It’s getting to the point where every time I see the word “bully,” the hairs on the back of my neck stick up.


Because, while I concede bullying has always been with us, is it necessarily to the extent of being at "epidemic levels" that we’ve been hearing so much about lately.

Former Rutgers basketball coach Mike Rice “bullying” his players.
Richie Incognito “bullying” Jonathan Martin.
And now Rutgers Defensive Coach Dave Cohen calling Scarlet Knights cornerback Jevon Tyree obscenities and threatening him with physical violence.

Is there an inherent strain of bullying running rampant through sports in general? Are we just more sensitive to it? Or, are today’s athletes more sensitive (read: “softer”) than their predecessors?

Rutgers is protecting another bullying coach, according to a former football player and his parents.

Defensive back Jevon Tyree and his parents, Mark and Clarice, have sought disciplinary action against defensive coordinator Dave Cohen, who during a spring study hall session, got in Tyree's face, called him a "pussy" and a "bitch" and threatened to head-butt him, the Tyrees told

The incident -- which Jevon Tyree said occurred in April with the Rice fallout still fresh -- happened in front of approximately 10 teammates and a tutor, Jevon Tyree said, and it led to the 19-year-old's escalating ostracization, eventually driving him to quit.

Clarice Tyree called it "an outright bullying episode," and Mark Tyree said the behavior soon "transferred to the other coaches."

Jevon Tyree, a redshirt freshman on scholarship, said that after the frightening incident, his standing on the team plummeted, along with practice repetitions and any shot at playing time. He said there were team meetings from which he was excluded.

Eventually, after coaches used a wide receiver instead of him in the injury-decimated secondary during a game this month, Tyree quit.

Flood, speaking after Rutgers practiced Sunday evening in preparation for this Thursday’s game at Central Florida, said, “We certainly would honor the scholarship through the spring semester and allow him to continue toward graduation. And, the release part, we would release him to any school that he has an interest in. We do that (by) the other schools request the release and we send it back signed school by school. But we wouldn’t limit him in any way.”

Rutgers released a statement Friday acknowledging the use of some inappropriate language but refuting the threat of physical violence. It also said that Cohen “apologized the next day for his participation in the escalation of banter.” Clarice qualified it as an “escalated verbal assault” on SportsCenter and said Cohen made no apology until after the family initiated a September meeting with the coach.

As bullying continues to be a high-profile topic – particularly in New Jersey and at Rutgers – Chairwoman of the State Assembly Higher Education Committee Celeste M. Riley spoke in broad terms to New Jersey Press Media on how bullying should be handled, using protocol at the school where she works as a teacher as an example.

Riley said it doesn’t matter if the bullying took place in study hall or on the field, saying that bullying is less a matter of what was said or where it was said and more about the effect it has on the alleged victim.

“You don’t know how people are going to react,” Riley said. “It is how the person who is being bullied is feeling. Everyone reacts differently. If you and I have a normal banter back and forth and you don’t consider it bullying and I call you names and you call me names back, that’s our banter. But if it’s coming from somebody who I’ve never allowed that to happen (with) it’s completely different.”

So what to make of it?

Is there an epidemic of “bullying” throughout sports and society in general?

Is this next generation of athletes a bunch of crybabies?

Or is the media hyping the issue, trying to find a “bully under every rock!”

In the wake of the Mike Rice affair, I’d been told by one local high school basketball coach that even the most revered coaches have used tactics not too dissimilar to what Cohen is alleged to have done. We'd only seen the results (read: wins!)

So do we really have coaches gone wild, or athletes who just aren’t tough enough?