04/03/2013 08:50 pm ET Updated Jun 03, 2013

Coach Mike Rice Is Fired But Damage Is Already Done To Players

Rutgers University basketball coach Mike Rice is finally paying the price for physically and verbally abusing his players, but sadly his young team members will carry lasting scars.

Mike Rice, 44, issued a tearful apology after being fired today, April 3, for hitting, shouting, throwing balls at his players and screaming at them using homophobic slurs. It was completely unacceptable and abusive behavior.

Rutgers Fires Mike Rice For Abusive Behavior

Mike Rice was a bully. And luckily for his team members, his behavior was all caught on tape and exposed to the world. Rutgers officials knew about the abuse since Nov. 2012 but they only took major action after widespread public exposure and condemnation. It took a public outcry for Rice, who had led the team since spring 2010, to finally loose his job.

Unfortunately, it's the young athletes who bore the brunt of his bullying, who will continue to suffer from his abuse, long after he is gone. Rice, after all, should have been an inspiring role model for his players. Coaches often develop very close relationships with their players: it's not unusual for college players to think of their coach as a surrogate father.

That's what makes this situation, especially sad. Instead of being trained, inspired and motivated to be the best that they could be, they were abused by their coach in a way that could be deeply damaging to their self esteem.

"These college kids were being put down at an age when their self esteem is already shaky. They need people supporting them, building them up and not tearing them down," explains celebrity relationship expert Dr. Gilda Carle, The 30 Second Therapist at "This could have far-reaching affects. The experience could really erode their confidence and that's not what parents send their kids to college for."

And it's certainly not why student athletes play sports. Rutgers University basketball players were on the team, of course, to improve their skills and lead their college to victory.

Rutgers Basketball Players Needed Motivation, Not Derision

What they needed was constructive instruction and criticism, and positive motivation. Not to be pummeled by basketballs thrown at their bodies and heads, by the coach they should have admired and trusted.

"Bullying can cause anxiety issues as well,"adds psychologist Dr. Jeff Gardere, assistant professor at Touro Medical School in NYC. "These players would never have known when the coach would go off on them, and that could make them anxious," he says.

Guilt could be another issue for some of the players. "They may feel that they didnt do enough to stand up to the coach, or on the other hand, they may feel badly if they complained about him and now he has lost his job," says Dr, Gardere.

Coach Mike Rice acknowledged in an emotional press conference that he let so many people down, including his players, and that he is "deeply sorry for the pain and the hardship I've caused," and I'm sure he's sincere.

But he has to realize that he's leaving a legacy of much-needed therapy for some of these players. And he has to also recognize that some of them may mistakenly emulate his negative behavior.

Who Will Pick Up The Broken Pieces?

"These are such formative years for his players and if he was their role model, they may end up inadvertently copying his behavior," warns Dr. Gilda.

In any case, Rutgers needs to set up some team meetings with a trained counselor who can talk to them in a supportive way, about what they experienced. "The school needs to help the players process what happened," suggests Dr. Gardere.

Team members' parents also need to talk with their sons, and see if they are grappling with issues of anxiety, self esteem or even depression, following this intensely negative experience.

As Mike Rice said himself on April 3, "I clearly did not treat those outstanding young men, with whom I have worked for so long and known so well, with the respect they deserve."

No, he did not. And now his basketball team players are paying the price.

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