Keeping Score

Rutgers Coach Fired After Hurling Homophobic Slurs, Basketballs At Players

A shocking video shows Rutgers coach Mike Rice berating, and hitting, players

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In one of the more unsurprising personnel decisions in college basketball history, Mike Rice, the men’s basketball coach at Rutgers University, was fired on Wednesday morning. On Tuesday, ESPN released a video of Rice hurling basketballs at the heads of players from close range, cursing at them, and shouting homophobic slurs in their direction. Rutgers, the state university of New Jersey, paid Rice $650,000 this year. Video below:

What’s remarkable here is that Rutgers athletic director Tim Pernetti saw all of this footage back in November, and chose to suspend Rice for just three games, and fine him $50,000 (the Associated Press is reporting that Pernetti said Tuesday that Rutgers was reconsidering its decision to retain Rice). As ESPN’s Jeremy Schaap astutely pointed out during an interview with Pernetti on Tuesday, Eric Murdock, the former Rutgers assistant coach who supplied Pernetti — and ESPN — with the footage, did not have his contact renewed this summer because he attended a basketball camp against Rice’s wishes; Rice, meanwhile, kept his job despite hitting his players and uttering gay slurs on a campus rocked by the September 2010 suicide of Tyler Clementi, a gay student who was bullied by his roommate.

(MORE: The Unsettling Verdicts in the Tyler Clementi Case)

What’s even more remarkable is that Pernetti figured that this footage would go public, that the nation would soon see one of the most visible employees of a school that funnels $28.5 million from the university budget and fees into sports acting in such a despicable manner. Yet, Pernetti understated the severity of Rice’s actions back in December, and continued to defend Rice, and his decision to retain him, on Tuesday.

(MORE: Kevin Ware’s Awful Break: How Could It Happen?)

But public pressure mounted, as reported:

The “Outside the Lines” broadcast prompted an outcry, led by the governor himself.

“Gov. Christie saw the video today for the first time and he is obviously deeply disturbed by the conduct displayed and strongly condemns this behavior,” spokesman Michael Drewniak said in a statement. “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 was not the only elected official to weigh in.

Assembly speaker Sheila Oliver (D-Essex/Passaic) called Rice’s conduct “unacceptable not only at our state university, but in all circumstances. It is offensive and unbecoming of our state.

“Mike Rice should no longer be employed by Rutgers University. He must go. Meanwhile, the decision not to dismiss him last year needs a complete and thorough review.”

James weighed in with a tweet: “If my son played for Rutgers or a coach like that he would have some real explaining to do and I’m still gone whoop on him afterwards! C’mon.”

Ray Allen, a member of the University of Connecticut’s board of directors and James’ teammate with the Miami Heat, also reacted angrily after watching the videotape of Rice.

“It was despicable,” Allen told “Throwing the ball at them — it made me want to fight [Rice]. It made me want to fight this guy. Because that was me — wanting to learn, making mistakes.

“You’re not doing it on purpose. You’re trying to learn. And that’s what coaches should do — you teach. Yelling at kids and throwing the ball at them, there’s no place to that.”

Allen also said he would try to get Rice fired had the incidents occurred at UConn.

“I would do everything I could to make sure that coach got fired — in any sport — because there’s no place for that,” he said.

In a statement after the firing, Pernetti said: “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.”

(MORE: Maryland and Rutgers Bolt For The Big 10. Are These College Conference Shakeups Worth It?)

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Hopefully, some actual good can come out of this incident.  Today’s college coaches use technology and advanced analytics to gain any kind of advantage: many basketball experts believe the sophistication of modern-day scouting is driving down scoring. So teams are more likely to video hundreds of hours of practice. As a result, even if a practice is “closed” to the public, coaches should assume that their practice footage could wind up on ESPN — after all, Rice’s did — and act appropriately.

Yes, plenty of coaches have continued to act boorish since footage of Bobby Knight choking a player was leaked in the late 1990s. Video, however, is much easier to disseminate now. If the Rice case scares college coaches into behaving better, that’s a win-win all around. Players don’t deserve such abuse. And in the heat of the moment, coaches can still yell and even use foul language. Nothing wrong with a little anger to motivate your players – we see coaches lose it all the time during games. But you don’t have to act like Rice, and embarrass yourself and your school, to be effective. After all, Rice’s record in his three years at Rutgers: 44-51.

On Wednesday, amid the frenzy of his firing, Rice spoke to reporters out front of his Little Silver, N.J., home. Tearful but cautious, he expressed his deep regret for his actions caught on the tape. “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,” he said.

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EDITOR’S NOTE: This story has been updated to reflect Mike Rice’s dismissal and apology



While teaching many of the star female basketball athletes at Rutgers Public Speaking, class which meets once a week, I was sent a communication from the Rutgers President's office stating I should be understanding regarding their absences due to being in the finals. This occurred during the Imus controversy. Showing compassion for these students, I did not penalize them for their absences. When recently told at a meeting that I had to give my students 20%A's, 20% C's and D's, and the remaining grades B's, I refused. A student should get the grade they deserve. I started teaching at Rutgers in 1990 and I believe because I refused the departments instructions on grading I was not rehired. IN my opinion I was bullied and harassed by members of the communications dept. Not only are students bullied but so are teachers, especially non tenured adjuncts as I was.Dr. Bernhard Rosenberg 5 fairhill rd. Edison


til I saw the receipt which was of $6021, I didnt believe neighbours mother woz like they say truly receiving money in there spare time on there computar.. there neighbour had bean doing this for only nineteen months and resently repayed the depts on there home and bought a brand new Land Rover Defender. go to Big44.comTAKE A LOOK


Rice, was without / stumbling for words in his interview, after seeing himself in action! Wow! That speaks volumes. There is no room for someone who acts like he does in any college or workplace. Bullying taken to an entirely new extreme. It's ok to be a tough coach that can earn the respect of his / her players, but I have to believe there was no respect in that locker room. Kids just want to play ball - they are the ones that suffer. Action should have been taken sooner, but no one really wants to listen and stand up. Really shameful. 


calling someone a gay slur or calling someone homophobic are similar

both are used to shame someone, but one is accepted for social engineering purposes


@TIME He's real emotional about it months after the incidents in the videos. Super delayed response. Maybe he's a psychopath?


@TIME You can't pay me enough to watch this. I'm so tired of these people.


Welcome to Wimp-world where every American hides under a sheet.....Boooooooooooooooooooo.


We listened intently as Mike Greenberg was on a very welcomed and justifiable rant concerning Rutgers’ Mike Rice using homophobic language toward his young players. When he finished, he said to Mike Golic, if you are going to tell me that, “it’s just the way jocks talk,” then things have to change. Golic answered, “It’s just the way jocks talk.” 

We were shocked. We thought maybe Golic was just making a joke, a very bad joke. So we continued to listen.

Golic continued, and thankfully said that it was not okay, but further explained that players would just slough that off… that type of language is just thrown around all the time.


Sports equals money. Money trumps morality. Even at an "institute of higher learning.' The morally despicable coach is sustained and allowed to flourish by equally despicable management. How often does this have to happen for the tarnished boards of directors of those universities do get off their wrinkly behinds and do something? It makes every one of them ugly. 


@anon2013 Winning equals money.....merely having sports in the majority of college campuses is a losing proposition.


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