For as long as I've followed Rutgers basketball, there have been scandals. Kevin Bannon and the naked free throws. Gary Waters' JUCO recruit Harry Good punches Adrian Hill. Fred Hill cursing out a baseball umpire.
And now Mike Rice.
According to ScarletKnights.com, head coach Mike Rice has been suspended for 3 games and fined fifty-thousand dollars. During the suspension, Rice is not allowed anywhere near the basketball team, practices, or recruiting. He will return to the sidelines for the Big East opener against Syracuse on January 2nd. Until then David Cox will coach the team.
The big question is, what did Rice do? The press release was vague, citing inappropriate language and behavior directed toward the players in practices. According to Jerry Carino, Pernetti stated he never thought about firing Rice. But the fifty thousand dollar fine is what sticks out, and Adam Zagoria quoted a source as saying that is a huge fine. Whatever Rice did, it was bad. But, Pernetti promised, there weren't any NCAA violations. (EDIT: And, apparently, the incident did not occur this season.)
Now, what happens? This was already a big year for Mike Rice. With Gilvydas Biruta transferring, a swing and a miss with recruiting, and Scarlet Nation crowing about bad chemistry, Mike Rice needs to clean up in the Big East season. He needs to win, and while the NIT was the pre-season goal, a situation like this may have changed things to the NCAA.
And that is a tall order. And speculation, of course.
If Rice's "pattern" of behavior is directed toward the players, one legitimately has to wonder if he'll lose the team's respect during his suspension. And if that happens, how does he regain it? There is a long haul ahead for Rice, and he has to add calming down to his already long to do list.
Steve Politi already thinks this is the beginning of the end. We shall see. Until then, this team has become even more interesting to watch. Fan reaction at the RAC on Sunday afternoon should be very interesting. A black cloud hovers over this program, and there aren't any signs of it lifting quite yet.