Rutgers University fired basketball coach Mike Rice last week after a videotape surfaced showing him shoving, grabbing and throwing balls at players and using gay slurs during practice. The videotape, broadcast last Tuesday on ESPN’s “Outside the Lines,” prompted condemnation from many in professional sports.
With mounting criticism on a state and national level, the school relieved Rice of his duties after three largely unsuccessful seasons at the Big East school. There will be a national search to replace him. Rice, in a news conference outside his home, apologized “for the pain and hardship that I’ve caused.”
“There will never be a time when I use any of that as an excuse,” Rice said, referring to his efforts toward a change in behavior. “I’ve let so many people down. My players, my administration, Rutgers University, the fans. My family, who’s sitting in their house just huddled around because of the fact that their father was an embarrassment to them.”
A former employee gave Rutgers athletic director Tim Pernetti a copy of the video on Nov. 26, after a June meeting with Pernetti in which the former employee had initially described the behavior. Pernetti said that he investigated the allegations twice — once in June and then again in November. In the fall, Pernetti suspended Rice for three games, fined him $50,000 and ordered him to attend anger management classes.
In a Wednesday announcement of Rice’s firing, Rutgers referred to new information and “a review of previously discovered issues” as the reasons for Rice’s termination.”I am responsible for the decision to attempt a rehabilitation of Coach Rice,” Pernetti said. “Dismissal and corrective action were debated in December, and I thought it was in the best interest of everyone to rehabilitate, but I was wrong. Moving forward, I will work to regain the trust of the Rutgers community.”
Rice, who helped Robert Morris to two NCAA tournament appearances, was one of the hot coaching candidates in the spring of 2010. He interviewed with Fordham, where he played as a guard, only to not get the chance to return to his alma mater. Eventually there was a difference in opinion in the school’s search committee, and Rice’s fiery in-game behavior was a sticking point.
But Rutgers, and Pernetti, took a chance on him not long after that. The Scarlet Knights had an opening because of the unexpected dismissal of Fred Hill Jr., and Rice, who has strong New Jersey recruiting roots, seemed like a fit. But he wasn’t able to push Rutgers into the upper echelon of the Big East and went just 44-51 in three seasons. Rice posted a 16-38 mark in the conference 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. Rice’s compensation — he had two years left on a five-year contract — is still being discussed with attorneys, Rutgers said.
The video shows numerous clips of Rice at practice firing basketballs at players, hitting them in the back, legs, feet and shoulders. Rice was also shown pushing players in the chest and grabbing them by their jerseys and yanking them around the court. Rice could be heard yelling obscenities at players and using gay slurs.
After landing the position in 2010, Rice moved his family from Pittsburgh to Little Silver, N.J. He quickly became part of the fabric of that community, often attending church functions and youth games that his children played in. But on the practice floor, some 30 miles away, a different person surfaced.
Rice was the fourth Rutgers coach to have off-the-court issues affect, or ultimately end, his tenure. Fred Hill was let go in 2010 after an incident at a Rutgers baseball game, where he yelled at Pittsburgh coaches following the game and was told not to attend any more games. He subsequently went to a game. Hill’s father is the baseball coach at Rutgers.
Gary Waters, who resigned after the 2006 season, missed one of the team’s games that season when he left to attend a Hall of Fame ceremony at Kent State. A blizzard prevented him from returning for the team’s game against Marquette. The school said his resignation was unrelated.
And Kevin Bannon was fired in 2001 after a highly publicized incident where two players and a manager ran wind sprints in the nude after a 1997 free-throw shooting content. Bannon said no one was forced to remove their clothes or run. A lawsuit over the incident was dismissed.