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Christie: Rice ‘Needed To Be Fired Immediately’

Chris Christie/file (Photo by John Moore/Getty Images)

Chris Christie/file (Photo by John Moore/Getty Images)

TRENTON, N.J. (CBSNewYork/AP) – Gov. Chris Christie on Monday defended Rutgers University President Robert Barchi’s handling of the scandal involving men’s basketball coach Mike Rice.

Christie answered questions Monday for the first time since Rice was fired and the athletic director Tim Pernetti resigned.

He said that ousting Barchi now would be a mistake for Rutgers and he praised the president for working quickly last week to fire Rice and get Pernetti to resign within days after he, and the public, first viewed a video of Rice’s behavior in practices from 2010 through last year.

“I do continue to have faith in him and it’s the body of his work before he came to Rutgers and since he’s come to Rutgers that gives me that confidence,” Christie said of Barchi. “There’s nothing that has happened or has come to light in the last number of days that changes that.”

But Christie said Rice should have been ousted last year when university officials, including Pernetti, a university lawyer who has since resigned and a member of the school’s board of governor’s first saw the video, if not sooner.

“They were wrong not to come to the conclusion that Coach Rice needed to be fired immediately,” Christie said. “When he [Barchi] knew the gravity of the situation, which is when he saw the video Tuesday night, he took decisive action from there.”

Christie said it was a mistake for Barchi, who took office in September, not to watch the video last year when he first was told about it.

“He should have looked at the videotape, but I do not believe not looking at the videotape was a fireable offense,” Christie said.

The governor added that had he been aware of the issues earlier he would have used his “power of persuasion” to try to get Rice fired then.

This all comes as Rutgers closes in a merger with UMDNJ.

“The university would be hurt drastically by the departure of Dr. Barchi,” said Christie.

(TM and © Copyright 2013 CBS Radio Inc. and its relevant subsidiaries. CBS RADIO and EYE Logo TM and Copyright 2013 CBS Broadcasting Inc. Used under license. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed. The Associated Press contributed to this report.)