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April 3, 2013

Disturbing Video: Despite gay slurs and assaults on players, Rice still coaching at Rutgers

NEWARK, N.J. — Rutgers said it would reconsider its decision to retain basketball coach Mike Rice after video footage aired showing him shoving, grabbing and throwing balls at players during practice and yelling gay slurs at them.

The video prompted sharp criticism from Gov. Chris Christie and NBA star LeBron James. The head of the New Jersey Assembly called for Rice to be fired.

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.

In an interview with WFAN Radio in New York on Tuesday, Pernetti said university president Robert Barchi also viewed the tape last fall and agreed with the punishment.

Rice, a Boardman High grad and former coach at Robert Morris University, did not return phone calls left by the AP.

But ESPN's broadcast prompted an outcry, led by the governor himself.

"Governor Christie saw the video today for the first time and he is obviously deeply disturbed by the conduct displayed and strongly condemns this behavior," spokesman Michael Drewniak said. "It's not the type of leadership we should be showing our young people and clearly there are questions about this behavior that need to be answered by the leaders at Rutgers University."

The Miami Heat's James weighed in on Twitter: “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!”

The video shows numerous clips of Rice at practice firing basketballs at players, hitting them in the back, legs, feet and shoulders. Rice was also shown pushing players in the chest and grabbing them by their jerseys and yanking them around the court. Rice could be heard screaming obscenities and gay slurs at players.

Assembly Speaker Sheila Oliver called Rice's conduct "unacceptable not only at our state university, but in all circumstances. It is offensive and unbecoming of our state."

"Mike Rice should no longer be employed by Rutgers University," Oliver said. "He must go. Meanwhile, the decision not to dismiss him last year needs a complete and thorough review."

Assemblyman Reed Gusciora called Rice's conduct indefensible, and said he should have been fired in December, after the tape was given to Pernetti.

Rice, who was hired by Pernetti three years ago, is 44-51 at Rutgers, including 16-38 in the Big East, after going 73-31 in three seasons at Robert Morris. The Scarlet Knights went 15-16 this season and 5-13 in the Big East.

"You have to be always cautious about public reaction, because the reaction the public is having is the same I had when I saw it (the film)," Pernetti told the radio station. "I am factoring everything into what we do going forward. I don't want to put any negatively on the university when we have a lot of real good things going on."

Pernetti said his decision to only suspend Rice was made in part because the coach was remorseful and admitted he made mistakes. Pernetti said Rice also worked hard to improve himself with the counseling.

Pernetti said about 60 percent of the incidents happened in Rice's first season. He also was upset with Rice using a certain gay slur at a university where student Tyler Clementi took his own life after a roommate used a webcam to see him kissing a man.

"I would tell you that that word was at the core of the suspension," Pernetti said. "It absolutely concerns me. It's not acceptable."

 

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