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Week In Sports: Assessing The Rutgers Coach Firing


This is WEEKEND EDITION from NPR News. I'm Scott Simon and it's time for sports.


SIMON: And this weekend, both the men's and women's Final Fours. After all the madness of March, but you know, much of the sports news this week was overshadowed by the news from Rutgers and its basketball program when a video surfaced showing the team's coach hitting and kicking his players and hurling anti-gay slurs at them. Now, the coach responsible, Mike Rice, has been fired and yesterday the athletic director resigned.

NPR's sport's correspondent, Tom Goldman, who is going to be at the women's Final Four joins us. Thanks, thanks for being with us, Tom.

TOM GOLDMAN, BYLINE: Yeah, it seems a long way away, doesn't it?

SIMON: Boy, it sure does. Now, you know what I don't understand? Why this video surfaced showing Mike Rice pounding on his players. I don't understand why he wasn't fired, not just when the video surfaced apparently last December, but when he started laying his hands on his players. Why didn't somebody speak up and say that's wrong?

GOLDMAN: Oh man, that's one of the big questions that's still here. You know, in his - when he announced his resignation yesterday, athletic director Tim Pernetti said that he initially wanted to fire Rice when he saw the video last November but he couldn't because lawyers and HR people, among others, said university policy did not allow for dismissal.

Interestingly, an investigation that was commissioned back then did find that Rice's actions could lead to his dismissal so there's a big contradiction there. And then you've got the apparent inaction of Rutgers' president, Robert Barchi. He acknowledged yesterday that he only viewed the video this week and said if he had to do it over, he'd have viewed it back in November after Pernetti told him about it and revealed the details of the tape, including the anti-gay slurs.

Why didn't he ask to see it? He said he was busy, but you know, come on. Thirty minutes and it involves one of the most public faces of your university. None of this happened, Scott. Now four men have lost their jobs, Rutgers' image has taken a significant hit and people are still calling for Barchi to resign or be fire because after yesterday it really didn't seem like he was in charge.

SIMON: Well, all right. Alas, we'll probably have a chance to talk about this again, but let's talk about the Final Fours if we can.


SIMON: Tonight the men's Final Four, what do we expect?

GOLDMAN: Well, first of all, I'm calling it the Final Five. Wichita State, Louisville, Michigan, Syracuse and Kevin Ware. He, of course, is the reserve guard who gruesomely fractured his tibia last weekend in the win over Duke, but he is everywhere. He's an inspirational figure for the Cards, he is, of course, in this country, an instant celeb. He did a top ten list for David Letterman this week.

There's a practical side though, Scott. He's an important guy off the bench, spelling Louisville's two great guards, Peyton Siva and Russ Smith. It's important for those two to stay out of foul trouble 'cause they've got one less guy who can fill in for them. The other game, Syracuse versus Michigan; will the Wolverines be the team that solves the riddle of Syracuse's fantastically effective zone defense?

Now Michigan has great outside shooters; they've got a great point guard in Trey Burke who can penetrate and kick the ball to open shooters. Michigan's got a shot, but that D has been tough.

SIMON: OK. And in the women's Final Four, Notre Dame versus Connecticut.

GOLDMAN: Yeah. The heavyweight match, battle of two number one seeds. These guys have played so many times and the Huskies have beaten - I'm sorry, the Irish have beaten the Huskies seven out of the last games, three times this week, although only by a hair each time. But Connecticut's on a roll. They've beaten four opponents in the tournament so far by an average of 39 points a game. Should be a great tussle.

SIMON: OK. And Louisville versus the California Bears.

GOLDMAN: The newbies. Who can forget these guys? Louisville, led by the women's version of the late, great Pete Maravich, Shoni Schimmel. She plays this wide open, sometimes reckless style, but she's been in great control in these upset wins over Baylor and Tennessee. They go against a Cal team that loves to run a fast-paced game too. Great rebounders. Boy, that's a hard one to call, but either way, either Louisville or Cal will be in the final and that's pretty cool for women's basketball.

SIMON: You're going to have a great time. Enjoy the games, Tom Goldman.

GOLDMAN: Thank you so much, sir. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.