By now, if you get your sports news from mainstream sources, you are likely aware and maybe even sick of the Mike Rice abuse video. It hasn’t been a point of fixation for me because A) Rutgers basketball, 2) it seems like kind of normal coach behavior to me, iii) It’s the least interesting aspect of the story. Sure the abuse is the crux of the thing but if you pay even a little bit of attention to the story a couple of things jump out about it: Somebody at Rutgers hated Rice enough to compile this document of his abuse, it took two years to make the video and another year for it to go public, nobody at Rutgers cared enough to really change the culture of abuse until the story was out and it was too late to save face.
Eric Murdock is the mole. He features prominently in the OTL report and he is the video compiler that first took the footage to his, by then, ex-employers in December 2012. He had made formal complaints to the school’s leadership before then, before he himself had been fired in June 2012. He’s actually suing the university for wrongful termination under whistleblower statutes and here’s where the story takes a fun turn. The university says he was trying to use the video to extort $950,000 from the school. My first reaction to this news is predictably contrarian: of course the school says he was extorting them! What else would they say? Apparently, though, Murdock’s fiendish plot was brazenly stupid. He wrote a letter to administrators “asking” for the money. I would like to know how he arrived at $950,000. Was $1 million just going a bit too far?
If the university allegations are true, and the existence of the letter in question would make it seem like a pretty easy case. If the letter is a fake then Rutgers is taking another step towards oblivion and you might as well get your resumes in starting now because they’re going to have a lot more available positions at the school. If the letter is real then Eric Murdock, a decent but middling NBA player who earned over $11 million from playing pro basketball, would make a great anti-hero in an upcoming Tyler Perry non-erotic thriller. I’d imagine him as a dark and mysterious lothario who also has sex (off-screen, this is a PG-13 movie) with the wife of hotheaded but mostly good-hearted Mike Rice.
It’s impossible for me to say that Murdock actually attempted extortion. His lawyer says the letter was a settlement offer for the wrongful termination suit. That’s perhaps a fine line but the wording of that letter is important. Given what else has come out of this controversy, it’s tough to take anything Rutgers says seriously. On the other hand, if Murdock was only worried about the kids then it’s really hard to believe he would be willing to give up his right to publicize the continuing incidents in exchange for some money. I have vaguely good recollections of Murdock the player so I want to take his side but he doesn’t present very well in this instance.
Whistleblowing is a noble idea but it’s not easy to find anybody doing anything for purely altruistic reasons. I would imagine that Price was just as much of an asshole behind closed doors with his staff as he was out on the court with his players. Murdock complained about Price’s behavior before he got fired, so it’s not unreasonable to think that he was coming from an honest place when he says that he was appalled by Rice’s treatment of players. But he might have a harder time finding future employment than Mike Rice because he’s made himself a massive liability. The lesson here? As always, don’t get involved in Rutgers athletics unless you have an easy out that doesn’t involve illegal activity.
H/T NY Times