been for years, he definitely should have been fired from the beginning.  Interestingly, I have seen a couple of players come out and defend Rice, but I guess there will always be people who believe that behavior is ok in coaching. In case you haven't heard, Pernetti is now gone.  

DaveinExile
DaveinExile

It's easy to look at that "greatest hits" video and forget that those incidents happened over a period of years. In between those events, Rice was probably like most abusive personalities - charming at times, apparently normal. I'm betting Pernetti figured the behaviors were correctable with a few counseling sessions.

That said, I've seen high school coaches fired for way, way less. When a state places you in a position of authority over young people, the standards of behavior change considerably. If Pernetti can demonstrate that he had professional backing on his decision to suspend/counsel, then he's probably in good shape. If he made that decision without consulting some psychology experts, he's probably toast - and he should be, if that's the case.

5LittlePiggies
5LittlePiggies

Maybe I have missed it in all of the news coverage, but what happened AFTER the suspension, fine, and anger management course?  Did his behavior improve, or was some of the footage we've seen AFTER he completed anger management?  If the goal of the A.D. was to get the coach's attention, then give him a chance to change his behavior, and the coach was rehabilitated, is that not a success story in some sense?  Isn't that what punishments are for, to help bring forth change in someone's life?  How many sports specials have we seen about athletes who have screwed up, then made a change, and now have an inspiring story to tell about it?  If this footage came AFTER the punishment, then yes, Rice definitely needed to be fired, and the A.D. for not following up on the situation.  But from what I've seen, all of this footage came BEFORE the punishment.  As a parent, if I saw a coach doing that to my child, there would definitely be a problem that would have to be corrected immediately!!!  But as a person who's personally been given a second chance through repentance and forgiveness, I would hope for a little more of the same for someone else who made mistakes in their life and career.  If the A.D. told him, "Go and sin no more," and the coach changed his behavior, the media has completely ignored that aspect of the story.  

vol66
vol66

Not to speak for Mr. Berliner, I don't think he's referencing the actual "crimes" when comparing the two schools. He's comparing the way these sorts of things, incidents, if you will, are handled administratively and how it seems to happen over and over and over. Not just at Rutgers or Penn State, it seems like every school. My own take...it's incredible, that in todays world, the higher ups at Rutgers thought they could handle this "internally". It's laughable. FOIA., twitter, you tube, everyone has a camera on them at all times, 24 hour sports networks...Hard to teach an old dog new tricks I guess.

John at MrSEC
John at MrSEC moderator

@vol66 


And I'm saying covering up crimes at Penn State does not compare in the least to what's happened at Rutgers.  

Covering up a crime can get you in legal trouble.  

Suspending a coach guy and docking him $50,000 isn't even a cover-up at all.  It's a punishment.  

Some might say it's too light a punishment -- if Rutgers had launched Rice into space SOME would still say it's too light a punishment -- but it's ridiculous to compare the Rutgers situation to the actual cover-up that went on at Penn State.

Thanks for reading the site,

John

vol66
vol66

@John at MrSEC @vol66

That may have been a reasonable punishment for "an" incident. The reason many are upset is that Pernetti characterized it as "an" incident when he originally punished the coach.

http://sports.yahoo.com/blogs/ncaab-the-dagger/rutgers-coach-mike-rice-suspended-three-games-undergo-004608328--ncaab.html

Rice allegedly threw basketballs at players' heads during an incident during his first or second season as coach, the New Jersey Star-Ledger reported. The paper reported the suspension will cost Rice $74,905.

Athletic director Tim Pernetti handed down the punishment but also said the violations of athletic department policy do not put Rice's job in jeopardy.

There are always the who knew, when did he know, how much did he know, questions...but it certainly seems like they were trying to "cover up" the extent of Rice's ,um...behavior. Just my opinion.

Statesman
Statesman

Defend Mike Rice & his AD if you want, but these were not isolated incidences.  In fact ESPN released more footage today and in one he puts his foot right up a kid's fanny, while in anoter he takes the dummy and uses it to hit another kid.  How could the AD & prez not fire this guy on the spot?

Looking at this from another perspective, while in college my fraternity was suspended for "hazing another student.  The school administrators reviewed the documents and concluded that for hazing one student the chapter should be suspended for 4 years.  Mike Rice hazed 10-14 students and was suspended for 3 games and continued to collect over a $ $million in cash from a state supported university, after his superiors review.  Do you want these individuals making decisions regarding students, and potential liability?

John at MrSEC
John at MrSEC moderator

@Statesman 


So after I state THREE times in the piece that I'm not defending Rice and stating that what he did was worth of dismissal... the very first comment says, "Defend Mike Rice & his AD if you want."

Love it.

Also, the new video only goes to my point that ESPN will continue to pile on this guy until he kills himself.  He's fired.  Why keep piling on?  Because leaking "new" video day after day gives their talking heads something to be outraged about.

Americans love a scandal and ESPN will push this scandal in everyone's face unti folks are calling for -- as I did jokingly above -- the heads of anyone and everyone on the Rutgers campus.

But then again, I'm just defending Rice.  Fabulous.

John

Statesman
Statesman

@John at MrSEC @Statesman 

Although the released footage is new to the public, the AD & Prez in November saw Rice kick a player in the fanny.  If their judgment & the  tape did  not tell them  that Rice had a problem then they lack the ability to see the big picture.   This makes Jeff  Long look even stronger, by firing a successful and popular coachhese guys hid behind a loser, as the AD said to "protect Rugers University".     That's not leaership

DanKnowsSports
DanKnowsSports

@MrSEC And winning. If Coach K was on that video it's not nearly the same reaction

John at MrSEC
John at MrSEC moderator

@DanKnowsSports @MrSEC Agreed, wrote that in the story. Thanks.

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