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Rutgers fires basketball coach Rice

PISCATAWAY, N.J. — Rutgers fired basketball coach Mike Rice on Wednesday, one day after a video surfaced of him hitting, shoving and berating his players with anti-gay comments.

The slurs were especially troubling at Rutgers, where a student killed himself in 2010 after his roommate used a webcam to spy on him kissing another man in his dorm.

Rice, 44, who coached Rutgers for three seasons, 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."

In November, athletic director Tim Pernetti received the tape from Eric Murdock, the former director of player development who was hired by Rice in 2010. The two had a falling out over Murdock's appearances at a camp. Pernetti said Murdock's contract was not renewed for last season and the video was compiled afterward.

A woman who answered the phone at the home of Murdock, who played 10 years in the NBA after starring at Providence, said he was out.

Pernetti hired an independent investigator to review the video, then suspended Rice in December for three games, fined him $75,000 and ordered him to attend anger management classes. University president Robert Barchi agreed to the penalty.

"Dismissal and corrective action were debated, and I thought it was in the best interest of everyone to rehabilitate," Pernetti said. "But I was wrong."

Pernetti said he only suspended Rice in part because the coach was remorseful.

Pernetti initially said Tuesday that he and Barchi viewed the video in December. The president issued a statement Wednesday saying he didn't see it until Tuesday. Through a spokesman, Pernetti backed up his president.

"(Tuesday), I personally reviewed the video evidence, which shows a chronic and pervasive pattern of disturbing behavior," Barchi said. "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."

The video shows numerous instances of Rice at practice firing balls 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 also can be heard yelling obscenities and gay slurs.

Several college coaches said they had never seen anything like it.

"Don't tell me that's the old way. That's the wrong way," said John Thompson, the former Georgetown coach and father of its current coach.

Thompson called the images "child abuse."

Connecticut women's coach Geno Auriemma, said, "There is no line that could be drawn that would make that behavior acceptable."

The video drew outrage all the way to the capital in Trenton, with lawmakers and Gov. Chris Christie supporting the firing at the state's flagship public university.

"Parents entrust their sons to the Rutgers athletic department and the men's basketball program at an incredibly formative period of their lives," Christie said. "The way these young men were treated … 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."

Rutgers fires basketball coach Rice 04/03/13 [Last modified: Wednesday, April 3, 2013 10:06pm]
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