Rutgers University finally fired head basketball coach Mike Rice Wednesday morning after immense pressure over video that surfaced Tuesday showing Rice's outrageous behavior at team practices. But the public outrage continues, with many saying the move came too late and that the school athletic director and even its president should be next to go.
"Based upon recently revealed information and a review of previously discovered issues, Rutgers has terminated the contract of Mike Rice," the school announced over Twitter. The New Jersey Star-Ledger's Brendan Prunty reported Rice met with the athletic director, Tim Pernetti, Wednesday morning. The reason for the meeting wasn't confirmed, but the writing was on the wall. Later Wednesday morning, players were informed, according to the Ledger's Tara Bergen. Not even a half hour after that, the school confirmed that the coach was gone. "There is no excuse for it — it was wrong," said a teary Rice outside of his home this morning, adding of the people he had hurt: "I'm deeply sorry for the pain and the hardship that I have caused them."
ESPN's Outside the Lines released the footage of Rice at Rutgers basketball practices during his first three years at the school, from 2010-2012. It shows Rice pushing student-athletes he is supposed to mentor; throwing basketballs at their legs, feet, and heads; and calling them various epithets and gay slurs. The video was given to ESPN by former Rutgers director of player development Eric Murdock, who contends he showed the tape to Pernetti, the A.D., last July. Pernetti has maintained that he did not see the video until November.
In December, Rice was initially suspended for three games and fined $50,000 for reasons that were unclear at the time. It appears now that the reason was the video footage, which was given to ESPN recently but also given earlier to Pernetti (pictured at right). Rice was ordered to seek anger management training, but he would ultimately remain the head coach of Rutgers basketball. School president Robert L. Barchi approved of Rice's punishment at the time. What the "newly revealed information" the school cites as leading to Rice's termination today is currently unclear — it could be the new timeline, or just a cover for an ugly news story.
Barchi, the president (pictured below), has remained silent as the news has unfolded over the last 18 hours. Pernetti released a statement apologizing for not responding sooner: "I am responsible for the decision to attempt a rehabilitation of Coach Rice," Pernetti said. "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."
What is clear is that Pernetti and Barchi knew about the footage we've seen and thought three games and $50,000 was enough punishment. And now the sports world is calling for them to be punished as well. "Were I the direct superior of Rutgers AD Tim Pernetti, I would suggest he polish up his resume, and get some help cleaning out his office," ESPN's Jay Bilas said yesterday. "If coach Mike Rice is fired for actions/judgment long after the fact, does it follow that every top official at RUT who knew needs to go, too?" ESPN's Buster Olney asked before the news of Rice's firing broke. "Mike Rice should have been fired. And so should A.D. Tim Pernetti for not pulling the trigger as soon as he saw the tapes," CBS' Jim Rome said before the news. "If Mike Rice goes, Tim Pernetti needs to go with him," said CBS' Jeff Goodman. "Rutgers president Robert L. Barchi signed off on the initial Mike Rice punishment. Another shining example of leadership," said Sports Illustrated's Richard Deitsch. USA Today's Dan Shanoff wrote this morning that both Pernetti and Barchi need to be relieved of their duties:
Pernetti should lose his job, too, for his abdication of leadership in this situation -- of course, the conventional wisdom is that Pernetti is untouchable because he helped "lead" Rutgers into the Big Ten.
Rutgers president Robert Barchi should be fired, too -- the answer to the classic "What did he know and when did he know it?" is "Enough." His ethical compass is also clearly compromised.
ESPN's Ian O'Connor is also calling for the firing of any and every school official — especially Pernetti and Barchi — who knew about Rice's behavior and didn't act:
The first time Rice put his hands on a player, or hit him with a fastball from point-blank range, or diminished him with a vile slur -- that was his first offense. The films don't lie, coaches like to say, and these films show Rice to be guilty of countless offenses.
For now, the A.D. and the president remain employed. Barchi will have to face a board of directors that is likely none too pleased with the media and social media light shined upon the school. Whether or not the board decides to continue to stomach it will be interesting to watch. Pernetti has some clout around Rutgers campus for getting the school into the Big Ten conference, according to ESPN's Andy Katz, which would bring money and prestige to the athletic program.
Update, 11:36 a.m.: Rutgers is a state school, and so Governor Chris Christie also released a statement — though it seemed to suggest the school was already in the "moving" on phase:
This was a regrettable episode for the University, but I completely support the decision to remove Coach Rice. It was the right and necessary action to take in light of the conduct displayed on the videotape.
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.
As we move on from this incident, I am 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.