Rutgers fires basketball coach Mike Rice for abusing players (video)

WASHINGTON, April 3, 2013 — Rutgers University showed its head coach of men’s basketball, Mike Rice, the exit ramp yesterday after a video surfaced, detailing his extensive physical and verbal abuse of the team. Known for his fiery temperament, Rice’s explosive temper was very visible during the Scarlet Knights games, but what he did at practice was a new low.

The videotape (see below) shown on ESPN Tuesday showed Coach Rice at practice shoving, grabbing and kicking his players as well as throwing basketballs at their heads and knees. He also taunted them with gay slurs, cursed them and demeaned them over and over.

Coach Rice in all his fury AP photo

The videotape first surfaced last November when a former employee gave it to Rutgers athletic director Tim Pernetti, who then hired independent investigators to analyze the video.

At that time, he suspend Rice for three games, fined him $75,000, and ordered him to take anger management classes, warning him he would be closely monitored. The president of Rutgers Robert Barchi saw the tape and agreed with the punishment.

At the time, Rutgers refused to talk much about the suspension, believing that they could “attempt a rehabilitation of Coach Rice,” according to Pernetti who now admits he made a poor decision: “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.”

Also doing damage control,  President Barchi defended the original decision to keep Rice on despite his egregious behavior. Then he took another look at the tape, saying:

“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.”

Of course, such high-minded sentiments only came after ESPAN released the videotape and it went viral, causing New Jersey Governor Chris Christi to criticize Rutgers University, demanding Rice be fired.

Today Christi added: “Parents entrust their sons to the Rutgers athletic department and the men’s basketball program at an incredibly formative period of their lives. The way these young men were treated by the head coach was completely unacceptable and violates the trust those parents put in Rutgers University. All of the student-athletes entrusted to our care deserve much better.”

Eric Murdock, former director of player development for the team, said that Coach Rice’s “outrageous behavior had forced at least three players to transfer from the team, including forward Gilvydas Biruta, who transferred to Rhode Island prior to last season.”

Murdock, a nine-year NBA veteran, claims Rice and Pernetti fired him in July 2012 for reporting Coach Rice’s illegal conduct. According to Murdock’s lawyer, he is pursuing legal action against the university for wrongful termination.

Now come the big questions for Rutgers University: Why  was Rice not fired immediately? Why was Murdock fired? Why the cover up? Didn’t Rutgers’ athletic director and university president learn anything from the Penn State debacle?

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Catherine Poe

Catherine was named one of the top Progressives in Maryland along with Senator Barbara Mikulski and Congresswoman Donna Edwards. She has been a guest of President Obama in the Rose Garden.

As past president of Long Island NOW, she worked to reform women's prisons in New York, open the construction trades to women, change laws to safeguard battered women, and protect the rights of rape victims. 

Long active in Democratic politics, she served as the presidentof the Talbot Democrats in Maryland for six years and fought to getthe Health Care Reform bill passed.

Catherine has been published in a diverse range of newspapers and magazines, including Newsday, Star Democrat, Rocky Mountain News, Yellowstone News, and the Massachusetts Review.

If Catherine has learned anything over the years it is that progressive change does not come easily, but in baby steps. 

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