Assemblywoman BettyLou DeCroce, a member of the Assembly Higher Education Committee, issued the following statement on the firing of Rutgers University Men’s Basketball Coach Mike Rice:
“Rutgers Coach Michael Rice demonstrated a pattern of conduct with his players that is unbefitting an institution of higher learning. There is no rational way to condone or explain the physical and verbal abuse that Mr. Rice heaped on his players. Coach Rice earned his dismissal and I support his firing.
More problematic for me as a member of the higher education committee, however, is that Coach Rice’s conduct was tolerated for so long by the university. People in the Athletic Department knew for quite some time of Coach Rice’s violent outbursts and physical confrontations with players, yet chose to keep him at the institution until ESPN’s broadcast of the Rice’s behavior made it impossible to retain him as a representative of the state’s largest public university.
Apparently, some people at Rutgers did not learn from the experience at Penn State. Failure to act quickly to deal with inappropriate actions of coaches harms individuals, players and the university’s programs – not to mention the reputation of the university itself.
The desire to win games and protect a sports program cannot ever be allowed to supersede a university’s obligation to protect its players and all those who come in contact with a program. The failure to fire Coach Rice earlier was a failure by Rutgers to meet its obligation to its student athletes and their parents.
Rutgers needs to examine its policies regarding the conduct of its coaches and how the Athletic Department and other college officials deal with abusive coaches in the future.”