Dodge Ball is a game in which players on two teams try to throw large balls at each other while avoiding being hit themselves. This is perfectly acceptable – while playing Dodge Ball. Why Mike Rice, former Rutgers Basketball Head Coach, thought it would be okay to incorporate “Dodge Ball” in to his basketball practices and peg players in the head is beyond me. Yes, there have been tough coaches such as Vince Lombardi and Mike Ditka. However, jump over to the other end of the spectrum and you’ll find the John Wooden and Tony Dungy’s of the coaching world. All of whom shared one very important common denominator – success.
College basketball, while very different from professional football, is still a demanding environment to coach in because of the pressure to win, and win often. Collegiate institutions no longer cut these men and women the slack that their predecessors would have been entitled to because athletics play such an integral role in the financial success of colleges and universities today. Tubby Smith brought Minnesota Basketball back to relevancy. Despite this accomplishment, Smith was still fired after posting a 124-81 record following six seasons with the Golden Gophers. Meanwhile, it took three seasons and a record of 44-51 before Rutgers University finally fired Mike Rice. This is of course in addition to the physical, verbal and emotional abuse that he subjected his players to for those three years.
There is the assumption that players know and understand what they’re walking in to when they commit to a program and are given an athletic scholarship. I don’t disagree with this assumption, but after witnessing the actions of Mike Rice, it’s clear that recruits had to be unaware of how quickly a great opportunity would deteriorate in to a nightmarish situation. It is one thing to yell and scream at players, but I’m pretty sure laying your hands on players and labeling them with homophobic slurs such as “fairy” and “faggot” don’t exactly fall in line with University policy (once again, I’m going out on a limb here). Not only was Rice using a deliberately abusive coaching style, it is pretty clear that his intentions were to instill fear in his players. This clearly wasn’t an effective coaching tool when you revert back to his sub-.500 record. Yet, Rutgers University allowed these actions to continue for over two years before suspending Rice for three games, fining him $75,000 and ordering him to attend anger management classes in November of 2012. Rice must have really been shaking in his boots, which I’m sure he threatened to shove up a players ass on more than one occasion, all while simultaneously throwing balls at the heads and groins of other players.
I understand it would be difficult for these young men to come forward for fear of being labeled “soft” and thinking they may lose their scholarship. However, the moment video was released showcasing Rice’s actions; there should have been an immediate termination, not just a slap on the wrist. Mike Rice is absolutely correct, there is no explanation for attempting to karate kick one of his players during a practice. What was that anyway, Mortal Combat for middle-aged coaches? I personally believe athletics should be a two way street and coaches need to respect their players just as much as the players are expected to respect their coaches. With that being said, I personally think it would’ve been awesome if one of Rice’s players snapped and “finished him”. But I suppose his termination will do.
- Kobe Bryant On Mike Rice: ‘I Would’ve Smacked The Hell Out Of Him’ (newyork.cbslocal.com)
- Mike Rice used gay slur at Robert Morris, former player says (nj.com)
- Mike Rice fired from Rutgers after abuse video goes public (newsday.com)
- Rutgers Fires Rice After Video Backlash (on.aol.com)
- Rutgers Head Coach Mike Rice Fired for Abusing Players (getmybuzzup.com)