In April 2013, Rutgers fired men’s basketball coach Mike Rice after ESPN aired video of him physically and verbally abusing his players during a practice.
The following season, Colorado State began investigating similar accusations against Larry Eustachy, its men’s basketball coach. The probe, which took 99 days to complete and involved interviews with 14 players and members of the basketball and athletic department staffs, found that Eustachy intimidated and emotionally abused his players and assistant coaches, hurling insults at his players and unopened soda cans at the walls.
Rice was fired one day after the video emerged. Eustachy is in his fifth season as the Rams’ coach, earning multiple raises even though his own athletic director recommended that he be fired for cause after the 2013-14 investigation, only to be shot down by the school’s president.
Rice’s abuse was captured on video while Eustachy’s was not, and the Colorado State investigation did not find that Eustachy physically abused his players. But it also isn’t hard to read between the lines: Rice compiled an average record of 15-17 in his three seasons at Rutgers. Eustachy, meanwhile, took the Rams to the NCAA tournament in his first season, only the third time they had gone dancing in 23 years. Two seasons later, they went 27-7. This season, they are 18-9 and atop the Mountain West standings.
Eustachy did not go unpunished. As a result of the investigation, which is detailed in this Coloradoan story, he was no longer allowed to be alone with his team, with either the athletic director or a member of his staff required to be at practices, meetings and games, including in the locker room. Eustachy also had to undergo six anger-management sessions, apologize to the team for his behavior and submit to zero-tolerance clauses in his contract, with any violations resulting in his termination for cause.
But Eustachy remained the team’s coach even though he freely admitted to everything he was accused of in a February 2014 meeting with then-Athletic Director Jack Graham, a meeting that was recounted to Eustachy in a letter from Graham one month later:
After the investigation was over, Graham recommended that Eustachy be fired. School President Tony Frank disagreed. In April 2014, around a year after the investigation’s completion, Frank fired Graham because of “substantial differences in our views,” saying the matter was a “personnel issue” not open for public discussion.
“I believed Eustachy should be terminated and believed we had the basis to terminate for cause,” Graham told the Coloradoan. “I was advised by Tony Frank that we did not have the basis to terminate for cause and that Eustachy was to be placed on a personal improvement plan.”
It was far from the first time Eustachy had found both success and trouble. In 2000 he led Iowa State to the Elite Eight, but three years later photos surfaced of him kissing young women while holding a beer during a college party at the University of Missouri, where the Cyclones had just lost to the Tigers. Eustachy resigned about a month after the photos were made public.
“I am deeply disappointed on a very personal level that someone chose to publicize confidential information from my personnel file,” Eustachy said in a statement released to the Coloradoan by the university. “That said, I fully recognize that I’m not perfect. I have my faults and strive every day to be better than I was yesterday.”
The Coloradoan notes that Eustachy received a $28,000 raise after the 2013-14 season — when the investigation took place — and has received 2 percent salary increases every year since plus three one-year contract extensions. He’ll get a $100,000 bonus if the Rams win this year’s Mountain West tournament and a $200,000 bonus for making the NCAA tournament. All this even though what he did was in essence no different than what Rice did at Rutgers, or what Mike Lonergan was found to have done after an investigation at George Washington, resulting in his dismissal soon after the Colonials’ run to the National Invitation Tournament title last season.
“If you dropped a camera inside the basketball program at CSU, you’d see Rutgers,” a Colorado State mental health services employee who dealt with student-athletes told the school’s investigators.