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Look Out for the Coaches Gone Wild Mixtape

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I’m not going to defend Rutgers coach Mike Rice — who was justifiably fired this morning — but I am going to ask this question — how many coaches would lose their jobs if someone compiled a few minutes of the worst things they’d said or done in a practice over multiple years into one video and then released it to ESPN?

Certainly dozens of coaches would be fired, potentially hundreds.

Lots of those coaches would be men who had erstwhile reputations as “good guys” who did it the “right way” and whatever other banal cliches we want to trot out there.

My issue with the Rice imbroglio is the belief that his actions are far from normal, that no one else behaves like he does. I believe the reality is much different, that you could hang just about any coach in America if you compiled his worst practice moments over multiple years into a coaches gone wild mixtape and released it to ESPN.

Do you really think Bobby Knight, the man ESPN employs to talk about college basketball, never threw a basketball at a player in practice or uttered a gay slur?

Please. 

I bet over the last decade you could hang just about every coach in America with the gay slur angle by itself.

I have a pretty good basis of knowledge on practice behavior because I spent three years at George Washington University basketball practice every day while Mike Jarvis and Tom Penders were head coaches there. Both of these guys were highly successful coaches and pretty good guys.

Both of them could be hung if you took the worst moments of practice and compiled them into a video.

Just about every coach could.

That’s why there are hundreds of coaches burning practice videos as we speak. As you’re reading this there are meetings where coaches are ensuring that their staffs all know speaking out about what happens in practice is forbidden. Some players are probably being called into offices, having an arm put over their shoulder, and hearing, “You know, we’re a big family here, sometimes families fight. I didn’t really mean it when I…”

I guarantee you the phrase, “We ain’t getting Riced,” is echoing across gyms and practice fields from coast to coast.

Why?

Because every coach in America not named Nick Saban knows that if you take his worst moments in practice and make a coaches gone wild mixtape for him, he’s done too.

And it’s not just coaches.

Would you keep your job if someone recorded everything you said or did at work for a few years and then put together a mixtape of your worst comments and actions?

Probably not.

Not in today’s media age.

And that’s what bothers me the most about the Rice case, not that he behaved inappropriately, but that anyone can be judged entirely based upon their worst moments and have those moments entirely define them. Put simply, I don’t believe very many of us, no matter how good of guys we are, could survive scrutiny like Rice.

Do you know where Rice was before he got the Rutgers job? Robert Morris. You remember Robert Morris, right? That paragon of virtue school that beat big, bad Kentucky in the NIT. The school that did it the “right way.” Many of the players on that team that beat Kentucky? Rice recruited them after taking Robert Morris to consecutive NCAA tournaments. That was before he did a mediocre job at Rutgers over the past three seasons. It’s a lot easier to fire a guy when he’s not winning, especially when the nation is calling for his head after a few minutes of coach gone wild video airs on ESPN, the Today Show, and Good Morning America. 

But are those few minutes really representative of Rice as a man in full?

I have no idea, neither do you.  

Back in the 17th century Cardinal Richelieu, who could easily be a character on HBO’s Game of Thrones, is reported to have said, “If you give me six lines written by the hand of the most honest of men, I will find something in them which will hang him.”

In today’s media age, that’s even more true. Even the most honest man is just a few sentences away from losing his job, a viral video from eternal infamy.

Let me put it to you this way, I don’t believe for a second that Mike Rice is the most abusive college coach in America. It’s more comfortable for us, both media and fans, to pretend that Mike Rice is without parallel in the annals of coaching coaching, the reality is more complicated, less absolute. Yet the media and the public has a way of painting issues in absolutes, we want to pretend that aberrant behavior is rare, an outlier from the norm. I’m not arguing that Mike Rice shouldn’t be fired for what he said and did, I’m telling y’all that there are many more Mike Rice’s out there, high school and college coaches drunk on their own power who know that kids can’t stand up to them.

You think it’s a coincidence that grown men in the NBA don’t get basketballs thrown at them in practice?

Hell no.

This isn’t about sports, it’s about power, who has it and who doesn’t.

College coaches have nearly absolute and total power. Their players have none. So the only people surprised by the abuse of power are the people who don’t pay any attention to the history of the abuse of power. In the wake of the Penn State mess you’d think we’d all be smarter than this, that we wouldn’t still pretend that there’s one bad guy and we caught him and now all the world’s a beautiful bright and shining place. But we won’t be smarter than this. 

We’ll pretend we caught a bad guy in the world of sports, give Twitter props to each other for protecting the Rutgers players. Give ourselves a self-satisfied and holier than thou nod, Mike Rice never deserved that job, we’ll say, he’s an outrage, his actions are unbelievable and indefensible.

Except they’re pretty damn common. 

How many coaches could survive a coaches gone wild mixtape that aired on ESPN?

Here’s a vote for not many. 

More interestingly, would you be confident you’d still have your job if a national media outlet aired a few minutes of your worst behavior on the job?

You shouldn’t be. 

That’s because Cardinal Richelieu’s character destruction would be even easier today, just about every one of us, honest or not, could be hung in a few minutes of Internet scandal. 

But, boy, that Mike Rice is the absolute worst ever!

Right? 

Written by Clay Travis

OutKick founder, host and author. He's presently banned from appearing on both CNN and ESPN because he’s too honest for both.

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