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Article updated: 4/3/2013 9:03 PM

Maybe it's time to let the athletes run things

By Mike Imrem

The mess at Rutgers is another indication of what is wrong with big-time college athletics.

Adults, that's what.

Rutgers basketball coach Mike Rice was fired Wednesday after embarrassing himself, his school and his profession.

What did Rice do to take himself down?

My goodness, it's difficult to decide where to start. He threw profane language at his players, threw basketballs at their heads and groin area, and overall threw them under a bus of insensitivity.

Meanwhile, administrators inside and outside the athletic department at Rutgers -- an incoming member of the Big Ten by the way -- allowed Rice to keep coaching after a brief suspension.

Until, that is, the public became too acquainted with the case.

A lot of players -- student-athletes as the NCAA likes to call them -- behave stupidly during their collegiate careers. But look, they're essentially still kids, young men at best, in their formative years hopefully on the way toward becoming grown-ups.

Aren't the Rices and the people who tolerated him for too long at Rutgers supposed to already be grown up? Aren't they the people assigned to guide younger men into becoming responsible members of society?

Instead, too many of the elders set examples that steer the youngsters in the wrong direction. It's enough to make you start believing that college sports would be better off if left to college students.

You know, like on the playground where kids set and police their own rules. That world is so less complicated and most of the time so much better, even with the occasional fistfight resolving a dispute.

The way college athletics are, adults keep getting in the way of extracurricular activities being as worthwhile as they are designed to be.

A youngster might accept an illegal benefit but it's rarely, if ever, from another youngster. An adult agent, booster or college coach delivers it.

A youngster might have another youngster take an entrance exam for him but it's rarely, if ever, at the suggestion of a peer. The idea comes from an older relative or a high-school coach.

A youngster might act the fool on the court or the field but he rarely, if ever, learns the antics from someone his age. Role models in the pros inspire the behavior.

Here's something that becomes more irritating every year: Looking across the basketball court and seeing more and more neckties on the bench.

Student managers, bless them, are wearing a couple of them. But the others are tied around the necks of … full-blown, fully grown, freaking adults!

Who are all these people?

Well, they are medical staffers and athletic trainers and perhaps a psychologist or two. Most of all they are coaches, one for every player on the court it seems.

They keep getting up, led by the head coach, to direct traffic on the court as if the players never were taught anything in practice.

The temptation is to jump up and yell at the traffic cops, "Hey, fellas, let the players play!"

Yes, please, let the players play. Let them elect an athletic director from among the student body, too.

Let him or her pick a coach from their ranks. Let him put together a staff of assistants from among them.

That way there wouldn't be any Mike Rices to scandalize athletics and any athletic administrators to enable him.

Seriously, couldn't a group of student-athletes have handled the Rutgers case, to say nothing of the Penn State atrocities, better than grown-ups did?

In so many places adults are corrupting and polluting the games that pre-adults play.

Why not just turn college sports over to collegians?

mimrem@dailyherald.com

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