Rutgers said it would reconsider its decision to retain basketball coach Mike Rice after a videotape aired showing him shoving, grabbing...
NEWARK, N.J. — Rutgers said it would reconsider its decision to retain basketball coach Mike Rice after a videotape aired showing him shoving, grabbing and throwing balls at players in practice and using gay slurs.
The videotape, broadcast Tuesday on ESPN, prompted scores of outraged social media comments as well as sharp criticism from Gov. Chris Christie and NBA star LeBron James.
Athletic director Tim Pernetti was given a copy of the video in late November by a former employee. He suspended Rice for three games a month later, fined him $50,000 and ordered him to attend anger management classes.
In an interview with WFAN Radio, Pernetti said university president Robert Barchi also viewed the tape last fall and agreed with the punishment.
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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.”
The video was compiled by Eric Murdock, a former Rutgers director of player personnel. Murdock’s lawyer, Raj Gadhok, said Murdock reported Rice’s actions last summer, and later was told his contract would not be renewed. In November, Gadhok said, Murdock presented the video, which is said to be about 30 minutes in length, to Pernetti and other Rutgers officials.
By Dec. 13, Pernetti concluded his investigation and issued Rice’s punishment. After the season, in which Rutgers finished 15-16, Pernetti publicly backed Rice, and he reiterated Tuesday to reporters that Rice would not be fired, barring any further incident.
Murdock said he planned to sue Rutgers for wrongful termination. Gadhok said that before Murdock reported Rice’s actions, he had been told his contract would be renewed.
The footage, apparently, was not supposed to be shown on ESPN until Sunday, but when word leaked, Rutgers showed it first to a group of reporters Tuesday. After the viewing, Pernetti told the reporters that the gay slur was “at the core” of Rice’s suspension in December. The physical contact, though, shocked many.
Rice, who was hired by Pernetti three years ago, is 44-51 at Rutgers, including 16-38 in the Big East.
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. “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 … I made that decision. I am accountable for it. I have to live with it.”
Rice’s contract states that he can be terminated without compensation for, among other things, willful misconduct, acts of moral turpitude and conduct tending to bring shame or disgrace to the university as determined in good faith by the athletic director.
“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 told WFAN.