Rutgers University fired its men’s basketball head coach after a video leaked showing him verbally and physically abusing his players during a practice.
Mike Rice, who led the program for the last three years, was stripped of his coaching duties after ESPN’s “Outside the Lines” aired a video that showed him shoving his student-athletes, throwing basketballs at them-once directly at a player’s head-and yelling obscenities and homophobic slurs.
“I’ve let so many people down-my players, administration, Rutgers University, the fans, my family sitting huddled around just because their father was an embarrassment to them,” Rice said in a statement aired on ESPN. “It’s troubling. At some time maybe I’ll try to explain it. But right now…there is no excuse for it. I was wrong.”
Earlier in December, athletic director Tim Pernetti suspended Rice for three games and fined him $50,000 after receiving the video displaying his behavior in practices. At the time, the video evidence remained unseen outside the institution, but public outcry forced the school to take further action this time.
Eric Murdock, a former NBA guard who previously served as Rutgers’ director of player personnel, passed along the video to ESPN after unceremoniously parting ways with the program. Murdock’s attorney said on Tuesday that he plans to sue Rutgers for unlawful termination.
The video drew ire from many sources, including Gov. Chris Christie, who took to his Twitter account to support the school’s decision.
“The way these young men were treated by their coach was completely unacceptable and violates the trust parents put into Rutgers,” Christie wrote. “All of the student-athletes entrusted to our care deserve much better.”
This is not the first case of a coach coming under fire. Last September, Texas Tech fired head coach Billy Gillispie when players reported his mistreatment of them in practices. Bobby Knight, one of college basketball’s most highly-regarded coaches, is famous for his hot temper. Many revere him for winning 902 games, but he’s still infamous for tossing a chair across the court and losing his job for constant misbehavior after spending three decades with the Indiana Hoosiers.
During his tenure at Rutgers, Rice led the Scarlet Knights to a 44-51 record devoid of any NCAA tournament bids. Two years remained on the coach’s contract. He previously guided Robert Morris University to a 73-31 record and two March Madness appearances during three seasons.
David Cox, who took over for Rice after his previous suspension, will serve as the team’s interim coach. Adrian Wojnarowski and Pat Forde of Yahoo! Sports reported former Nets and current Detroit Pistons head coach Lawrence Frank as a possible candidate to replace Rice full time.