UI officials discuss Rutgers-Mike Rice incident


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University of Iowa officials say they’re positive the mistreatment of athletes, such as physical and emotional abuse, would never happen at the UI because of guidelines that have been in place for three years.

“We have all sorts of rules and processes that make sure student-athletes have respect and responsibility,” said Professor N. William Hines, the head of the UI Presidential Committee on Athletics. “We are very proactive. What happened at Rutgers wouldn’t happen here.”

Mike Rice was fired from his position as head basketball coach at Rutgers in early April after videos surfaced of Rice physically and emotionally abusing his players.

In an interview with The Daily Iowan on Thursday, UI President Sally Mason said there is an important guideline to draw between being an energetic coach and becoming an abusive coach.

“I appreciate emotion, and I appreciate excitement, and I appreciate energy as much as the next person,” Mason said. “But there are lines that do need to be drawn. From time to time, sometimes we have to remind people that you have an audience here of young people, including children, that come to watch sporting events. Let’s keep it so families continue to want to come to these events.”

UI officials added a statement of student-athlete rights and responsibilities to the athletes’ handbook three years ago, stating that students are obligated to report any occurrence that makes the athlete feel uncomfortable, and the UI would protect the student from any repercussions that would occur in the aftermath.

“You always have a person in that vulnerable position,” Hines said. “If they blow the whistle, they worry they could lose their position [on the team] or lose their scholarship. We expect our students to report it, and we will protect and support them with the repercussions.”

Other UI officials said the act at Rutgers is an incident that would be unthinkable to occur at the UI.

“We certainly all saw the video, and I had not seen anything like it in my career,” Athletics Director Gary Barta said. “[At the UI], physical contact is certainly not acceptable, and verbal abuse, such as using homophobic slurs, is also unacceptable. There are specific ways every student-athlete should be treated appropriately, and that applies in every place on campus.”

Head wrestling coach Tom Brands said that as a coach, he would never condone the actions Rice made.

“These aren’t professional athletes,” Brands said. “It’s one thing to try to motivate them and hold them accountable, but to me, [Rice’s actions] were almost personal.”

Brands said communication is the biggest factor to ensure good relationships between coaches and their athletes.

“I think communication is a main factor for good relationships,” he said. “By communication being consistent, there’s understanding. It’s important to let [athletes] know when they’re doing a good job and also when they’re doing a bad job.”

UI officials agree that the university follows guidelines regarding the respect given to their athletes, and the close community that comes with the UI fosters trust.

“It’s hard to imagine a student that wouldn’t immediately report a complaint,” Hines said. “We have a very compact climate [at the UI], and that means everyone is involved. I can’t imagine someone hearing the treatment of someone and not doing something about it, and I am very confident in that. We talk about doing things the ‘Iowa way,’ and that means doing things the right and responsible way.”

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