If a math teacher at Rutgers repeatedly assaulted students, there’s little doubt the school’s leaders would remove him from the classroom — or call the police. It’s only in the see-no-evil parallel universe of college sports that Rutgers men’s basketball coach Mike Rice could have initially escaped serious punishment even after school administrators saw video of the coach mistreating players.
In the video, Rice shoves and grabs players, pelts them with basketballs, and yells anti-gay slurs. The school’s athletic director saw the footage in the fall and suspended the coach for three games. But it wasn’t until ESPN aired the video on Tuesday that the university was shamed into firing Rice.
What took them so long? If anything, Rice should have been held to even higher standards; his $650,000 annual salary is outrageous enough that the university at least has a right to expect adult behavior. But Rutgers Athletic Director Tim Pernetti and President Robert Barchi seemed incapable of holding the coach to account.
Rice’s actions were nowhere near as serious as the sexual abuse perpetrated by former Penn State assistant football coach Jerry Sandusky. But the timid reaction of school officials reflects the same kind of warped deference to athletics that Penn State’s leadership showed in the Sandusky case. Pernetti is now under fire, and some faculty members have called for Barchi’s resignation. Holding them accountable would be a reminder to university administrators that they can no longer allow college sports to play by their own rules.