NOTE: This entry contains strong language, and one really disgusting video link.
Too little, too late, Rutgers.
Mike Rice has been fired from his job as head men's basketball coach at Rutgers, but anyone - AD, president, anyone - who saw this video in December and thought this man was worth retaining should follow him out the door.
Why this didn't happen four months ago is baffling in this particularly disturbing case and an indictment against the insular culture of college athletics.
Athletic director Tim Pernetti needs to start hunting for cardboard boxes, as does any other clueless, gutless administrator, including school president Robert Barchi, who thought a brief suspension and a fine enough sanction for the revolting actions in the above video. Said administrators have been in possession of that video since December, but it was never going to be made public until ESPN's Outside the Lines got a copy - a fact that shows a fundamental lack of integrity coupled with a monumental failure to comprehend how our information society works, even amid the mini-fiefdoms that college campuses often think they can be.
This was not the time to dig in your heels and protect one of your own. This was the time to make clear that this man, and his despicable prejudices and practices, are not your own.
That only happened when the chorus of people telling Rutgers what was right became too loud to ignore.
It's not every day that I agree lock, stock and barrel with something said by an ESPN wag, but in this case, Ian O'Connor of ESPNNewYork.com and every other journalist who called, not just for Rice's firing, but for that of Pernetti and Barchi, is absolutely on target.
On target. Which the passes fired into players' kneecaps and the kicks aimed at their backsides by their "coach" were as well.
No, this isn't Jerry Sandusky, but it doesn't say a whole lot for your individual character or your institutional integrity when the only thing worse in recent college athletic memory is a serial child molester, protected by a morally bankrupt system more concerned with image than innocence.
Look, I know coaching, at a big-time Division-I level, is not for the faint of heart. I know coaches often use foul language and try to push players' buttons to motivate them. Mike Krzyzewski used to be notorious for his blue (devils?) language. Current Final Four media darling Gregg Marshall was no stranger to an f-bomb when he coached at Winthrop.
A very successful high school football coach on the Virginia Peninsula, who many found hard to deal with but whom I respected because he was always honest with me, told me I could attend and report on practice as part of a profile on him, as long as I ignored the cursing. (I did have to slip in one hell, just for authenticity).
These men engaged in some colorful language, which I am not advocating in all times and situations. I'm also no fan of coddling players. Soccer teams with 62 people on the roster because "we don't believe in making cuts," or tournaments where everyone gets the same trophy just for showing up, or a team dynamic where expectations are not created and meeting them mandated, are ridiculous and set a kid up for a rude awakening once his resume doesn't measure up in the real world.
But here's why Rice's actions and words enrage me: 'Faggot' is worse than 'fuck.'
You don't have to strike at a kid's character, break him down like a sadistic Army drill sergeant, to make him want to play for you. A well-placed 'fuck' here and there can add emphasis, get attention, show the seriousness of the situation. Calling players faggots or cunts, which Rice does while repeatedly shoving them and throwing basketballs AT THEIR HEADS, is not just homophobic and misogynistic - two labels sports has to fight against enough as it is. It's mean-spirited, petty, six-year-old playground behavior. It's also not original or creative. And I damn sure bet it wasn't effective (witness Rice's 44-51 record, including a 13-26 conference mark, in three seasons at Rutgers).
Telling a player to "man up" isn't the same as calling him a faggot. The word is rightly becoming as reviled as past racial slurs and should be expunged as thoroughly from the vocabulary of decent people. Implying that someone is gay is not an insult.
Being gay is not shameful. Being Mike Rice is shameful.
And as far as cunts go, you may be trying, again, to fire up your players by using the basest, vilest term for vagina, one that throughout history has sought to reduce the complexity of a woman to what lies between her legs, but I assure you, "Coach," my cunt can kick you in the balls, and would, if you ever put a hand on my child in such a fashion.
Who would want to play for a coach like that? More importantly, who would want to employ him? The only comment Rice should ever direct to a young person is, "Would you like fries with that?"
Where is the leadership? It's clear Rice possesses none. Does anyone at the state university of New Jersey?
Men and women who deserve the term "coach" - like my daddy - know that to make a player successful, you build him or her up, not tear him or her down. They know that players will want to run through walls for you if they respect you, not if they fear you. Real coaches earn a player's trust and effort, not his cowed consent.
I have plenty more to say, but I have to go cover a lacrosse game. If I see any behavior approaching that exhibited by Rice, I'm calling the police.