Sun Sentinel Columnist
6:35 PM EDT, April 3, 2013
Once again, this is why you never take a college administrator too seriously when it comes to sports. Once again, a story of total abuse wouldn't be a story if it wasn't brought before the masses.
Once again, the question is why the Rutgers president and athletic director, who both knew about the verbal and physical abuse by basketball coach Mike Rice against his players, took small steps to prevent it and fired Rice on Wednesday only when the engaged sports nation became enraged.
And, once again, the answer is?
College administrators aren't running athletic programs for student-athletes. They're running brokerage houses. They're making it rain, are paid to continue making it rain and such ideas as players rights or ethical conduct is prioritized behind falling money.
Rice wasn't fired for abusing players. He was suspended a few games without pay and fined $50,000 for that by his school bosses. That was done in private this past December.
Rice was fired Wednesday to save the program. Once video of Rice kicking, throwing balls at and calling players names was leaked to ESPN's "Outside the Lines," he was done.
No fan would back him. No recruit would sign with him. What was a private matter to that point became a public execution when voices from New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie (who will likely run for President) and a Today show poll (97 percent wanted Rice fired) weighed in on the matter.
Even LeBron James tweeted: "If my son played for Rutgers or a coach like that he would have some real explaining to do and I'm still gone whoop on him afterwards! C'mon."
This isn't the 1960s, where Ohio State's Woody Hayes could punch players and no one said anything. It's not the 1980s, where Indiana's Bob Knight could grab players and stir a national debate.
Rice didn't have the winning career of Hayes or Knight, either. Don't think that isn't part of the decision. Rice led a program that finished 11th in the Big East this season. That made him as easily dispensable as his actions made him eminently fire-able.
If someone of Mike Krzyzewski's stature had done this, would he have been fired? Should he have been?
Money is the big item on the menu inside college sports. This is no surprise if you've paid attention. Go through the litany of recent scandals, some like Penn State horrifically more tragic and others like Miami's systemically different.
Money is at the core of them all from the school administrator's viewpoint. They didn't care about right, wrong or any measure of players' rights. They know a player isn't going to fight back.
A player doesn't want to get benched. A player certainly doesn't want to lose a scholarship. Maybe a player is accustomed to this type of coaching abuse to some degree, too.
When Miami administrators let a rogue booster inside the athletic department and he took players out to dinner and South Beach, they suspended players to appease the NCAA. Of course they did.
When Rutgers administrators were told their coach was verbally and physically abusing players, they ignored the players and quietly dealt with the coach. Of course they did.
This Rutgers story only became a public issue when former Rutgers assistant (and Heat guard) Eric Murdock released video of Rice's actions to ESPN. Let's see what happens to Murdock now. Let's see if he's hired by anyone in the coming months.
If Rice's physical abuse is appalling, his verbal abuse is noteworthy for its preference for a homophobic slur. Last week, a big story in sports was the possible coming-out of a gay athlete. This week, a big story reminds the mindset inside sports.
Rice enters career rehab now. As he should. As he must. He'll get a chance to correct his ways, rebuild his name and emerge again as a head coach someday. Again, as he should.
At the end, the story wasn't about Rice, though. It was about his Rutgers bosses.
More leaders of higher learning gave another lesson that it's not about doing what's right for kids. It's about making it rain forever.
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