Update: On Monday morning, Rutgers announced that Mike Rice was fired from the team after an intense 24-hour media blitz against the coach.
What do Mike Rice, Bobby Knight and Woody Hayes all have in common? They've all been caught on tape physically assaulting players. Knight and Hayes were already considered hall-of-fame caliber coaches at the time of their respective dismissals, so why does Rice, who is a paltry 44-51 in Piscataway, remain the head coach of the Scarlet Knights?
ESPN's Outside the Lines broke the story on Tuesday, reporting that Rutgers' athletic director, Tim Pernetti, chose to merely suspend Rice for three games after reviewing practice footage of Rice physically and verbally abusing his players. Rice regularly grabbed, shoved and threw basketballs at players while using homophobic slurs and other inappropriate language.
In an era in which football and men's basketball coaches often make the highest salary of any university employee, and in some cases any state employee, the importance of holding them to the highest standard of conduct is paramount. If Rice were an economics professor or the director of a study abroad program and chose to berate a student, let alone strike that student, he would be terminated immediately. The fact that his behavior took place on a basketball court should not dissuade university decision-makers from coming down hard on Rice.
If Rutgers decides to stand behind Rice, the NCAA has plenty of options. If it deems Pernetti's decision to retain Rice unacceptable, because it perpetuates an unsafe environment for student athletes, the NCAA could slap Rutgers with the dreaded "Lack of Institutional Control" charge. It could also permit current players to transfer out of the program without waiting a year to regain their eligibility. The NCAA did just that last year, allowing Penn State players to transfer, which cost the Nittany Lions ten players.
In the end, this shouldn't be a difficult situation for Rutgers. Rice has been an underachieving hothead since he arrived on campus in 2010 and his actions have embarrassed the school greatly. Rice's termination would provide Rutgers with an opportunity to prove that the tail does not in fact wag the dog.