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Jamie Dixon sticks up for Mike Rice

Harry How

So, while there wasn't any major news at Pitt yesterday, Mike Rice happened. The coach at Rutgers was fired for video that surfaced recently of one of his practices. In case you're one of the few people out there who hasn't seen it, I direct your attention to Exhibit A: the evidence:

Mike Rice Bullying Players at Practice (via Robert Littal)

Over the last 24 hours, I've heard a ton of different opinions. Some former high school and college players saying this stuff happens all the time. Other players saying they've never seen anything like it. Do I think this stuff happens? Yes. I think it goes on depending what coach is involved. And frankly, in the world of YouTube and Social Media where things spread like wildfire, I can't believe that we don't hear more of this type of stuff.

In case you've forgotten, Rice was actually an assistant briefly under Jamie Dixon here at Pitt before he left for the head job at Robert Morris. Dixon didn't come close to defending his actions, but he did defend the man a bit:

''I think the people know him here, they know he's a good person,'' Dixon said Wednesday, hours after Rice was fired. ''He's acknowledged he's made some mistakes.''

Dixon choked up while talking about Rice, whose future in coaching remains very much in doubt.

''Mike's a good friend,'' Dixon said. ''He's a good person.''


''He made some mistakes,'' Dixon said, ''and I'll leave it at that.''

From the same AP story by Will Graves, point guard Tray Woodall also added:

''They are going at my man Mike Rice too hard,'' Woodall posted. ''He's the reason I came to Pitt.''

Woodall later added Rice is ''not the only coach to put his hands on a player, or talk the way he did.''

I've got slightly less of a problem with what Dixon said. Dixon simply said he's a good man who's made some mistakes. However, Woodall insinuating that Rice has endured too much as a result of his actions is what I've got a bit of a problem with.

People will have varying opinions on this, but I think Rice crossed the line. Pretty far, actually. Just because he's not the only one doing it doesn't mean it should be okay and I think any coach that goes to those lengths should be dismissed. Yelling is fine and I'm even fine with light physical contact such as bumping to prove a point about being physical in a game. Pushing viciously, chucking balls at players heads or genitalia, using anti-gay slurs to prove a point? Yeah, not so much.

And one more thing, while I'm at it. If Rice was fired, you can make a pretty solid case that athletic director Tim Pernetti should have been as well. Pernetti, according to Eric Murdock (yes, that Eric Murdock that played in the NBA) who worked with Rice at Rutgers and released the video, was told of this long before the video was released, but kept him on. Even if you subscribe to the theory that Pernetti didn't know just how bad it was, it was up to him to find out. If he turned a blind eye to it, you can place a lot of blame at his feet.

Here's one thing that shouldn't be forgotten, though. The players in the video weren't up in arms. That shows this is probably a fairly regular occurrence there. The argument could be made that if the players are fine with it, why shouldn't we be? The answer's pretty simple, actually. If that type of treatment is allowed, some coach is going to go even farther over the edge and cause some kind of physical harm to a kid. The more leeway we give to this sort of behavior, it opens up the possibility for something far worse happening.

In the end, Rice was fired - as he should have been.

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