Richlands High School girls basketball coach Tom Rife is under investigation after an altercation with a spectator during a game last week. Rife was captured on video jumping over the team’s bench and lunging at a male spectator during the final seconds of the Lady Blue Tornadoes’ Region 2D girls basketball tournament 54-51 loss to Wise Central.
“We are aware of the incident at the RHS girls basketball game and while we do not condone any misconduct from our coaches or spectators at this time we are still investigating the actions of all parties involved,” superintendent Dr. Christopher Stacy said in a statement posted to Twitter on Friday, Feb. 24.
Why Did Rife Go After A Fan?
It is unclear what prompted Rife to rush into the stands and go at the spectator. But the coach appeared to be very angry as he grabbed the spectator by the collar and shoved him repeatedly. At one point, Rife waved his arm, appearing to call others over to the scene. The coach and spectator seemingly exchanged words before several people, including a security guard, who eventually intervened and separated the two.
According to the Bluefield Daily Telegraph, the investigation will be conducted by Stacy, deputy superintendent Diedra Hill, Richlands High School principal Rickie Vencill and Richlands athletic director Frank Daugherty.
Rife coached girls and boys basketball at Richlands from the late 1970s through 2005, and also previously served as athletic director at the school. He took over as head coach of the Richlands girls basketball program this year, after acting head coach Aaron Lowe was suddenly dismissed in August following seven seasons coaching the team.
Videos of the incident have circulated on social media, leading to all types of reactions.
Violence In Youth Sports
Another day, another adult in charge of the welfare of children setting a poor example.
Rife’s behavior is also an example of who we are as a broader society. The inability of grown men and women to solve conflicts without resorting to violence is problematic. Young people see this and they think that’s the way they’re supposed to act.
No matter what, if anything, was said by the spectator, Rife has to know better. There was a security guard present. As a head coach of the team, he has certain credibility and authority that is expected. How difficult would it have been to go to the official, advise what happened and let the security guard know?
Most high school sporting events have rules about conduct. If Rife felt as though those rules were being violated, he had many options to have it taken care of — without having to charge into the stands.
Rife has long-standing ties to the school and community; it will be curious to see how this investigation unfolds. Who were the spectators immediately next to the man that Rife went after? What did they hear and/or see? Will any of the players on Rife’s team be questioned about what they saw and heard?
An adult behaving like this at a high-school sporting event is just gross. Rife’s actions also overshadowed his team’s terrific season, despite their tournament loss. Richlands finished 22-2, making for their best record since 2013.