PISCATAWAY, N.J. – Once the video went viral, Mike Rice’s coaching days at Rutgers were over.
Now the question is whether anyone else will lose their jobs — including the athletic director who in December suspended and fined Rice for the abusive behavior, and the university president who signed off on it.
Rice was fired Wednesday, one day after a video surfaced of him hitting, shoving and berating his players with anti-gay slurs. The taunts were especially troubling behavior at Rutgers, where freshman Tyler Clementi killed himself in 2010 after his roommate used a webcam to spy on him kissing another man in his dorm.
It also came at an especially embarrassing time for the NCAA, with the country focused on the Final Four this weekend.
Rice, in his third season with the Scarlet Knights, apologized outside his home in Little Silver, N.J.
“I’ve let so many people down: my players, my administration, Rutgers University, the fans, my family, who’s sitting in their house just huddled around because of the fact their father was an embarrassment to them,” he said. “I want to tell everybody who’s believed in me that I’m deeply sorry for the pain and hardship that I’ve caused.”
Athletic Director Tim Pernetti was given a copy of the tape by a former employee in November and, after an independent investigator was hired to review it, Rice was suspended for three games, fined $75,000 and ordered to attend anger management classes. University President Robert Barchi agreed to the penalty.
But on Wednesday, Rutgers referred to new information and “a review of previously discovered issues” as the reasons for the termination of the 44-year-old coach.
“Yesterday, I personally reviewed the video evidence, which shows a chronic and pervasive pattern of disturbing behavior,” Barchi said in a 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. He cannot continue to coach at Rutgers University.”
The video shows numerous clips of Rice at practice during his three years at the school firing basketballs at players, hitting them in the back, legs, feet and shoulders. It also shows him grabbing players by their jerseys and yanking them around the court. Rice can also be heard yelling obscenities and using gay slurs.
Several college coaches said they had never seen anything like the Rutgers video and it broke a cardinal rule: Never put your hands on a player.
“Don’t tell me that’s the old way. That’s the wrong way,” said John Thompson Jr., the Hall of Famer who led Georgetown to the 1984 national title. Thompson, the father of current Hoyas coach John Thompson III, called the images “child abuse.”