Commentary: Rice Does Not Define Rutgers

Rutgers is about way more than Ray Rice. But you would not know that from the way his domestic assault is being covered. With plenty of blame to go around and many at fault in mishandling a sad situation, Rutgers is one of the few to handle the situation correctly.

The second I made the turn onto Scarlet Knights Way for this morning’s Rutgers practice, I knew today was going to turn south – fast.

Three separate cameramen camped out beneath a “Knights in the NFL” mural, which highlighted Ray Rice as its centerpiece. A satellite truck sat in the parking lot and the set-up for coach Kyle Flood’s daily press conference was a fiasco at best with television asking to delay it because they weren't ready.

Rutgers should be swarmed with media this week but not for this. Flood and his players deserve the chance to promote their program for the right reasons this week with an electric football environment on the way to campus. Of course the vultures are going to swarm, but they should be two hours south where the Baltimore Ravens kept Rice for six months after the crime took place.

So when Flood reacted sternly to a reporter’s attempt to reintroduce Rice into the conversation this morning, he was completely justified – more than justified when you factor in that the reporter said his name wrong and had a cell phone go off a minute prior.

Why is this a Rutgers problem? Rice left six years ago. Rutgers has done nothing wrong here.

Rice was beyond generous with his time since leaving, and Rutgers was smart to use his brand in marketing and recruiting. But Rutgers began distancing itself from him almost immediately after the domestic violence occurred in February.

Rice committed a crime, and does not deserve a second chance unless he earns it moving forward. But when you have reporters suggesting Rutgers do what Florida did with Aaron Hernandez, that’s just silly.

Ray Lewis is still a part of the Miami brand. Jason Kidd is still a part of the California brand. Rice will remain a part of the Rutgers brand, and will eventually be welcomed back if he rehabilitates.

Rice never caused problems during his three years on the Banks, but once he left the school he was on his own. It is not Flood’s or Greg Schiano’s responsibility to keep professional football players out of trouble.

Rutgers should absolutely distance itself from Rice. What Rice did is disgusting, but I don’t need video evidence to say that. The way many media are covering this story, you would think that Rice’s biggest crime is being caught on video, and not the vicious punch he threw within the elevator. Domestic violence is the issue here, not TMZ getting video of it.

Where was the outrage six months ago? I didn’t see 1,500 stories then calling for Rutgers to erase him from existence. I didn’t see the vultures swarm Rutgers for comment then. Because Flood’s role in Rice’s crime was not news then and it is not news now.

Address it and move on.

Rutgers separating itself from Rice is nothing new. He was not a part of Pro Day after his Atlantic City incident, nor did he attend the spring game to sign autographs. He did both every year after leaving in 2008.

No, Rice is not going to be on the “Knights in the NFL” video this Saturday. Why? Because he’s not on an NFL roster, and neither is Rutgers hero Brian Leonard who was not on last week’s video. Why? Because Leonard is not on an NFL roster.

Does having a recording make Rice’s crime that much worse? Apparently so, and Rutgers knows all too well about that. The proximity too New York does not help Rutgers in this situation either. It’s easier to make the drive to Piscataway than head to Baltimore where the outrage is 100 percent deserved.

Yes, Rice’s actions are news. Yes, Rice was beyond special to Rutgers over the last nine years. But the real story at Rutgers vs. Penn State, and it is a shame that it won’t get the headlines it deserves.


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