Rutgers AD reviewing Rice's job in wake of video
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 New Jersey 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, a former Robert Morris coach (2007-10) and Pitt assistant (2006-07), for three games a month later, fined him $50,000 and ordered him to attend anger management classes.
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.
Pernetti said 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 said.
During his three seasons with RMU, he won three Northeast Conference regular-season titles. In 2007-08, the Colonials advanced to the NIT semifinals, and in the following two seasons, they earned a spot in the NCAA Tournament.
“Coach Rice's tenure at RMU was successful,” Robert Morris athletic director Craig Coleman said. “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.”