Abuse in sports: Why Mike Rice not Bob Knight

With all the blood, sweat and tears in practice and games, athletes at the high school, collegiate and professional levels continually take mental and physical abuse from staff and coaches.

Most of the abuse is mental; coaches appear to control every aspect of athlete’s lives from how much they eat to who they see. A majority of the time players are rejected by their coaches if they don’t follow their rules and are punished, which can include sprinting for long periods of time, pushups, sit-ups and sometimes physical and emotional abuse.

Mike Rice standing with the basketball team. Image from New York Times.
Mike Rice standing with the basketball team. Image from The New York Times.

In the wake of Rutgers University scandal where now former head coach Mike Rice was fired, the commonality of this behavior leads many, as well as myself, to wonder why he was fired. Rice was terminated on Wed, April 3, after a videotape was aired that showed him shoving, grabbing and throwing balls at players, as well as using derogatory gay slurs.

The video was first aired on ESPN’s “Outside Of The Lines.” Their coverage induced speculations as to whether or not he should be fired. One of the lead vocalists asking for Rice’s termination was New Jersey governor Chris Christie.

This type of behavior goes on every day in collegiate and professional sports when baseball mangers get in shouting matches with players. High school wrestlers are forced to lose weight and it appears “winning” outweighs the treatment of the player. This type of behavior seems to be a part of our country’s everyday routine. Only when the mindset of “win before the other guy” type of attitude is publicized do people seem to care.

This all leads me to believe that the only reason Mike Rice was fired was because of the national attention his coaching style received. He’s now the face of what not to do as a coach for many athletes and coaches alike; however, he is one of many.

Former Indiana and Texas Tech coach Bob Knight is famously known for his tirades during his tenure as head coach. He’s no different than Rice when it comes to the treatment of his players. He belittled and bullied his players, yet he is anointed as one of colleges most respected coaches. He was fired from IU for one of his tirades, yet he was offered another job at TTU soon after. Bob Knight is also famously known for shouting matches with referee officials and had thrown a chair at one of them during a game. Yet he is continually praised and is offered to do commercials, as well as post game talk shows.

So why did Knight get accolades and Rice get fired? The reason behind that is simple. Bob Knight has a lot more credentials. Bob Knight has won 785 more games than Mike Rice, which leads me back to my case of “win before them” connotation because here in the United States winning is everything. However, credentials set aside, Knight shouldn’t be able to act like that and get away with it.