NEW YORK (CBSNewYork) — Rutgers has fired Mike Rice after a video showing the basketball coach verbally and physically abusing his players caused a public outcry.
On Tuesday, ESPN’s “Outside the Lines” aired footage of Rice shoving, grabbing and throwing balls at players and yelling gay slurs at them during practice.
In the clips, Rice was seen heaving a basketball at a player’s head and kicking another.
Rice made no attempt Wednesday to excuse or explain the videotaped behavior that led to his downfall.
“I’ve let so many people down,” Rice told CBS 2’s Tony Aiello. “My players, my administration, Rutgers University, the fans … my family, sitting in the house, just huddled around because of the fact their father is an embarrassment to them.
“It’s troubling, but at some time maybe I’ll try to explain it. But right now there’s no explanation for what’s on those films. There is no excuse for it. I was wrong. I want to tell everybody who’s believed in me that I’m deeply sorry for the pain and hardship that I’ve caused.”
The Rutgers athletic department tweeted the termination on Wednesday.
“Based upon recently revealed information and a review of previously discovered issues, Rutgers has terminated the contract of Mike Rice,” the school said.
The video wasn’t a surprise to Scarlet Knights athletic director Tim Pernetti, who suspended Rice for three games and fined him approximately $75,000 in December after watching the tape. Upon returning to the program following his suspension, the university had the 44-year-old Rice take part in sensitivity training.
“In the end I am not going to look back and say shoulda, woulda,” Pernetti told WFAN radio on Tuesday. “All I can do is figure out going forward the decisions I can make to fix the problem for Rutgers.”
Pernetti said Rutgers president Robert Barchi agreed with the punishment in 2012.
“I spent more time with that option on whether we should fire Mike or not than any other option,” Pernetti told WFAN.
On Wednesday, Barchi said Rice’s “abusive language and actions are deeply offensive and egregiously violate the university’s core values.”
“I personally reviewed the video evidence, which shows a chronic and pervasive pattern of disturbing behavior,” Barchi said in a statement. “I have now reached the conclusion that Coach Rice cannot continue to serve effectively in a position that demands the highest levels of leadership, responsibility and public accountability. He cannot continue to coach at Rutgers University.”
Current players refused to weigh in as they left their dorm rooms on campus, saying, “no comment.”
But in his personal blog, “Kuhn’s Corner,” former Rutgers basketball player Mike Kuhn gave readers insight to the tension that existed on the Scarlet Knights’ team for the 2011-12 season, CBS 2’s Otis Livingston reported.
“First, as many of you know, Coach Rice gets mad, really mad. As players, we pray that he slept well the night before and there was minimal traffic in the morning so we don’t have to run suicides for every turnover committed in practice,” Kuhn wrote.
Kuhn went on to allude to a specific game.
“After a miserable first half and trailing by three to Sacred Heart, we knew we were in for a ‘special’ halftime speech. As he came in and began his normal tirade that consists of calling us cowards and weak-minded individuals, he unintentionally smacked the Gatorade cups straight into our trainer Eric Bridenbaugh’s face,” Kuhn wrote.
Rice addressed reporters after his dismissal from his home in Little Silver, N.J.
“As I stated three months ago after I watched the video how deeply regrettable those actions (were). I also stated I was going to try to work on changing. I think I’ve accomplished a lot of that,” he said. “I can’t say anything right now except I’m sorry and there will never be a time where I’m going to use any of that as an excuse or there will be any excuse.”
Eric Murdock, the former director of player development at Rutgers who put together the video, told ESPN the coach’s actions led some players to transfer.
Gay slurs and physical treatment seen from Rice in the tape prompted an outcry, led by New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie.
“This was a regrettable episode for the University, but I completely support the decision to remove Coach Rice. It was the right and necessary action to take in light of the conduct displayed on the videotape,” Christie said in a statement. “Parents entrust their sons to the Rutgers Athletic Department and the men’s basketball program at an incredibly formative period of their lives. The way these young men were treated by the head coach was completely unacceptable and violates the trust those parents put in Rutgers University. All of the student-athletes entrusted to our care deserve much better.
“As we move on from this incident, I am very optimistic that Rutgers will select a new head coach who not only puts a winning team on the court, but will make everyone proud of the example he sets every day for the young men in his charge.”
New Jersey gay rights group Garden State Equality is demanding a full investigation into how the Rice case was handled.
“Rutgers has a duty to the state to be a leader to fight bullying, harassment and intimidation and in my opinion they’ve abdicated in that duty at this point and need to address it directly,” spokesman Troy Stevenson said.
Assembly Speaker Sheila Oliver called for a “complete and thorough review” of the school’s initial decision to retain Rice. The sentiment was echoed by Assemblyman Reed Gusciora.
“I am responsible for the decision to attempt a rehabilitation of Coach Rice,” Pernetti said in a statement. “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.”
Many on campus question Pernetti’s judgment.
“I’m kind of confused why they’re doing it now because it got out. They should have done it a while ago,” student Tara Kirk told CBS 2’s Aiello.
“It’s really — the audacity of his character — is mind-blowing. I really have no words for it,” student Jack Fanburg added.
But at least one former player on the Rutgers practice squad defended Rice, saying he believes the tapes of Rice’s antics were edited negatively.
“If this was, like, any program in the country, and you go through hours of footage, like, you are going to find things in a two-minute video, and it will look bad,” said Rutgers athlete Sean Donovan.
Another player from Rice’s former school, Robert Morris University outside Pittsburgh, defended Rice and called him passionate, CBS 2’s Derricke Dennis reported.
“I was in the trenches with him here at Rice for three years. I know what it is, I know how it is, and then again, I know how he is off the court,” said Jimmy Langhurst. “He’s the first one to pat you in the butt and tell you ‘good job’ you know, get after it again, that’s just how it is.”
But those athletes’ sentiment was not shared by one family whose openly gay son went to Rutgers and ended up taking his own life in an unrelated incident.
Joseph and Jane Clementi, the parents of the late Rutgers University student Tyler Clementi, issued the following statement Wednesday:
“The Tyler Clementi Foundation, led by the family of former Rutgers student Tyler Clementi, applauds Rutgers University for taking decisive action by dismissing Coach Rice. All students require safe environments to learn and reach their full potential, and Coach Rice’s conduct has no place on a campus that is devoted to learning and fostering a sense of community. We know Rutgers is such a place, and, like all colleges and universities, it must not tolerate that kind of behavior.
“Since Tyler’s death, Rutgers leadership has partnered with our foundation and our family to create protocols that ensure a safe and healthy environment for all members of the university community, including the most vulnerable. As part of its commitment Rutgers opened The Tyler Clementi Center at Rutgers University earlier this year in partnership with The Tyler Clementi Foundation. We look forward to growing this partnership with Rutgers University for years to come to ensure that all students and leaders treat their peers with respect and dignity.”
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.
Are you satisfied, or does there need to be action taken against Pernetti, too? Be heard in the comments…