Rutgers: Profiles in Courage

Let’s get this straight: Rutgers fired basketball coach Mike Rice Wednesday only after videos of his abusive, violent behavior and homophobic slurs went viral.

And those videos surfaced, in part, because Rice had not renewed the contract of Eric Murdock, a former NBA player the coach had hired to be director of player director.

Rutgers officials reviewed the videos and knew about Rice’s behavior last fall. Officials chose to suspend the coach for three games, penalize him with $75,000 in fines and lost salary, The Inquirer’s Jonathan Lai reports, and ordered him to undergo anger management counseling.

So this is more about public shame for the New Jersey state university, than decency.

Rutgers athletic director Tim Pernetti said in a statement posted on Rutgers’ website Wednesday: “I am responsible for the decision to attempt a rehabilitation of Coach Rice. Dismissal and corrective action were debated in December and I thought it was in the best interest of everyone to rehabilitate, but I was wrong. Moving forward, I will work to regain the trust of the Rutgers community.”

Yes, he was wrong. And he is going to have to work pretty darn hard.

This is the same Rutgers University attended by Tyler Clementi, who committed suicide in 2010 after learning that his roommate has surreptitiously videotaped and posted on the Internet a romantic liaison with another man. The roommate, Dharun Ravi, was convicted on 15 charges last year, including bias intimidation, a hate crime based on the victim’s sexual orientation.

Rutgers President Robert Barchi, issued a statement Wednesday morning after firing the coach, saying that after “personally” reviewing the videos, “I have now reached the conclusion that Coach Rice cannot continue to serve effectively in a position that demands the highest levels of leadership, responsibility and public accountability.”

A remorseful Rice said, “I've let so many people down."

But so has Rutgers. And had the video not surfaced, would Rice still have his job?


--Karen Heller