Mike Rice Was Just a Cog in the NCAA’s Bullying Machine
In its treacly ads that have been airing incessantly throughout the men’s basketball tournament, the NC2A has tried to convince unsuspecting sports fans that it is the very wind that lifts its athletes to great heights on the fields of competition and in their first forays into the real world. We see hopeful job applicants supported by supportive school mascots. Young scientists receive encouragement from cheerleaders. Brass bands celebrate students’ accomplishments. Behind it all is the NC2A, an omnipresent support mechanism.
What a crock.
This week has provided those willing to remove themselves from the NC2A’s propaganda cloud with further evidence that the organization is devoted to the almighty dollar, completely at the expense of those athletes who provide the entertainment that generates said cash.
We begin on the banks of the Raritan, where heads have dropped into the guillotine’s basket at Rutgers University, thanks to the release of video evidence that demonstrates former men’s hoops coach Mike Rice has succeeded in making Generalissimo Bob Knight look like Matty Gandhi. Rice is gone. So is his assistant, Jimmy Martelli. AD Tim Pernetti is on the bread line, along with the school’s interim general counsel John Wolf. Last seen clinging to the ledge by his cuticles is school president Robert Barchi, who has a faulty CD drive in his laptop to credit for his continued—albeit tenuous—hold on his gig. The faculty is furious. The pundits are having a field day.
And the players remain tethered to the school by the NC2A’s rules that deprive them of any true recourse in the face of the abominable behavior by Rice et al. The funniest question I heard throughout the past week was, “Why didn’t the players say anything?” When your athletic and educational future is in the hands of a madman who is backed up by an organization that will support him, right up until he proves himself too contemptible to go on, what choice do you have?
Had any Rutgers player stood up to Rice as he was assaulting and insulting him during practice, he would have dispatched them to the basketball equivalent of the gulag. Hard labor (sprints, calisthenics, K-P duty) would have been accompanied by extended stretches on the bench. Had anyone gone to the media, he would have been banished from the program and likely blackballed by Rice. We would all like to believe athletes have the power to rise up, like Mox, Tweeter and the boys did to Coach Kilmer in Varsity Blues, but it doesn’t work that way. Those who challenge authority in the NC2A end up in the dungeon.
Later in the week, we learned that the University of Pittsburgh had told freshman running back Rushel Shell that he was free to transfer to any other school in the country—except for Arizona State and Arizona. ASU is coached by serial carpetbagger Todd Graham, who left Pitt after one season, despite speaking of how he wanted to build a winner there. Several other former Pittsburgh coaches are at that school, as well as at the University of Arizona. NC2A rules stipulate that a school can do this. Of course, the players can’t block their coach from leaving for any other destination, as New Mexico hoops players might have when former boss Steve Alford did when he bolted Albuquerque for UCLA, less than two weeks after signing a 10-year extension with the school and saying, “There is no other place I would rather coach than at UNM, representing the best fans in the country.”
Even if Shell does get permission to transfer to Arizona State or Arizona (he also mentioned California and UCLA), he will have to sit out a season, a rule enacted to prevent players from switching schools willy-nilly, like say, certain coaches with fat extensions in their back pockets can.
In just one week, we saw two huge examples of how the NC2A is hardly a “spirit squad” for its athletes. It does little to protect their interests, doesn’t create rules that benefit them in the long run and makes countless billions as a result of their hard work, sacrifice and pain. The stock NC2A answer: They get a free education.
Once again, another steaming pile of guano.
Even though scholarship athletes do avail themselves of free schooling, they are often shunted into easier majors, the better to makes sure schoolwork doesn’t interfere with their athletic responsibilities. Case in point: Arsalan Kazemi. When he began at Rice, he was majoring in economics. When I spoke to him a couple years later, he told me he switched to communications, because supply and demand were interfering with his basketball work. He has since transferred to Oregon, trailing allegations that Rice staffers insulted his Iranian heritage and “joked” about his being a terrorist. Rah!!
Further, as schools make more and more money off players’ exploits, thanks to obscene TV deals, the players receive no further remuneration. Coaches’ salaries, however, continue to climb at ridiculous rates. And those jerseys in the bookstore that retail for $89.95 and bear the numbers of star players? Not a dime goes to the kids.
If you missed last week’s episodes of the NC2A’s spirit squad’s sticking it to the athletes, stay tuned. New ones will debut soon.
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