“As we move on from this incident, I am very optimistic that Rutgers will select a new head coach who not only puts a winning team on the court, but will make everyone proud of the example he sets every day for the young men in his charge.”
In an interview with WFAN Radio in New York on Tuesday, Pernetti confirmed that Barchi agreed with the punishment. But ESPN’s broadcast prompted an outcry, led by the governor himself.
The video shows numerous clips of Rice at practice firing basketballs at players, hitting them in the back, legs, feet and shoulders. Rice was also shown pushing players in the chest and grabbing them by their jerseys and yanking them around the court. Rice could be heard yelling obscenities at players and using gay slurs.
After landing the position in 2010, Rice moved his family from Pittsburgh to Little Silver. He quickly became part of the fabric of that community, often attending church functions and youth games that his children played in. But on the practice floor, some 30 miles away, obviously, a different person surfaced.
“You have to be always cautious about public reaction, because the reaction the public is having is the same I had when I saw it (the film),” Pernetti told the radio station. “I am factoring everything into what we do going forward.”
Pernetti said he understands why many asked why Rice wasn’t fired after the initial investigation.
“I spent more time with that option on whether we should fire Mike or not than any other option,” he said. “There is a lot of hindsight, 20-20. I made that decision. I am accountable for it. I have to live with it.”
Rice was Pernetti’s first major hire after getting the AD’s job. And after the regular season, in fact, despite the suspension and the losing record, Pernetti announced at the Big East tournament that Rice would return to the Rutgers bench.
“Of course he’s coming back,” Pernetti said at the time. “It’s been an interesting year to say the least, and while I think in one case some of the progress — and there’s been a lot of progress — doesn’t show, and that’s in the win-loss column. I would like it to show there. I think everyone in the program would. I know Mike and the players would.
“But you can definitely see us getting better.”
Pernetti said his decision to only suspend Rice was made in part because the coach was remorseful. Rice had a reputation as being “a fiery guy with an edge” before coming to Rutgers and Pernetti said the two talked about it for five hours before he was hired.
“He convinced me he understood his reputation, but he also understood where the line was,” Pernetti said. “I made clear to him if he crossed the line he would be held accountable.”
That might not be enough in the wake of the video made by Eric Murdock, the former NBA player who was hired by Rice to be director of player development.
The two had a falling out over Murdock’s appearances at a camp, and Pernetti said Murdock’s contract was not renewed. Murdock, who said he was fired, then compiled the video, splicing together the practice lowlights of Rice’s first three years as coach.
Pernetti said about 60 percent of the incidents happened in Rice’s first season. He also was upset with Rice using a certain gay slur at a university where student Tyler Clementi committed suicide after a roommate used a webcam to see him kissing a man.
“I would tell you that that word was at the core of the suspension,” Pernetti said. “It absolutely concerns me. It’s not acceptable.”
This is another in a long line of embarrassing incidents regarding this program. Rutgers had to fire Hill, Jr., just before hiring Rice because the former acted inappropriately at a Rutgers baseball game that his father, Fred, Sr., was coaching. And Hill replaced Gary Waters, who missed a home game because he was snowbound in Ohio after being honored the night before by Kent State.
Before all of that, Kevin Bannon was fired after questionable practice decisions regarding his players. Bannon ordered two Scarlet Knights and two student managers to run sprints naked during a foul-shooting contest. Both of them later transferred from the school.
The Scarlet Knights haven’t qualified for the NCAA tournament since 1991.