By Chris Wood
If your coach called you degrading names and shoved you during practice what would you do? Would you expect your school or someone in a position of more power to step in? Rutgers University did, after a video was brought to the attention of Rutgers Athletic Director Tim Pernetti. On the video, Men’s Basketball Head Coach Mike Rice is seen shoving, grabbing and throwing balls at his players during practice. After Pernetti received these videos in late November, he suspended Rice for three games and fined him $50,000.
But was it enough?
After the video aired on April 2 on ESPN, the university fired Rice on April 4, after scrutiny by the press and the public heightened. This led to Rutgers Athletic Director Tim Pernetti stepping down on April 5, because of the university felt that he should have punished Rice more severely.
At Jamesville-DeWitt High School, many students participate on sporting teams and couldn’t believe Rice’s coaching style. Junior, and member of the Varsity Boys Baseball team, Alex Way said, “that style of coaching can’t happen anymore and it wasn’t professional of him.” Freshman Jimmy Boeheim, who plays on the Junior Varsity Basketball team and Grayson Burns, freshman and member of the Christian Brothers Academy/ J-D Varsity Hockey team and the Junior Varsity Lacrosse team, agreed with Way. “You can’t do that kind of stuff to your players,” said Boeheim.
Many students criticized the way Rutgers University handled the situation. “It’s unacceptable for universities to keep hiding these problems/ scandals until the NCAA and media step in,” said junior Ryan McKee, who is also on the CBA/JD Varsity Hockey team and the Varsity Boys Lacrosse team. “I think they handled it poorly. The initial punishment wasn’t enough. Sports came first in the situation and that was wrong,” said junior Gus Weinstein. Boeheim believes that the decision to fire Rice was right, but it should’ve occurred earlier.
“All I know is what I saw of (Rice) on ESPN, which was inappropriate. But, I don’t know him as a coach,” said J-DHS Athletic Director John Goodson. Goodson explained that as an athletic director you never want to have any situation where a coach has been accused of mistreating his players. Mr. Goodson also said that if he was athletic director at Rutgers, he would’ve taken the same actions as Pernetti; investigate it and then make a decision from there as to whether or not any of their rules and regulations were broken.
Hayley Nies, Varsity Girls Soccer coach and Junior Varsity Girls Lacrosse coach never saw Rice coach on the sidelines, but did see the tapes of the practice and described them as, “offensive.” “That’s not how you get the most out of your athletes,” Nies went on to say. Jim Tuck, Varsity Girls Volleyball coach, agreed with Coach Nies. “It was abusive; when you coach you sometimes are loud to stress a point, but there’s no need to throw balls, swear and demean your players like that,” said Coach Tuck.
Junior Peter Crossett, a captain for the Varsity Football team and member of the Varsity Track team, believes that Rice should’ve been fired, but was unsure of how he would react as a player. “If (a coach) yells, that’s fine, but if he’s throwing balls that’s bad, but it would depend on our relationship,” said Crossett. Matt King, junior and center for the Varsity Boys Basketball team, agrees with Crossett that Rice deserved to be fired because of his reactions, but King had different thoughts if he had a coach like Rice. “I would get very angry and I think I would react. Also, I would want the coach fired immediately,” said King. Weinstein, a member of the Varsity Boys Golf team, said that if his coach treated him the way Rice did to his players he would throw the ball back at his coach. “I would definitely go talk to someone and if nothing was done I’d quit,” said junior Mady Alfieris, a Varsity Lacrosse and Volleyball player.
But other students, such as junior John Werbowsky, a Varsity Football and Baseball player, believe that Rice should have been fired, but believes that if Rice coached in a different sport, such as football, then the punishment and scandal would’ve been had a different outcome. “I think it was justifiable,” said Werbowsky. Werbowsky was saying that in different sports different styles are used to coach. “(Retired NFL) coaches like Bill Parcells had that style, but no one batted an eyelash to that.” “I love his coaching style, he really engaged his players,” said Mastine. “I think he deserves the job still. Sometimes you gotta be a little rough to get your message across. When (the players) got recruited they knew what they were signing up for,” explains Mastine.
Coach Tuck believes some of the players didn’t speak up and report Rice due to many factors. “The fear of losing playing time, potential loss of scholarship and also not having trust in the system that they would be backed up,” said Coach Tuck who went on to say, “a lot of kids come in and assume that’s what is supposed to happen at the next level.”
Mastine had the same feelings as some of Rice’s former and current players. Many players such as Sean Bannon, a former walk-on, and Austin Johnson, who played for Rice for three years defended Rice in interviews days after the scandal unfolded.