Rutgers’ Basketball Controversy: Where Does the Buck Stop?

By this time it would have been impossible for anyone not to have seen the video showing the head basketball coach Mike Rice grabbing, verbally abusing, and throwing basketballs at his players. Was I shocked at the video? The answer is no. First, let me say that even though most of my postings involve baseball there are times when I will discuss events that transcend all sports. This is one of those events. Having played basketball at Hackensack High School (from ninth grade to graduation) for several coaches, I witnessed verbal abuse by my coaches. The verbal abuse I witnessed in high school included screaming at our mistakes and comments about our lack of manhood (I don’t want to use those awful words). Having seen on television similar physical abuse of their players by such famous coaches as Woody Hayes, Bobby Knight, and Bear Bryant, this type of behavior by coaches is not new. In particular the Boot Camp run by Bear Bryant at Texas A&M is chronicled in the book “The Junction Boys”. What I am saying is that if videos were cobbled together from practices at many colleges; we would see college athletes being abused in some form. I am sure many college coaches are asking themselves these questions: Do videos exist showing how I exhibit anger toward my players at practices? If these videos exist, will they show that I have I crossed the line in my behavior? The only good thing to come out of this scandal is that coaches will think twice about controlling their anger.

Tim Pernetti, the Rutgers’ athletic director, was given this explosive video in late November by a former employee. Pernetti hired an independent investigation firm to look at the video and came to the original conclusion that a termination wasn’t necessary. After discussing the video with Rutgers’ President Robert Barchi and receiving his approval, Pernetti suspended Rice for three games, fined him $50,000 and ordered him to attend anger management classes. The release of this video five months later led to four people losing their jobs. Mike Rice the head coach was fired. An assistant coach and the in-house counsel resigned. Rutgers’ AD Pernetti came to a “mutual agreement” with Rutgers’ President Barchi to leave the university.

President Barchi then held a news conference.  He opened his news conference by saying, “Let me begin by saying that this was a failure of process. I regret that I did not ask to see the video when Tim first told me of its existence, because I am certain this situation would have had a different outcome had I done so.” Then he said, “Tim gave me a summary description of the situation regarding Coach Mike Rice last fall. Relying on that summary, I agreed with and supported his recommendation to suspend rather than fire Coach Rice.” There has been some discrepancy this week in when Barchi actually saw the video. Pernetti said in a radio interview that Barchi saw the video in November, yet Barchi said in a statement that he didn’t see it until this week.

Here is my take on the situation. Since Rice reports to Pernetti and Pernetti reports to Barchi, Rutgers is trying to stop the damage at the AD level. This leaves the Rutgers President Barchi as the only survivor involved with the decision whether to fire or just punish the head coach. If, after hearing about the contents of the video, President Barchi chose not to spend a few minutes to look at the video, he made a serious mistake. If he looked at the video and chose not to fire Rice he made a serious mistake. In either case the buck stops with him and he, not Pernetti, should have resigned. By reporting his findings to Barchi, Pernetti did his job. Of course, Rice had to be fired in November not five months later.

Original Comments:

5 Comment(s):

Nikolai said…

In other words, even if he did nothing wrong except to allow his organization to be negligent, the president still has to take responsibility for this crisis in leadership. And it’s very possible he did more wrong than that. Our society/college norms call for him to resign if he takes responsibility for coach Rice. By not resigning, he won’t take responsibility for the athletics branch or Rutgers, which means that the Athletic Department should not be a formal part of the university system (the way that club sports and student groups are not, etc). Which I’m sure my family friends in the Physics department would not object to whatsoever.

April 20, 2013 09:34:41


Nikolai said…

Not only that, but at a time when presidents take so much credit for success, how can he not take responsibility for such a failure of leadership? Truman had it right. I’ve had coaches scream and yell. Throw the ball. Kick a player. But not like this. Rice looks like a man who lost his cool, in a way that can’t be tolerated in his position. Not Emperor Nero bad, but not something the University can sweep under the rug… which they did, wittingly or not.

April 20, 2013 09:28:42


Stan “The Stats Man” said…

If you were the subject of any abuse in any sport at any level by a coach please tell your story.

April 14, 2013 12:06:33


Stan “The Stats Man” said…

If you were abused by a coach or manager at any level in any sport please tell your story.

April 14, 2013 11:58:23


Stan “The Stats Man” said…

If you were physcially or verbally abused by a coach or manager while playing any sport at any level please comment.

April 14, 2013 11:54:52


Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *