Rutgers University -- a highly regarded, taxpayer-supported school in New Jersey -- was right to fire its men's basketball coach Wednesday for abusing players, but it waited far too long to do so. That mistake will cost an additional $100,000.
The school fired Mike Rice after videos were made public of him physically and verbally abusing players during the team's basketball practice. If you haven't seen the videos, you should. They can be found on our website connected to this editorial.
Anyone who has played college athletics knows that coaches at that level can sometimes get aggressively exuberant in their coaching techniques. But Rice's behavior as shown on the videos -- which included throwing basketballs at players, using gay slurs and extreme profanity, among other things -- was clearly unacceptable, especially in the modern world of college athletics.
In days of yore such transgressions might have been overlooked or passed off as "passionate coaching." But that was then and this is now. Such actions are no longer tolerated, nor should they be.
While the coach's behavior was deplorable, so was the performance of the administration at Rutgers, and we are not convinced Rice is the only one who needs to go.
According to reports, the videos first surfaced when Eric Murdock, the former director of player development, showed them to Athletic Director Tim Pernetti.
But last July, Murdock was fired by Rutgers. He has accused the school of dismissing him because he informed on Rice and says he plans to sue for wrongful termination. We will let the court system sort that one out, but we must admit his claims are troubling and hint at an organized cover-up.
To be fair, last December Pernetti suspended Rice for three games, fined him $50,000 and ordered him to anger-management training.
But once ESPN obtained copies of the videos and aired them, the public outrage was swift and loud. Such political notables as Gov. Chris Christie, the head of the New Jersey Assembly and even NBA superstar LeBron James called for Rice's dismissal.
The outcry was enough to finally move the university. But the irony here is that by waiting until the end of the basketball season, Rice is owed a $100,000 bonus. That's right, bonus. His $650,000-a-year contract specifies that if he is employed by Rutgers at the end of the 2012-13 season, he is owed a $100,000 bonus.
The school has said it will pay the bonus because the contract binds it to do so.
The only encouraging thing in this sordid mess is that Rice seems to genuinely understand what a mess he has made of things.
He told a television reporter outside of his house this week, "I've let so many people down -- my players, my administration, Rutgers University, the fans, my family who's sitting in their house, huddled around because of the fact their father was an embarrassment to them."
We firmly believe that the first step toward redemption is admitting to a problem. We hope that the 44-year-old coach has taken that step.