This morning's New York Times has a front-page story (below the fold) that is a scathing critique of how top officials at Rutgers University handled the abusive behavior of former basketball coach Mike Rice. The Old Grey Lady got its hands on a 50-page report prepared by outside counsel in November, after athletic director Tim Pernetti and other school officials viewed the now-infamous video of Rice throwing basketballs at his players and yelling homophobic and misogynistic slurs at them. It reveals that Rutgers officials knew for some time that they had a potential problem on their hands--and yet, did nothing.
Interviews with university officials, former players and members of the board, as well as reviews of internal documents and legal records, show that when the most senior Rutgers officials were confronted with explicit details about Mr. Rice’s behavior toward his players and his staff, they ignored them or issued relatively light penalties.The report is viewable either as a PDF or as an interactive document. It was commissioned after former assistant Eric Murdock notified Rutgers that he was considering suing the school for wrongful termination. Murdock, as most of you know, claims that Rice fired him in retaliation for complaining about his behavior. Reading the report, it looks like the outside counsel agreed with Rice's claims that the now-infamous video depicted practices from his first year as coach, and was not in context. Apparently school officials considered the lawyers' finding that Murdock's claims were groundless to be enough for them. What they didn't notice, however, was a line on page 34 of the report which found Rice's actions were so far outside the boundaries of acceptable behavior that they brought "shame and disgrace" to Rutgers--which would have been justification to fire Rice for cause.
The interviews and documents reveal a culture in which the university was far more concerned with protecting itself from legal action than with protecting its students from an abusive coach.
University officials focused on the technical issue of whether Mr. Rice had created a hostile work environment, a potential legal justification for his firing, while paying less attention to the larger question of whether Rutgers should employ an authority figure who hurled slurs at and physically provoked its students.
Even without that to consider, Rutgers officials appeared to have forgotten that their primary duty is to ensure a safe environment for their students. And that duty demanded that Rice be fired regardless of whether Murdock's claims had merit. Sorry, but throwing a basketball at someone is unacceptable. Any coach who recklessly throws a basketball at a player has no business being a coach. Period. Moreover, Pernetti had attended Rice's practices for some time, and it's inconceivable that he didn't hear Rice using homophobic slurs. Any athletic director worth his salt would have given Rice one warning about this, then fired him.
Moreover, the report reveals that after Rice was ejected from a game for yelling at an official, Pernetti not only reprimanded him, but had the school's sports psychologist work with the team for some time. Speaking as a college basketball fan, that's pretty telling. Coaches are going to get ejected--that's part of the territory. But if Pernetti was concerned enough about Rice to call in outside help, it means he knew for some time that he had a problem on his hands. Seen in that context (ack, another good word ruined forever!), that DVD should have been enough to fire Rice on the spot.
Faux News proved beyond all doubt that it has no moral compass when Sean Hannity and Eric Boling actually defended Rice on-air. Reading this report, and reviewing Rutgers' response to it only adds to that proof.