PITTSBURGH (KDKA/AP) – Rutgers has fired basketball coach Mike Rice after a videotape aired showing him shoving, grabbing and throwing balls at players and using gay slurs during practice.
The videotape, broadcast Tuesday on ESPN, has prompted scores of outraged social media comments as well as sharp criticism from Gov. Chris Christie. The head of the New Jersey Assembly called for Rice to be fired.
Rice is a former head coach at Robert Morris University. 93-7 The Fan’s Colin Dunlap reported earlier Wednesday morning that officials were meeting with Rice, and that he would be fired.
With mounting criticism on a state and national level, the school decided to take action on Wednesday, relieving Rice of his duties after three largely unsuccessful seasons at the Big East school. There will be a national search to replace him.
Rutgers athletic director Tim Pernetti was given a copy of the video in November. After hiring independent investigators to analyze the tape, he suspended Rice for three games and fined him $50,000.
In an interview with WFAN Radio on Tuesday, Pernetti said university president Robert Barchi also viewed the tape last fall and agreed with the punishment.
But ESPN’s broadcast prompted an outcry, led by the governor himself.
“Governor Christie saw the video today for the first time and he is obviously deeply disturbed by the conduct displayed and strongly condemns this behavior,” spokesman Michael Drewniak said. “It’s not the type of leadership we should be showing our young people and clearly there are questions about this behavior that need to be answered by the leaders at Rutgers University.”
The Miami Heat’s James weighed in with a tweet: “If my son played for Rutgers or a coach like that he would have some real explaining to do and I’m still gone whoop on him afterwards! C’mon.”
Rice, who was hired by Pernetti three years ago, is 44-51 at Rutgers, including 16-38 in the Big East, after going 73-31 in three seasons at Robert Morris. The Scarlet Knights went 15-16 this season and 5-13 in the Big East.
KDKA asked Robert Morris University for a comment on Rice’s firing at Rutgers, but they referred us to a statement that reads:
“Coach Rice’s tenure at RMU was successful. He is obviously an intense coach, and his passion for the game was mirrored by our student-athletes on the court. The behavior on the video is quite unfortunate, but it is not indicative of Coach Rice during his tenure at RMU.”
Jimmy Langhurst, who played for three seasons under Rice at RMU, backed that up saying Rice’s actions that crossed the line at Rutgers, did not take place at Robert Morris.
“Nope, absolutely not,” said Langhurst. “It’s not good what happened there; but I mean, as far as my three years with him here, it was fantastic. I have nothing bad to say about the guy.”
Meanwhile, Pernetti told WFAN that he understands why many are asking why Rice wasn’t fired after the initial investigation.
“I spent more time with that option on whether we should fire Mike or not than any other option,” Pernetti said. “At the same the results of the investigation where we ended up, the determination was made to suspend him. My biggest concern as the AD is that I am always trying to protect the interests and reputation of the university and that’s what makes this one so difficult. There is a lot of hindsight, 20-20, …. that there will be no other option than to terminate Mike. I made that decision. I am accountable for it. I have to live with it.”
Rice was Pernetti’s first major hire after getting the AD’s job.
“In the end I am not going to look back and say shoulda, woulda. All I can do is figure out going forward the decisions I can make to fix the problem for Rutgers,” Pernetti he told the radio station.
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