It's Tough

basketball blog3

It’s Tough ... But It’s Not Complicated ... IF You Know What’s Right (maybe the “Sun” was in their eyes)

“Sun of righteousness, shine upon the West also.”
            Rutgers University Motto

Been a lot in the news about college basketball and the actions of Coach Mike Rice at Rutgers University this past week.

Basketball coaching (in fact any coaching) of young people is demanding. I recall many years ago reading an article (I think it was in Sports Illustrated) where a basketball coach outlined the reasons for the stress in his chosen profession of coaching players at the college level:

“It’s an adult taking his paycheck and putting it in the hands of a 19-year-old and living with what happens” -- or words to that effect.

So I’ll accept that coaching young athletes is not easy. However, I will not accept that because it’s a challenge, coaches are allowed and, in fact, enabled and encouraged by many of their institutions, the media, and the public, to take any course of action to get the winning streak started and maintained.    

For evidence of this extreme behavior, one need only look at the videos that Coach Mike Rice filmed of his own practices.  Physical abuse, throwing basketballs at players’ heads, screaming homophobic rants, and profanity were just the highlights.

This past week, I listened to pundits and commentators on sports and other networks blather on about how “I got my face mask yanked” or “I’ve been called some pretty bad things” as some sort of explanation for this coaching performance.

I have also seen this abusive behavior reconciled with the belief that “If the powers that be, the administration, the institutions’ senior leadership (fill in your preferred authority) know of this behavior, they’ll deal with it.”

They may deal with the behavior, folks -- just don’t make the mistake of thinking that means they’ll punish it.

On December 14, 2012, after viewing the videos of the abusive behavior by Coach Rice and members of his staff, the Rutgers Athletic Director and the “sports committee” of the board of trustees were advised by their legal counsel that the behavior wasn’t a “fireable offense.”

The next two words from some adult in the room should have been, “No Counsel.”

But, as often happens when attorneys get involved with civilians, the civilians throw up their hands and say,  “What can I say? The lawyers told me...” This position surrenders to the legal sufficiency view at the expense of what is right and moral.

In my time as a Commanding Officer in the Army, I had a legal adviser, whose job was to advise me on the legal ramifications of any situation, so I could make a decision regarding the action to take.

It was always my decision. Often I would agree with the advice, however, on occasion I’d inform my counsel that I was going in another direction. Counsel then had the duty to figure out how to execute my intent or call their boss or my boss and try to have me rethink my decision.

If only on December 14th, the words “No Counsel” were followed by  something like this; “Rutgers’ motto is ‘Sun of righteousness, shine upon the West also.’ So we have to do the right thing (the righteous thing), and that right thing for Rutgers as an institution is that Coach Rice cannot stay. Now tell me, Counsel, how will you proceed with this case to defend us when we terminate him?”

The cost of this course of action couldn’t be any worse than what Rutgers has gone through by initially retaining him. Would Rice really have thought those videos wouldn’t have swayed a jury, and even if he had won, would his professional reputation have survived?

The Mike Rice debacle cost Rutgers a lot. But don’t feel too sorry for the administration:
 Athletic Director, Tim Pernetti, for his resignation received $1.43 million.
Rutgers President, Dr. Robert Barchi, has a $650K base salary.
BasketBall Coach Mike Rice was paid $750K/year for his 3 years at Rutgers.

Saddest enough is that Rice’s behavior, enabled and allowed by the university, didn’t help the school’s basketball team. His 3-year record was 44 wins against 51 losses.

So he cost Rutgers $51,136 per victory over his 3-year tenure, and a whole lot more.

Yes, coaching is tough, so that means only the best should be allowed the privilege of doing it.

If you were watching the 2013 NCAA Men’s Division I basketball championship you saw a great game; lead changes, former unknowns stepping up and so much more. As you reflect on the pageantry, the crowds,  the spectacle of all that “March Madness” has become, consider this:

47% of Division I basketball players who started school in 2005 graduated by 2011
(compared with 63% of other students).

        A survey of 50 college football and basketball coaches’ contracts revealed the following:
                         An average of $600,000 in incentives for attaining athletic goals.

                         An average of $52,000 for incentives regarding the academic performance of players.

You may not like Coach Rice’s abusive coaching method -- just don’t wonder why he practiced it. Better to wonder why so many were so blind to it.

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