Reversing course, Rutgers University fired basketball coach Mike Rice on Wednesday after ESPN aired a video of him shoving players in practice, kicking them, and using anti-gay slurs, prompting widespread public outcry.
The news of Rice's firing comes after it was reported on Tuesday that the university became aware of the coach's behavior in late November
and decided just to discipline him.
Eric Murdock, former director of player development at the school, had handed the footage over to Athletic Director Tim Pernetti, who suspended Rice for three games a month later, fined him $50,000, and ordered him to attend anger management classes.
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The video, which ESPN showed on Tuesday, sparked outrage on social media, condemnation from Gov. Chris Christie, NBA star LeBron James, the National College Players Association, and the families of former Rutgers players, according to NBC New York.
Despite the backlash, Pernetti had been defending the school's punishment and decision to not fire Rice. He told NBC 4 New York he thought the suspension and the fine were "harsher than you've seen in college basketball in recent memory," adding that university President Robert Barchi was on board with the punishment after viewing the tape.
But public pressure weighed on Pernetti, and on Wednesday morning he called Rice into his office to fire him, NorthJersey.com reported.
“I am responsible for the decision to attempt a rehabilitation of Coach Rice,” said Rutgers Director of Intercollegiate Athletics Tim Pernetti said in a statement. “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.”
Calling his actions "deeply regrettable," Rice apologized for his actions Wednesday morning. "I've let so many people down; my players, the administration, my fans, my family, who is sitting in our house, huddled around because their father was an embarrassment to them. I will at some time try to explain it, but there's no explanation for what's on those films. I was wrong."
Senior Associate Athletic Director of Communications for Rutgers Jason Baum broke the news in a tweet at 10 a.m.
Pernetti, who has coached at Rutgers for the last three seasons, had a 44-51 record and 16-38 in the Big East. The Scarlet Knights went 15-16 last season. He had two years remaining in his five-year contract and was due $700,000 this coming season, according to NorthJersey.com.
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Rutgers would have had trouble defending the homophobic remarks Rice frequently made, considering that the university is still recovering from Tyler Clementi's suicide in 2010, which occurred shortly after two fellow classmates broadcasted his sexual exploits with another man.
The decision to not fire Rice immediately after officials saw the tapes may show a disconnection still exists in college sports, despite the condemnation that followed Penn State officials' decision to turn a blind eye to the sex abuse of former Penn State assistant coach Jerry Sandusky, who harmed at least a dozen children.
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