US: University basketball coach fired for physical and homophobic abuse recorded on video
The basketball coach at a New Jersey University has now been dismissed, despite an earlier decision that he would not be, following the release of a video which showed him subjecting players to physical and homophobic abuse.
Mike Rice, the basketball coach at Rutgers University was suspended for three games, was fined $50,000 (£33,000), and was made to undergo management classes in December.
Yesterday, Athletic Director Tim Pernetti said he would remain in his job, however he has now been fired for his actions in the video.
Pernetti said in a statement today: “I am responsible for the decision to attempt a rehabilitation of Coach Rice. Dismissal and corrective action were debated in December and 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.”
The university tweeted the decision to sack Rice. It said: “Based upon recently revealed information and a review of previously discovered issues, Rutgers has terminated the contract of Mike Rice.”
The video, passed on to Pernetti by Eric Murdock, former director of player development, showed Rice swearing and throwing basketballs at players’ heads, shoving, kicking and grabbing them on the basketball court.
The tape also shows him calling a player a “fucking fairy”, and a “ fucking faggot”, whilst aggressively reprimanding players.
Since being dismissed, Rice has made one brief statement to apologise for his actions. He said: “I can’t say anything right now, except I’m sorry. … I’ve let everybody down.”
Pernetti released the tape to reporters after he discovered ESPN was planning to air portions of it during its programme Outside the Lines.
He previously said that Rice would remain as basketball coach at the college, except in the case of any additional incidents.
Just prior to the announcement that he would be fired, the Human Rights Campaign released a statement urging the university to do so.
The statement read: “Mike Rice’s despicable behavior is completely unacceptable and Rutgers should fire him immediately. What a disgrace for Rice to use such offensive and disturbing language as a means to intimidate players he is meant to lead.
“Imagine the kids at home who look up to Rice as a role model and may view his behavior as a license to bully. Rutgers has an opportunity to send a powerful message that this sort of disgusting behavior should never be tolerated.”
New Jersey Governor Chris Christie had seen the footage, and described that he was “deeply disturbed” by it, said his Press Secretary Michael Drewniak.
“Governor Christie strongly condemns this behavior,” said Drewniak. “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.”
Christie has since tweeted commending the university for making the right decision.
Eric Murdock’s contract was not renewed last year, and his attorney, Raj Gadhok said on Tuesday that he plans to sue the college for wrongful termination, reports ESPN.
“Mr. Murdock was terminated for having complained of and reported illegal conduct by Mike Rice,” Gadhok said.
Some have also called for Pernetti to resign, since he has accepted responsibility for leaving Rice in post.