Published Wednesday, April 3, 2013 AT 1:00 PM / Updated at 4:06 PM
Mad Chatter, April 3
Dirk Chatelain Omaha World-Herald

Of course I want ‘em fired.

Few things stir my anger like bullies. Abuse of power. Mike Rice deserves to spend a few years on the unemployment line. And he should take Rutgers A.D. Tim Pernetti with him.

But just for a moment, let’s stop demanding pink slips and look at a larger issue. Let’s examine why one of Rice’s 6-foot-9, 250-pound power forwards didn’t tell him, “You throw a ball at me one more time and I’ll kick your…”

The answer has a lot to do with power in college athletics — who has it and who doesn’t.

This is a culture in which coaches can walk out the door hours after signing a 10-year contract, but athletes who transfer must forfeit 20 percent of their career. And don’t forget, coaches can block transfers to certain schools, so no matter what happened to end the relationship, the departing player doesn’t dare speak a bad word.

This is a culture in which it’s OK for Coach to ink an endorsement deal with Chevy or Nike, but players can’t get a sniff. Amateurism, however, doesn’t stop schools from selling No. 3 jerseys at the local merchandise shop — as long as they don’t say “Martinez” on the back. Sometimes they get the gall to go one step further, selling game-worn jerseys. That’s nothing compared to the revenue players’ “likenesses” generate on the video game market.

This is a culture that allows the NCAA to suspend Dez Bryant a full season for lying to the NCAA about his harmless relationship with Deion Sanders. Nevermind that Bryant didn’t have representation during the interrogations.

This is a culture that allows coaches to pull a scholarship offer at the last minute. Or cut a player from the team, even if he’s injured. Louisville will pay for Kevin Ware’s medical bills now (and profit off his injury) but will it be there when he’s 30 and needs another surgery?

This is a culture that locks UConn out of the NCAA tournament for falling short of academic standards, yet didn’t mind sending UConn away from the classroom for three weeks (D.C., L.A. and Houston) during its 2011 NCAA tournament run.

This is a culture that walls off players from the student body because athletic departments need control over every meal, study hall and weight room session. Athletes are expected to devote 11 months a year to their sport and optional workouts are never really optional.

This is a culture that criticizes a recruit for holding a hat ceremony on Signing Day, but glorifies the assistant coach who sends him 300 text messages a week — what a “dynamic” recruiter!

And, of course, this is a culture in which an A.D. sees video of his million-dollar coach chucking basketballs at players and thinks a three-game suspension is sufficient. Why doesn’t the power forward cry foul? Because all it takes to turn his life upside down is for Mike Rice to pull his scholarship.

I’m not suggesting college athletics becomes the NBA or NFL. I don’t want labor disputes and pampered players demanding coaches get fired. What I am suggesting is we stop treating 20-year-olds (often future millionaires) like third-graders in P.E. Give them some freedom and respect. Treat them like the indispensable pieces of a multi-billion-dollar industry they are. Reform the culture that renders them voiceless.

It won’t fix every problem. But maybe coaches like Mike Rice will think twice before throwing another basketball.

* * *

>> A great suggestion from Steve (@even_steven) on Twitter: “Instead of East/West, the Big Ten should have Scandal/Non Scandal divisions. Last team left gets an automatic trip to B10 title game.”

I’m sure Mike Rice is exactly what Commissioner Delany had in mind when he invited Rutgers to his conference.

>> Chuck Fairbanks, who coached Oklahoma in the Game of the Century, died. One of his lasting legacies is installing OU’s wishbone offense in 1970.

>> Is Bret Bielema the SEC’s next Lane Kiffin? He sure talks like it.

>> Mark Mangino is back in the college game with a new perspective, writes Mitch Sherman.

>> A primer on the landmark lawsuit between Ed O’Bannon and the NCAA.

>> NCAA president Mark Emmert climbed the administrative ladder by dodging some serious scandals.

>> LA Times columnist T.J. Simers goes off on the Steve Alford hire, calling him a “dolt.” Very entertaining.

>> John Beilein is a descendant of the family that inspired Saving Private Ryan.

>> Rick Reilly writes a quality piece on Wichita State. Here’s another from ESPN on Malcolm Armstead.

>> Finally, we’re reaching the point on the calendar where we manufacture Nebraska football debates. It’s fun. It’s free. It passes the time between April and August. This morning, I got a question on Twitter asking me to compare Crouch and Martinez — Gimme Eric until Taylor learns to avoid the back-breaking turnover.

Let me pose a broader question, though, a timely topic as Martinez prepares for his senior year.

What’s the greatest individual quarterback season in NU history?

I invite your thoughts, via email, Twitter or in the comments section. I’ll revisit the topic in Friday’s Chatter. Thanks for reading.

About Dirk Chatelain

Dirk Chatelain is a staff writer for The Omaha World-Herald and covers Nebraska football and general assignments. You can follow Dirk on Twitter (@dirkchatelain) or email him at dchatelain@owh.com