aYesterday afternoon ESPN played video footage of the head men’s basketball coach at Rutgers University demonstrating quite the lack of integrity. Coach Rice yelled obscenities at his players, homophobic slurs, through basketballs full speed at point blank range at his players, and much more. As the minutes quickly following the report grew so did the outrage of people around our nation. Sports reporters, other coaches, and everyday citizens began calling for the Rutgers coach to lose his job. Even more enraging was the fact that we found out that the Rutgers University officials had known about this for months and had responded with a mere slap on the wrist of a three gams suspension and some counseling classes. Finally after much public pressure the University fired Coach Rice this morning ending a shameful era of coaching at their college.
What makes me sad as I read and watched about all that was going on at Rutgers is that once again here is a situation where a coach was in one of the greatest positions that one could ever find themselves in, the opportunity to use sports as a way to mold and change lives. Many studies have been done on our teens and college showing that within sports, the coach may be the most influential role model a student-athlete will ever have – more than parents, family, friends, or clergy. And a coach is in the position to influence thousands of lives over the course of a career. Coach Rice lost sight of this. He put himself, his ego, and quite frankly his sinfulness above being an example of an honorable man to his players. I am not saying players never do anything wrong and don’t need to be corrected or shown tough love, but their is a proper way for a coach to conduct themselves. Coach Rice blew this opportunity and rather than being known as an honorable coach who shaped the lives of young men, he will be known as a total jerk.
Another thing that disappoints me about this story is the staff of Rutgers University, specifically the athletic director and school president, turning a blind eye to this situation. In their roles as leaders they should have dealt with the situation swiftly and immediately and took the role of honorable leadership on themselves. Instead their hesitancy to do the right thing led to Coach Rice being able to continue his abusive ways for months. Unfortunatley this is all too common in sports. Parents and staff put up with verbal abuse, poor leadership, lack of morals, lack of ethics, and all around terrible examples given by coaches all too often. The chance of furthering little Joey or Susie’s athletic career all to often outweighs making sure they have quality coaches in their lives. Sports related skills take precedent over quality human being skills. Even sadder to me is the fact that Christian parents allow these poor examples to have leadership roles in the lives of their children. As Christians we have an even higher calling to represent Christ to our students and make sure they are in situations where their relationship with Christ can grow and thrive. Yet, the love of sport conquers this call to frequently.
Finally Rutgers gave in and did the right thing and removed a morally bankrupt person from their coaching position. But they only did this after much public pressure and fall out. What’s it going to take for you to make sure that your child doesn’t have poor coaching? Hopefully, you will stand up and make sure this never happens. And if you are a coach, please, please, please, realize the awesome place that Christ has put you in and take your job as a molder and shaper of youth to heart and be the example they need! The challenge is great and one coaches must not fail!