The Rutgers athletic department announced on Wednesday that it fired the men’s head basketball coach, Mike Rice, after a video on YouTube showed the coach yelling, pushing and throwing basketballs at the team during a practice. The video aired on ESPN on Tuesday and quickly received reaction from the public — and even a response from New Jersey Governor Chris Christie.
Rutgers Athletic Director Tim Pernetti said he viewed the video in November and decided to fine Rice $50,000 and suspend him for three weeks later in December.
Rice, as seen on the video of a Rutgers practice, displayed a fiery and intense coaching style. He yelled at the players, belittled them, threw basketballs at them and yelled at them some more.
But this is not anything unusual for any competitive sport, even at the high school level. Sure, yelling and screaming are not the best methods of leading a team, but to act as if it does not happen or Rice is the only coach in the NCAA who yells and gets physical with players is simply being naïve.
The media reports and the public outcry to fire Rice made it seem as if Rice was beating up Rutgers players on a daily basis. Rice was not the coach of kids from grade school, he was the coach of grown men in their late teens and early twenties. That being said, if the Rutgers players are not used to being belittled by their coach or being hit with basketballs, they obviously have not been playing the sport for very long. None of the Rutgers players complained to Pernetti or anyone that they were suffering from traumatic stress because the coach threw a basketball or pushed them out of the way.
This is not to say that all of Rice’s actions are defendable.
Rice yelled homophobic and sexist slurs at his players during the practice. It was disrespectful and definitely grounds for Rice’s termination.
However, even Rice’s verbal abuse is still not out of the ordinary. It is reflective of disturbing social trends to denounce a man’s masculinity by using such slurs. Rice’s comments were not acceptable, but other athletic teams’ practices are not held to the same standards as afternoon tea with the Queen.
Rice did deserve to be fired, if only for the homophobic slurs he used against Rutgers players. The public wanted him to be fired.
But, as far as yelling and throwing things goes, the fine and the suspension would have sufficed. The world should not demonize Rice because of the video. Instead they should view him as a bad coach who deserved to be fired because his fiery and aggressive style of coaching did not produce a winning team.