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Rutgers waited too long to fire Rice

Mike Rice

Mike Rice Credit: Mike Rice (Getty Images)

It seems as if the world of amateur athletics has learned nothing from Bobby Knight.

Even one of college basketball’s all-time most successful coaches lost his job at Indiana, a school that worshipped him, when video of Knight grabbing one of his players hit the masses. And that was 13 years ago.

For Rutgers to give more than a moment’s thought to letting coach Mike Rice keep his job is mind-boggling.

This should have been a no-brainer in November when athletic director Tim Pernetti got a copy of the video of Rice hurling basketballs and anti-gay slurs at his players. This should have been a no-brainer when university president Robert Barchi OK’d the initial fine and brief suspension. This should have been a no-brainer on Tuesday when the video hit the airwaves.

And somehow, with everyone from New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie to LeBron James bemoaning Rice’s actions, it took the university until Wednesday to fire Rice.

And it’s not as if he was a treasure at Rutgers. He went 44-51 in three seasons at the helm. He’s no Bobby Knight.

Rutgers men’s basketball isn’t a storied program. The school hasn’t qualified for the NCAA Tournament since 1991. It’s hardly Indiana.

Why would Pernetti and Barchi invest so much in Rice? Are they willing to sink with Rice’s ship? They certainly deserve to.

The success of the men’s basketball team — which has played second fiddle to the women’s program that is a perennial player on the national scene — can’t be worth sacrificing their integrity.

This is a school and a program that has experienced coaching misconduct before, when then-coach Kevin Bannon forced two Scarlet Knights players to strip when they missed free throws and had them run naked sprints.

It took Rutgers two years after the players sued the university to fire Bannon in 2001. So I guess the school is actually making swifter decisions nowadays.

But, clearly, Rutgers still hasn’t learned its lesson from the Bannon incident.
Or Bobby Knight.

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