A Week in Review: Rutgers University Basketball Scandal

By Megan Maziar

April has not been a good month for New Jersey’s Rutgers University. Beginning last Tuesday a men’s basketball scandal ripped through the campus leaving students, faculty and fans stunned. The video that was leaked showed head basketball coach, Mike Rice, shoving, grabbing and throwing balls at players in practice and using anti-gay slurs.

ESPN got the video from former NBA player Eric Murdock, the team’s former player development director. Murdock told the network the school fired him for blowing the whistle on Rice. Rutgers claims he was let go for “insubordinate conduct” unrelated to the video. Needless to say, this video, which went viral, prompted outrage and calls from players, fans and New Jersey Governor Chris Christie for the ousting of Coach Rice. On Wednesday, shortly after the release of the video, Rutgers fired Rice and on Thursday, Jimmy Martelli, one of Rice’s assistants, resigned. The crisis came to a head on Friday, when Rutgers President,Robert Barchi announced the resignation of athletic director Tim Pernetti, as well as that of John Wolf, Rutgers’ interim general counsel.

Mike Rice

Now, with the scandal out there for the world to see, people want answers. Why was Coach Rice not let go immediately? How was this scandal overlooked? Is this same abuse happening in more programs at Rutgers or, perhaps, in college sports programs all over the country?

According to Rutgers Athletic Director Tim Pernetti, the disturbing video came to his attention in November of 2012. Although dismissal and corrective action were debated at that time, with the approval of Barchi, Rutgers decided to attempt to rehabilitate Rice. They suspended him for three games, fined him $75,000 and sent him to anger management classes. After the video was leaked to ESPN, Governor Chris Christie demanded that Pernetti fire Rice.

In response to why Rice was not fired back in November when the video first came to Rutgers attention, Pernetti said that his first instincts had been to fire Rice but that after an administration review of an investigative report the “consensus was that university policy would not justify dismissal”. Barchi said his early decision was based on a summary of what the university’s investigation found and that he himself had never watched the actually video until it was leaked on Tuesday. After seeing the video Barchi said that the oversight was a failure of process and that he regrets that he did not ask to see this video when Tim first told him of its existence. He apologized to the entire Rutgers community for the negative impact that this situation has had on the college. Yesterday, in response to the scandal, Rutgers announced that they would review practice videos from all sports to see if any other coach engaged in abusive behavior.

Robert Barchi, President of Rutgers University

In my opinion, there is absolutely no excuse for Rutgers not firing Coach Rice when the video came to their attention back in November. How far are schools willing to let their coaches go to “motivate” players? The message that this type of behavior sends to young athletes is appalling and Rutgers should be ashamed of themselves for not putting a stop to Rice earlier. Unfortunately, coach Rice’s behavior is not rare; rather behavior like this is just rarely exposed. Fortunately, these scandals are being exposed more today than ever before, leaving the NCAA and universities everywhere with many tough choices ahead.

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