Opinion: Mike Rice and the Coaching Dilemma

It’s a normal Tuesday morning. You walk into English expecting an ordinary class. Your teacher asks a question about The Great Gatsby and you didn’t really pay attention to it. Noticing this, she asks you again.

“Sorry, I wasn’t listening, could you repeat the question,” you reply. She grabs you by the collar, calls you the dumbest person on earth and throws you out of classroom. What happens to your teacher? She gets canned.

In this hypothetical case, it’s easy to see why the administration would fire your teacher. However, for whatever reason, there seems to be wiggle room for coaches in similar scenarios.

Last Wednesday, Rutgers University fired its head basketball coach after the release of a video of him shoving players, throwing basketballs at their heads, and berating them with homophobic slurs. The video, which went viral last week, prompted outrage from New Jersey governor Chris Christie and people across the US. The video was released amid the popular March Madness Final Four weekend and demonstrates the intense, pressure-filled world of college sports.

Mike Rice was recently fired for his harsh coaching tactics,

Mike Rice was recently fired for his harsh coaching tactics,

However, there is more to this story. Last Wednesday was not the first time this video had come to light. Rice was suspended in December when the Rutgers Athletic Director was shown the aforementioned video. After the brief suspension, the athletic director ordered Rice to take anger management classes. Agreeing to the terms, Rice continued to run practices as he pleased. Not until the video was publicized did the university fire Rice. Because of this oversight, many students, nearly all of the teachers and many alumni are requesting that the president of the university be fired.

I believe that the president should be fired as well. There is no way that the president did not know about Rice’s practice style (he’s the head of the school after all). If non-athletic faculty member had done what Rice did to a student, they would lose their job immediately  with or without video evidence. It’s ridiculous that Rice received special treatment because he was the coach of a division-one basketball team. There are teachers across the country that are much more distinguished in their fields than Rice was in basketball, and they would be fired if they so much as verbally abused a student on a regular basis, let alone if they physically harmed one. Rutgers University will not be able to retain its reputation with a president who has allow people like Mike Rice to do what they pleased.

However, not all coaches are like Rice. In fact, Rice’s case is unique, and coaches rarely physically harm their players. It is much more common for coaches to single out, yell at or punish their players for making mistakes. You will find very few athletes who can say that they have never had a coach who yelled at them, made them do excessive amounts of sprints, pushups etc, or singled them out of a group and ridiculed them for making a mistake. The question arises then, why is such behavior normal for coaches, but frowned upon by our youth’s other role models: teachers, parents, pastors, camp counselors and generally every other adult. Should coaches have the power to act as the most disciplinary role models in kids’ lives?

You will miss many math tests for hockey games, but rarely visa versa. Missing school, skipping homework and even not graduating has become normal for athletes. The last thing schools need is a greater divide between athletics and academics. SLS, the NCAA, and high schools across the country brag about their student athletes. Every athlete should be a student athlete, and no organization should have bragging rights just because its athletes are students as well. Athletics and education ought to be equally balanced. Giving coaches the right to be overbearing and sometimes a student’s primary role models is detrimental to this balance. Graduation statistics for top tier athletes in division-one schools attest to this point.

Despite this, all coaches are not the Stalinist creatures that I have labeled them as – they can also be good people. Sports teach things that cannot be taught in the classroom, like character. I just hope coaches learn from the Mike Rice debacle, and realize that they often overuse the power that they have over their players.

— Will Bloomer, Staff Writer

Posted by on April 10, 2013. Filed under Op-Ed. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0. You can leave a response or trackback to this entry

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