After three years at Rutgers, Mike Rice Jr. finds himself out of a job.
The college basketball coach has been fired by the university less than 24 hours after video surfaced of him physically and verbally abusing players at practice.
The tape was aired on ESPN’s “Outside the Lines” on Tuesday. It showed Rice cursing at his players and taunting them with gay slurs. He even threw basketballs at some Scarlet Knights players during practice.
The actions of Rice aren’t news to the school. Rutgers athletic director Tim Pernetti saw the video in December of 2012. Pernetti did not fire Rice, but chose to suspend him for three games and fine the coach $50,000. On Wednesday, Pernetti called the decision to suspend Rice, instead of firing him, a mistake.
Pernetti claims university president Robert Barchi also saw the tape, and agreed with Pernetti’s decision. According to ESPN, there is no word as to when the tape was first seen by top Rutgers officials.
Rice, 44, appeared to have moved on from the incidents, and was on track to remain as head coach. Due to the graphic nature of the tape and ESPN's report, Rutgers officials appeared to have no choice but to cut ties with Rice.
"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."
Pernetti appeared on WFAN on Tuesday, shortly after the video aired on ESPN. He told radio host Mike Francesa there was a possibility that Rice could be fired, even though he was initially just suspended for his abusive behavior.
"It's a tough question to answer,” said Pernetti. “I think now that it's out there — we knew it was going to get out there — the reaction, we knew (what) it was going to be. But again I need to sit here and think about what gives us the ability to be effective going forward in men's basketball and more importantly what protects the university."
Since being fired, Rice has apologized for his actions, though he wouldn’t go into detail about his behavior.
"It's troubling, but I will at some time, maybe I'll try to explain it, but right now, there's no explanation for what's on those films,” Rice said, speaking to reporters outside of his home. “Because there is no excuse for it. I was wrong. I want to tell everybody who's believed in me that I'm deeply sorry for the pain and hardship that I've caused."
Rice struggled to get the Scarlet Knights to improve in the competitive Big East Conference. Under Rice, the program failed to make an NCAA Tournament appearance, and never finished with a winning record in three seasons.
When the Rutgers 2012-2013 basketball season ended, Pernetti assured reporters that Rice would come back for another year.
"Of course he's coming back," Pernetti told The Newark Star-Ledger.
Some have also called for Pernetti to be fired, since he did not get rid of Rice when he first saw the tape. That may not be likely, though, since Barchi supported the original punishment.
Rice is the son of a Portland Trail Blazers broadcaster, and had previous served as head coach of Robert Morris. Rice has been involved has been involved in college basketball coaching since 1991.