(By Mike Lopresti USATODAY.com) - Is Mike Rice still the basketball coach at Rutgers?
I hate to use the word "fired." It happens to too many coaches for too many bad reasons, and the idea is thrown around too casually by too many outsiders, who too eagerly turn men - and their families -- into punching bags over ballgames.
And yet, three minutes spent watching the sorry spectacle from the practices at Rutgers, what else is there to say? After all the name-calling, and ball-hurling, and tantrum-throwing and screaming and hollering and pushing and shoving, what else is there possibly left to say?
There is nothing else to say, because if this is the only way a coach knows how to demand excellence and fuel passion, he has run out of ideas. You watch the volcanic lava flow of profanity and anger and you wonder, really, is that all there is in his coaching manual? Inspiration by degradation?
There is nothing else to say, because it is folly to ask the kids to show self control and discipline when the supervising adult fails so abysmally at it. There is fiery, and there is abusive. The line between them separates the coach from the bully.
There is nothing left to say, because anyone recruiting against Rutgers need only suggest that a parent watch the tape and answer one question. "Is that what you want for your son's college basketball experience?"
There is nothing left to say, because if such behavior is rationalized, what shred of credibility is left in a university's promise that it aspires to a higher standard?
Play the tape. Stop when you get to the part where the standard is high. Stop when you get to the part that screams for leniency for Rice -- which athletic director Tim Pernetti showed, with a three-game suspension. As punishment goes, that was more than a parking ticket, and a lot less than it should have been.
There is nothing left to say, because it doesn't have to be that way. This is not about making a team tougher. This is not about instilling pride, trying to get a team ready to compete against all the meanies in the Big East. If that is the excuse, it is an empty one. There are plenty of tough-minded teams out there, competing against the best of the best, without resorting to cruelty behind closed doors.
Besides, it hasn't seemed to work. Seen Rutgers in the NCAA Tournament lately?