Because of the overwhelming negative reaction to a story about Rutgers men’s basketball coach Mike Rice physically and verbally abusing his players that aired Tuesday, the school’s athletic director is considering firing the coach.
Rice had been suspended for three games and fined $50,000 last December when video of him throwing a basketball at a player’s head, calling a player a homophobic slur and what appears to be kicking a player came to light last year.
One video from Rice’s practices was first made public Tuesday on ESPN’s “Outside The Lines.” The video shown showed Rice abusing his players in a number of ways.
Tim Pernetti, the Rutgers athletics director, said Tuesday he investigated incidents last year and he spent hundreds of hours talking people around the program. He said the length of the Dec. 13 suspension and the fine — which were approved by school president Robert Barchi — was appropriate because it was Rice’s first offense.
“Honestly, we’ve dealt with this issue,” Pernetti said Tuesday. “When I became aware of this in November, within 24 hours we had the investigation underway. 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.”
However, after the ESPN program aired, Rice was criticized by on social media by people ranging from New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie to NBA star LeBron James. In response, Pernetti is reconsidering Rice’s future at the school.
“I think now that (the videotape) is out there — we knew it was going to get out there,” Pernetti said to WFAN-AM radio. “The reaction — we knew what it was going to be. I need to sit here and think about what gives us the ability to be effective going forward in men’s basketball, and more importantly, what protects the university.
“There’s a lot of things on my mind right now that I’m thinking through and trying to make sure that whatever decisions I make on a going-forward basis, that we try to make the right one.”
Eric Murdock, a former director of basketball development at Rutgers, complained to Pernetti about Rice’s actions. His contract was not renewed last year.
“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.” Murdock said.
“Yeah, I was in total shock that this guy wasn’t fired.”
Murdock said three players had since transferred because of the abuse, which was documented on videos from 2010-12.
Murdock, 44, who is a former Rutgers player, intends to sue the school for wrongful termination, according to his attorney, Raj Gadhok.
“Mr. Murdock was terminated for having complained of and reported illegal conduct by Mike Rice,” Gadhok said. “As a result, his employment was terminated by Rutgers University. That is unlawful in the state of New Jersey and Eric intends to pursue legal action for his wrongful termination, which the university and its representatives have been aware of for some time now. We have no further comment at this time.”