Misconduct from players, coaches treated differently by NCAA

OPINION - College coaches, athletic directors and presidents can and do whatever it takes to win, but if a player does anything even perceived wrong by the school or NCAA, they’re harshly penalized...

Luther Vandross was outed as gay after his death.

Rutgers basketball coach Mike Rice was fired yesterday. His dismissal was the least surprising news of the day; the only thing surprising is that it took this long to finally relieve him of his coaching duties.

The firing came after ESPN’s Outside the Lines released a damning video that showed Rice verbally berating players with homophobic slurs; shoving, grabbing, and kicking his teenage and twenty-year-old players; and throwing basketballs at players from point-blank range. Public and media outcry essentially forced Rutgers’ hand. Rice had to go.

His firing leaves more questions than answers though. Former Rutgers Director of Player Personnel and ex-NBA player Eric Murdock informed athletic director Tim Pernetti of the behavior last summer. He had visual evidence to back up his story. He was fired in July.

Pernetti finally reviewed the video in November. After careful review, Pernetti deemed it appropriate to give Rice a laughable three game suspension and $50,000 fine for his actions.

Anyone that views the video can tell within minutes that Rice needed to be fired. But Pernetti – who as of yesterday, still has his job – felt a just penalty for whipping basketballs at young men’s heads was a three game break and a fine that’s approximately three percent of Rice’s $1.6 million dollar salary.

Players, coaches on 2 different playing fields

What if one of those players had retailed against Rice? What if they threw the ball back at him? What if a 6-foot-8 forward got in Rice’s face and started hurling back expletives? That player probably would have been suspended, and for far longer than three games. He may have been thrown off the team and lost his scholarship. If he did lose his scholarship, he might have had to leave school.

Yet Rice was able to be the bully with virtually no repercussions. Pernetti hired Rice. He wanted Rice to succeed, so in turn, he would succeed. They would both get raises on their six and seven figure contracts. It’s easy to ignore a little abuse as long as you’re still making money.

This once again shows the double standard within the NCAA and at big-time athletic programs. College coaches, athletic directors and presidents can and do whatever it takes to win, gain national exposure, and earn lucrative raises and performance bonuses. If a player does anything even perceived wrong by the school or NCAA, they’re harshly (and oftentimes unjustly) penalized. They have no defense, no jury, and no trial. What the judge says, goes.

An entire column can be written on the egregious penalties the NCAA and college teams have given out to players. A quick overview of the worst ones in just the last few years includes:

  • In March 2011, No 3 ranked BYU suspended Brandon Davies for violating the school’s “honor code” for having sex with his girlfriend. I wonder where Rice calling a player a homophobic slur falls in Rutgers’ honor code.
  • As a junior, Dez Bryant had dinner with Deion Sanders. Fearing he’d get in trouble, he lied to the NCAA. A seemingly innocuous mistake by a young player got him suspended for the entire year.
  • Last year Kansas State Jamar Samuels was suspended because he accepted $200 from a summer league coach. Samuels didn’t waste the money on something trivial…instead several reports claimed that Samuels needed the money to feed his family.
  • Possibly the worst suspension came in November of this year, coincidentally the same month Rice should’ve been fired. Indiana players Peter Jurkin and Hanner Mosquera-Parea were suspended for Indiana’s first nine games because their AAU coach and legal guardian Mark Adams donated $185 to Indiana from 1986 to 1992. The donations qualified Adams as a “booster,” so when Adams gave Jurkin and Mosquera-Parea money (which would be akin to your father giving you money), it was considered illegal by the NCAA.

Changes not coming anytime soon

There’s several others. A quick Google search of “NCAA players, suspended” brings up dozens of stories like the ones listed above, which shows that players receiving unfair penalties is fairly common.

Rice getting to keep his job as long as he did was a terrible injustice. His players had to go through years of unacceptable abuse because Rutgers officials – whose job it is to look out for students and enhance the student experience – failed them and were trying to protect themselves and their careers. It once again highlights hypocrisy on the highest level within the NCAA and major college athletic programs.

Rice will be all right, sitting on the millions he made from Rutgers. Pernetti might somehow get out of this situation with his job intact. Rutgers President Robert Barchi claims he just saw the video this week, and will probably be able to deflect all blame.

And players will continue to face much harsher penalties for much lesser crimes. Teenagers making mistakes will sit out multiple games. Adults who know better will continue to run amok.

It’s a broken system. But at least we won’t be surprised anymore.

Follow Stefen Lovelace on Twitter @StefenLovelace