Rutgers University has fired basketball coach Mike Rice, Jr., son of Portland Trail Blazers television color commentator Mike Rice, one day after ESPN's Outside The Lines published a story that included video footage that showed him verbally and physically abusing his players during practices. Rutgers initially suspended and fined Rice following an internal investigation in December, a decision that brought significant criticism over the last 24 hours.
Don Van Natta Jr. of ESPN.com published the explosive story on Tuesday. Note: references to explicit language and an intense video are included in that link.
In several dozen hours of video of Rutgers men's basketball practices obtained by "Outside the Lines," coach Mike Rice is seen hurling basketballs from close range at his players' heads, legs and feet; shoving and grabbing his players; feigning punching them; kicking them; and screaming obscenities and homophobic slurs.
The video shows practices from 2010-12. About 30 minutes of the video was viewed in December by athletic director Tim Pernetti, who suspended Rice for three games that month and fined him $50,000. But the incidents in the videos obtained by "Outside the Lines" appear to go beyond Pernetti's description at the time, when he cited "inappropriate behavior and language" between Rice and his players. When he announced the suspension on Dec. 13, Pernetti offered few specifics after conducting a week-long investigation.
ESPN.com reported the school's explanation for the firing on Wednesday.
A former employee gave Rutgers athletic director Tim Pernetti a copy of the video in late November. After hiring independent investigators to analyze the tape, Pernetti suspended Rice for three games, fined him $50,000 and ordered him to attend anger management classes. University president Robert Barchi saw the tape and signed off on the initial punishment.
But in a Wednesday email, 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."
CBSNews.com reported that Rice apologized on Wednesday.
Speaking Wednesday outside his home in Little Silver, Rice apologized and said he let down his players, Rutgers and its fans. He said he was an embarrassment to his family.
"There's no explanation for what's on this film because there is no excuse for it," Rice said. "I was wrong."Rice said he let down his players, Rutgers, its fans and his family.
He said his family was "sitting in their house just huddled around because of the fact that their father was an embarrassment to them."
"I want to tell everybody who has believed in me that I'm deeply sorry for the pain and the hardship that I've caused them," Rice said.
NJ.com reported that Rutgers president Robert Barchi issued this statement on Wednesday.
Coach Rice's abusive language and actions are deeply offensive and egregiously violate the university's core values.
When video excerpts of basketball practices were reviewed last fall by Athletic Director Tim Pernetti, he immediately notified me and sought the advice of internal and outside counsel. The university hired an independent investigator to look into this matter thoroughly. Based on the external investigator's findings and recommendations, Tim and I agreed that Coach Rice should be suspended, penalized $75,000 in fines and lost salary, ordered to undergo anger management counseling, and put on notice that his behavior would be closely monitored. Tim Pernetti also made it clear to Coach Rice that there would be zero tolerance for additional infractions. Tim kept me fully apprised and I supported his actions.
Yesterday, I personally reviewed the video evidence, which shows a chronic and pervasive pattern of disturbing behavior. 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. Therefore, Tim Pernetti and I have jointly decided to terminate Mike Rice's employment at Rutgers."
Mike Rice, Sr. issued a statement on Twitter Wednesday morning.
It's a difficult day,but I appreciate everyone's support and concern. I will not be discussing this further at this time. Thank you
Rice Jr. was hired by Rutgers in 2010 and amassed a 44-51 record in three seasons. He previously coached at Robert Morris.