A video released Tuesday shows why, exactly, Rutgers men’s basketball coach Mike Rice, center, was suspended three games last year. He’s seen throwing a basketball at a player’s head, calling a player a homophobic slur and what appears to be kicking a player.
Rutgers University men’s basketball coach Mike Rice was fired Wednesday, one day after video footage surfaced showing him abusing players at practice.
“I can’t say anything right now except I’m sorry I let everyone down,” Rice told ABC-TV from his home upon returning from a meeting with school officials on campus early Wednesday.
Rutgers senior athletic director of communications Jason Baum confirmed Rice was fired. Players were informed in the early morning hours Wednesday that Rice wouldn’t return.
“Based upon recently revealed information and a review of previously discovered issues, Rutgers has terminated the contract of Mike Rice,” the statement read.
Rice has faced a tidal wave of harsh negativity from the general public all the way to New Jersey governor Chris Christie and NBA stars LeBron James and Kobe Bryant, after ESPN aired a video Tuesday in which Rice is displayed physically and verbally abusing players in multiple practices.
Christie said through a spokesman Tuesday that he was “deeply disturbed by the conduct displayed and strongly condemns this behavior,” after watching the video for the first time. He released a statement Wednesday applauding Rutgers’ action.
“As we move on from this, I’m very optimistic that (Rutgers) will select a new head coach who not only puts a winning team on the court, but will make everyone proud of the example he sets every day for the young men in his charge,” the statement read.
The abuse claims weren’t news to athletic director Tim Pernetti, who hired Rice.
Rice was suspended for three games and fined $50,000 last December when video of him throwing a basketball at a player’s head, using derogatory slurs and what appears to be kicking a player came to light.
One video from Rice’s practices was first made public Tuesday on “Outside The Lines.” Rice abused his players in a number of ways on the extensive video.
Pernetti said Tuesday he investigated incidents last year and he spent hundreds of hours talking to people around the program to determine an appropriate course of action. 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.”
After Tuesday’s ESPN program, 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.”
Big East Conference gets new name
The American Athletic Conference will be the new name for the former Big East Conference, ESPN reported, adding that the new name could become official as early as today.
The old Big East needed a new name when the Catholic 7 schools — DePaul, Georgetown, Marquette, Providence, Seton Hall, St. John’s and Villanova — kept the Big East name when it announced it was splitting apart and forming its new league.
Commissioner Mike Aresco had favored renaming the league the America 12 Conference, but league presidents felt it was important not to include a number in the name.
The American Athletic Conference will look nothing like the old Big East.
In addition to the Catholic 7’s departure, the league will lose Notre Dame, Pittsburgh and Syracuse to the ACC on July 1. In 2014, Louisville departs for the ACC and Rutgers heads to the Big Ten.
To offset those losses, the American Athletic Conference will add full members UCF, Houston, Memphis and SMU on July 1. On July 1, 2014, East Carolina, Tulane and Tulsa will join the AAC and Navy will join as a football-only member on July 1, 2015.
Pitino's son hired to coach at Minnesota
The Minnesota Golden Gophers have hired Richard Pitino as its next coach.
Pitino replaces Tubby Smith, who was fired last week after a loss to Florida in the round of 32.
The son of legendary college coach Rick Pitino was a former Louisville assistant who also has worked as an assistant at Florida and Providence.
He replaced Isiah Thomas at FIU and led the Golden Panthers to an 18-14 overall record, including 11-9 in the Sun Belt. They upset Middle Tennessee State in the conference tournament semifinals but lost the automatic NCAA berth to Western Kentucky.