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Firing Mike Rice: Too Little, Too Late

“According to an old saying, you play for a coach either because you love him or because you fear him,” said Stephen Mosher, author of the book, “Where Have All the Heroes Gone” and an authority on sports ethics at Ithaca College. “But if a coach chooses to motivate his players through fear, he should be aware there’s a line between coaching hard and abuse.”

According to Rutgers officials, basketball coach Mike Rice crossed that line, and it cost him his job.

Videos of Rice’s practice sessions show him shoving, pushing, and throwing basketballs at his players. (A video of Rice’s objectionable behavior is available at:

A former university employee gave the videos to Tim Pernetti, the Rutgers athletic director, last November. After viewing the videos at that time, Pernetti recommended Rice for counseling. Today, however, with the videos becoming public, the athletic director terminated his head basketball coach.

Was Pernetti willing to keep Rice as long as no members of the public—including the players’ parents—saw the video? Will Rice keep a low profile until it all blows over and get a coaching job somewhere else? Is this kind of abusive coaching the rule, not the exception? Have advancements in technology made abusive behavior harder to get away with?

“Not only was Rice fired three months too late, the evidence on the tape rises to criminal assault,” Mosher said. “I’m surprised he hasn’t been charged.”
Plus, none of this happened in a vacuum.

“All the assistant coaches who allowed this to occur should be fired too, along with the athletic director,” Mosher added. “Also, it’s hard to believe members of the university administration weren’t aware of Pernetti’s so-called solution, along with the lawyers who approved it last fall. They too should be held accountable.”

“The former employee, if he is a whistle blower, will be vindicated and, I assume, compensated but also blackballed. He’ll be unemployable in college basketball. On the other hand, if he is an extortionist, then he's in bigger trouble.”

Rice’s situation draws parallels to the coaching career of Bobby Knight.

“Nothing about the situation with Rice is surprising,” Mosher said. “Coaching through intimidation has been going on for decades. The only thing new is that technology now lets bystanders record everything they see. With so many media outlets, nothing can be kept under cover the way it has been in the past. The result is a democratization of media that is messy and narcissistic on the one hand, but also has the capacity to disseminate the truth on the other.”

Mosher’s expert page and a video clip of his insights on the contributions of sport to moral development are available at: /news/experts/?item=513

A video of Mosher speaking about the need for college athletes to be treated as professionals:

For more information and to interview Mosher, contact Keith Davis at or (607) 274-1153.