Stephen Nessen, Reporter, WNYC News
Stephen Nessen reports for the WNYC Newsroom and can often be heard live on Morning Edition.
Rutgers basketball coach Mike Rice may have been fired after a video surfaced showing him shouting gay slurs and physically abusing players during practice – but another causality of the scandal may be the school's reputation.
The most recent episode comes months after Rutgers proudly announced it planned to join the NCAA Powerhouse, the Big 10. The move meant greater national exposure and hopes of drawing stronger recruits.
But that's not what's making headlines these days.
“Even though the school will do whatever it can to disassociate itself going forward from that coach, there will be a stigma attached to the school for years to come,” said Darren Heitner, a sports writer who teaches sport management at Indian University.
Heitner said this kind of scandal could undo years of work.
Rutgers was in the national spotlight last year when the Tyler Clementi case went to trial. The gay slurs used by the coach Rice are a reminder of the kind of casual homophobia on campus that was brought up in the trial of Clementi’s roommate.
Speaking on WFAN before the firing, Rutgers’ athletic director Tim Pernetti said he knew the video, which he was aware of in late November, would eventually leak, and that part of his role is safeguarding the university.
“I think now that it's out there, we knew it was going to get out there the reaction we knew what it was going to be,” Pernetti said. “But again I need to sit here and think about what give us the ability to be more effective going forward in men's basketball, and more importantly what protects the university.”
Tweets from celebrities like LeBron James aren't helping in the court of public opinion.
He writes: "If my son played for Rutgers or a coach like that he would have some real explaining to do. And even Gov. Chris Christie got involved, writing in a statement: “All of the student-athletes entrusted to our care deserve much better.”
Rutgers University president Mike Barhi released a statement today: "Rice’s abusive language and actions are deeply offensive and egregiously violate the university’s core values.”