Rutgers Fires Basketball Coach in Slur Video

Former coach Mike Rice said after his dismissal that he was wrong to treat his players the way he did

Wednesday, Apr 3, 2013  |  Updated 11:12 PM EDT
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Rutgers University fired basketball coach Mike Rice Wednesday amid backlash over a videotape that emerged showing him shoving players in practice and using anti-gay slurs.

Rice's dismissal comes after the video, broadcast Tuesday on ESPN, prompted outrage on social media and sharp criticism from Gov. Chris Christie, NBA star LeBron James and the families of former players.

In a statement Wednesday, Rice said, "I am deeply sorry for my inexcusable actions and language. I've let down so many people -- our players and their parents, the Rutgers community and fans, and my own family.

"I clearly did not treat these outstanding young men, with whom I have worked for so long and known so well, with the respect they deserve. I wish them and Rutgers the very best on their successes that lie ahead, as I continue to work on being a different kind of coach and a better man." 

Athletic director Tim Pernetti was given a copy of the video in late November by a former employee. He suspended Rice for three games a month later, fined him $50,000 and ordered him to attend anger management classes.

“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."

Rutgers University President Robert L. Barchi said he initially supported those disciplinary measures, but changed his mind.

"Yesterday, I personally reviewed the video evidence, which shows a chronic and pervasive pattern of disturbing behavior," Barchi said in 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." 

UPDATE: Faculty Urges Rutgers President to Resign

In a series of tweets, Christie said he supported the termination of Rice's contract, tweeting "It was the right & necessary action to take in light of the conduct displayed on the videotape."

On Tuesday, Pernetti defended the initial suspension of the coach, telling NBC 4 New York in a phone interview he thought the suspension and the fine were "harsher than you've seen in college basketball in recent memory." 

But ESPN's broadcast prompted an outcry among the public and some previously connected to the team. The parents of a former Rutgers athlete who played under Rice said they knew his coaching tactics were intense but didn't know how aggressive he was.

"We were aware things were intense but once you see the video, it triggers a little more reality that practices really were far beyond the intensity that I thought they were," Frank Mitchell Sr., whose son Frank played for the Scarlet Knights his freshman year, told NBC 4 New York.

In one of the videos broadcast by ESPN, Mitchell, in a No. 33 jersey, barely misses having a ball pelted at him by his coach.  

"Those things were never mentioned to me by my son when he would say practices were difficult," said his mother, Janet Mitchell. 

Another former player also seen in one of the videos defended Rice on the Rutgers campus Wednesday, saying he liked the coach and that "he had a certain style." 

"He was definitely demanding on his players, but at the same time I don't think he ever crossed the line," said Sean Bannon. 

But few other students spoke up for Rice.

"Way over the line," said sophomore Iyanosa Ogbervoen, a former high school athlete. "When you're throwing basketballs at an athlete's head, they don't want to go to practice."

"It's shocking, especially because there is zero tolerance for bullying, and seeing it from someone that should be a role model as a coach," said freshman Dakota Schrantz. 

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, was 44-51 at Rutgers, including 16-38 in the Big East, after going 73-31 in three seasons at Robert Morris University. The Scarlet Knights went 15-16 this season and 5-13 in the Big East. Rice was Pernetti's first major hire after getting the AD's job.

-- Brian Thompson, Bruce Beck and Brynn Gingras contributed to this report. 

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