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Demanding a high standard for Rutgers

Assorted, jumbled thoughts on Mike Rice, and how to move forward


The news that former Rutgers staffer Eric Murdock had reported head men's basketball coach Mike Rice for throwing basketballs at players heads and being verbally abusive during practice, and the broader meta-story of how this leaked with talk behind the scenes boiling to a crescendo over the past few days is a sensitive topic that requires treading lightly. For a multitude of reasons, it's not really possible at this time to have a candid discussion, but the following seems like as reasonable a stance to take as any.

Members of the Rutgers athletics community know varying levels of information about what happened, but very few parties (including some of the major players) know everything about exactly what happened. Therefore, it really is not appropriate to pre-judge at all, in either direction, without knowing all of the relevant facts. One extreme would be that Eric Murdock is a disgruntled employee trying to shake down the athletic department by selecting tarring Mike Rice, and the other is that Rice's actions have been known for a while, and were only punished in cover-your-ass mode under the threat of litigation. As a Rutgers booster, I want the former to be true. I want the athletic department to squash Murdock like a fly. But even more so, if there were ANY misdeeds, they need to come to light so that the school and athletic department respectively can address them and move on.

As someone who screams bloody murder when Rutgers is unfairly dragged through the mud, the flip side to that is demanding that they live up to that very same high standard. If you care about Rutgers and Rutgers athletics, then it is critical to demand striving towards excellence in all facets. There's been plenty of losing, so what's even more. If there would even be any suggestion (and so far, there explicitly has not been) of surrendering any of their hard-earned integrity, that would be a true cause for alarm. It is a red (well, Scarlet) line that no one with any ties to Rutgers would accept being crossed. We do things the right way here, and that has to continue, no questions asked. Even the (legitimate) suggestion of real misdeeds is unfathomable. Therefore, if what is currently being reported is accurate and represents the crux of what happened, Rice's suspension is both warranted, proportional, and sufficient to cover what happened.

I bring the integrity card up because there was one incident in the relative past that made me ashamed to be associated with Rutgers and Rutgers athletics, in a way that any result on the field or the court never could. Without going into specifics, I believe that there was a pattern of behavior that went on under the Gary Waters regime that was absolutely appalling and sickening. In my opinion, it was far, far worse than anything Kevin Bannon was ever alleged to have done. It was completely covered up, and has never seen the light of day. (This, of course, is why I have zero patience for J.R. Inman's immature rants about how Gary Waters was a saint and Fred Hill was the devil.) The notion that Rutgers could be seen as responsible for something so heinous and vile, and never be held to task for it, was just incomprehensible. Even the Quincy Douby stuff, where it came out that he or his family took money from an agent, but it was after the statute of limitations on eligibility had passed - even there I think Rutgers erred by not vacating all records from those three seasons.

For me, it's not about being a fan boy so much as it is being correct. If the likes of Harvey Araton, Brad Wolverton, Ted Sherman, and Josh Margolin want to print inaccurate, slanderous information about Rutgers without getting their facts straight, I want to figuratively rip their throats out. Even criticism that does not go for the jugular and is wholly in the grounds of opinion ("Rutgers football will never compete in the Big Ten" or "Rutgers does not add value to the Big Ten," or even your standard internet message board fodder) hurts, and it's tough to resist the temptation to write an encyclopedic rebuttal to each one (Darren Rovell's idiocy, the hypocrisy from Pat Forde and Bob Ryan, etc...) That does not equate to a desire to be above reproach, like you see in most other parts of the country with a few notable exceptions. For those who lack subtlety, it also doesn't mean that anyone other than RutgersAl thinks that the football program as presently constituted is a national championship contender. Praise and criticism should be directly proportional to what is deserved: nothing more, nothing less.