I spent most of my morning at the gym watching news of the Tim Pernetti/Mike Rice scandal as it broke on ESPN. There was grainy footage of Rice and his assistant physically and verbally abusing Rutgers basketball players during practice. There was the revelation that Rice had been handled with kid gloves when he was first disciplined by the university for mistreating his players at the end of 2012. Then there was the news of Pernetti’s firing followed by the inevitable question of university president Robert Barchi’s culpability. As a parent and a coach, all I have to say in response is this: WHAT THE FUCK IS WRONG WITH YOU PEOPLE!?!
Maybe I’m jumping the gun here. Maybe I’m being too quick to judge. Maybe I’ll change my mind after the official press conference at 1:00 pm today. But, as a coach and an educator – and you’re kidding yourself if you claim to be the former but think you’re not the latter – right now I’m pissed off.
To paraphrase some of the wisest words I’ve ever heard in regards to coaching, behind every athlete there is a parent (or grandparent or older sibling or aunt/uncle or SOMEBODY) who has invested their life in raising the young man or woman now entrusted to your care. And, more than anything else, they are trusting you to return their child to them UNBROKEN.
It’s unfortunate that I have to confess that these words were originally spoken by Joe Paterno. I read them in an editorial published in The Sporting News over a year before the Jerry Sandusky scandal. However, I refuse to let public opinion about the man undermine the fundamental value of his words. Whether or not Joe Paterno ultimately lived up to the standard he set is immaterial. What matters is that, as coaches and teachers, WE MUST.
And there are far too many of us out there that don’t.