It is the topic that refuses to die. Should Ray Rice be forgiven for his transgressions, or be forever banished from his role in Rutgers’ history? It is not easily resolved. There are strong reasons that both sides can point to as evidence their side is the correct one.
Ray Rice was an accidental recruit to Rutgers. Originally, he spurned his Rutgers offer and committed to Syracuse as a junior. However, when Paul Pasqualoni was fired by Syracuse in December 2004, it sent shock waves through the Orange community, and several players decommitted, including Ray Rice. Rice himself noted in an interview with the NY Times when he was still at Rutgers: "My commitment was to (Pasqualoni), not the school, because my trust was in the coach. I had to find somewhere else where I felt that trust."
Greg Schiano immediately reached out to Rice, and within three weeks, Rice had committed to Rutgers, or more accurately, to Greg Schiano. As a 2007 article written by CBS Sports points out, "When Ray and Janet made an unofficial visit to Piscataway, both saw Pasqualoni's fatherly qualities in Schiano." The rest, as they say, was history.
I don’t think I need to go over what Ray Rice’s three seasons at Rutgers meant to Rutgers. Quite simply, without Ray Rice, the 2006 season would not have happened the way it did, "Pandemonium in Piscataway" wouldn’t have happened, and as a result, the invite to the Big Ten (in all probability) wouldn’t have happened.
You could argue that Jim Delany would have seen Rutgers’ value anyway, but if the school had never demonstrated that single breakout season, it is fair to say the path to the B1G would have been more difficult, perhaps impossible without Ray Rice.
Following his second-round pick by the Baltimore Ravens in 2008, Rice was the symbol of success that was always used as a measuring stick for recruits thinking of attending Rutgers. "See," it was said, "you can star in the NFL if you come to Rutgers!"
February 2014. Just as Rutgers was struggling to emerge from the clusterf*** that was Rutgers entrance into the Big Ten, and prepare for their initial season, came the news that Ray had been arrested in Atlantic City for assaulting his then-fiancée. As time went on, slowly over a period of four months, the news (and video) slowly leaked out, Ray Rice became a symbol to the entire country of domestic abuse and how seriously it needed to be addressed, not just in the NFL, but as a society.
Since that time, Rice’s NFL career is in ruins. He was given an unconditional release by the Ravens, and even after his suspension ended, no team is willing to take a chance on him, for fear of being "soft" on domestic abuse.
Is that fair and just? We’re back to the real question. Rice continues to serve his punishment for his actions. Is that enough? Many think not. Many think more penance is necessary.
Also, Rutgers has "wiped clean" mention of Ray Rice from their history. Pictures of him no longer exist at the stadium, or around the campus. While you can still find articles if you search on the Rutgers Football website, it is almost a Soviet-style rewrite of history, and Ray Rice never existed.
As a fan, I felt it was good to see Ray on the sidelines last fall at a prime-time game, but his presence was certainly not celebrated. Indeed, it was almost a whisper that he was there, and the news spread through the stadium quietly.
So, Chris Ash last week had Ray Rice speak to his players. It wasn’t Ray’s first visit since his fall from grace, and hopefully isn’t his last. He has an important message to share with the students, one that has nothing to do with football.
My question is simple. Isn’t it time to restore Ray Rice into the pantheon of Rutgers’ greats? Yes, he acted in a horrific manner toward his now-wife, but she has forgiven him, and in fact, married him AFTER his actions. Should Rutgers and fans do the same?
Great having former Rutgers star Ray Rice as our guest speaker today. pic.twitter.com/UrLWggkOaG— Chris Ash (@CoachChrisAsh) June 17, 2016