NEW YORK (CBSNewYork) — Rutgers men’s basketball coach Mike Rice is in some hot water.
And that might be the understatement of the month.
Rutgers said late Tuesday it would reconsider its decision to retain Rice after a videotape aired showing him shoving, grabbing and throwing balls at players and using gay slurs during practice.
Rice was suspended for three games without pay and fined $50,000 in December for behaving inappropriately and using language that the university deemed offensive.
Rice’s actions were caught on tape, and ESPN’s “Outside the Lines” aired the footage on Tuesday.
The video immediately garnered national attention, as Rice is seen both physically and verbally abusing his players. The head coach included gay slurs in his rants — he allegedly called the players “f***ing f***ot” and “f***ing fairy” — and even threw basketballs at his players.
Some footage showed Rice heaving a basketball at a player’s head and kicking another.
And now, questions have arisen over the apparent slap on the wrist for the coach.
Eric Murdock, who was previously the director of player development for the program, said that Rice’s actions led multiple players to transfer.
“To witness that video and see your coach physically putting his hands on players, physically kicking players, firing balls at players at point-blank range, the verbal abuse, the belittling … Yeah, I was in total shock that this guy wasn’t fired,” Murdock said on the “Outside the Lines” segment on ESPN.
Murdock claimed on ESPN that he shared the concerns he had with the athletic administration. Athletic director Tim Pernetti told WFAN host Mike Francesa earlier on Tuesday that Murdock never came to speak to him about any concerns that he had, nor did any player.
At the time of the incident, Rutgers said that Rice’s behavior was “a violation of athletic department policy.” Pernetti even admitted that there was a “pattern” of such instances.
The coach’s suspension cost him nearly $75,000, according to The Star-Ledger.
“It’s a pattern, I think I would say,” Pernetti said after Rice’s suspension was announced in December. “But certainly something (like) that, once we were made aware of it, (we) deal with it in a very proactive manner.”
The AD informed The Star-Ledger last month that despite the controversy surrounding the coach, Rice would return as the head coach for the 2013-2014 campaign.
“Of course he’s coming back,” Pernetti said. “It’s been an interesting year to say the least. I think in one case some of the progress — and there’s been a lot of progress — doesn’t show, and that’s in the win-loss column. I would like it to show there. I think everyone in the program would. I know Mike and the players would. But you can definitely see us getting better.”
However, ESPN’s broadcast prompted an outcry, led by Gov. Chris Christie, 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.”
LeBron James of the Miami Heat also issued a tweet about Rice’s conduct: “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.”
Meanwhile, the New Jersey gay rights group Garden State Equality said the sanctions taken against Rice are insufficient.
“The pattern of behavior in this video is deplorable, inexcusable, in direct violation of the state’s anti-bullying laws, and it’s indefensible that Rutgers hasn’t fired Coach Rice as a result. Further, why did the university wait months to disclose this disturbing footage?” Garden State Equality executive director Troy Stevenson said in a statement. “The apology and fine issued do not go nearly far enough.”
Students were shocked at Rice’s actions, CBS 2’s Derricke Dennis reported.
“I thought it was like shocking,” said one woman, Shanice. “I didn’t know the coach was doing that.”
“It’s really unfortunate,” added Sabatian Kowark. “It’s really disappointing that its happening at my school.”
“I saw the video, I think it was a disgrace, especially if you want them to play hard for you,” said Jesse Magliulo. “It shouldn’t happen, and he should be fired.”
“It’s kind of sad, a big school like this, in the heart of New Jersey,” said Zachary Zimmerlink. “It’s sad, because we have potential to be a great team, but things like that take away from it.”
The Scarlet Knights went 15-16 this past season and 5-13 in conference play. Since coming to New Brunswick in 2010, Rice has gone 44-51 overall and 17-39 in Big East play.
“Honestly, we’ve dealt with this issue,” Pernetti told reporters earlier on Tuesday. “When I became aware of this in November, within 24 hours we had the investigation under way. Now I became aware of it in a meeting. I took the DVD with me. I met with Mike later in the day. We started the investigation. Within that two-week period we made the determination on what we were going to do. I would tell you that all options were on the table at that time.
“Look, there’s going to be backlash anytime you deal with a situation like this. I think that Mike is in the most difficult position of anybody because he is the focal point of the story. But I don’t think we could’ve spent any more time investigating the matter than we did. What I did ask the investigators to do was investigate, but not make a recommendation on sanctions.
“I made that decision on my own. Once we had come to a conclusion I met with the investigators and asked them for input on the penalty. And they felt very much that it was in line with what was discovered over the course of the investigation.”
Upon returning to the program following his suspension, the university had the 44-year-old take part in sensitivity training.
“I did this to myself,” Rice said when he returned to the team on Dec. 29. “There’s no one else to blame. So if someone thinks negatively of me, all I can try to do is try to change that … It’s by my actions. It’s about what I do daily with practice and what I do daily with my team. That’s truly what’s going to count.”
So, quite simply, what’s in store for Rice going forward? Will Pernetti decide to let the embattled coach go or will he stick with him?
His point of view seemed to change as Tuesday went on.
“You have to always be cautious about public reaction, because the reaction that the public is having — to some extent — was the same reaction that I had when I saw (the video),” Pernetti told Francesa. “But I’m factoring everything into what we do going forward.
“The most important thing I’m factoring in is trying to make sure that we don’t do harm to Rutgers University, because we’re a small slice of the pie here at this great place, and I don’t want to put any negativity on the university in a time where we have a lot of really good things going on.”
But Pernetti’s perspective changed in a later interview with CBS 2’s Otis Livingston, when he said in retrospect, the suspension and fine were indeed inadequate.
“The determination we made was to suspend him. I’m always trying to protect the interests and the reputation of the university,” Pernetti said. “Hindsight, 20/20, will be that there was no other option but to terminate mike. I made that decision, I’m accountable for it, I have to live with that.”
Should Rice immediately be fired for his actions? Should Pernetti be fired for not doing enough to protect his players? Sound off with your thoughts and comments below…