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Reaction To Mike Rice’s Firing At Rutgers

Following the firestorm of controversy over the video of Mike Rice’s treatment of players at practice, Rice was fired on Wednesday morning as head coach of the men’s basketball team.


Governor Chris Christie

Governor’s Office/Tim Larsen

“This was a regrettable episode for the University, but I completely support the decision to remove Coach Rice. It was the right and necessary action to take in light of the conduct displayed on the videotape.

“Parents entrust their sons to the Rutgers Athletic Department and the men’s basketball program at an incredibly formative period of their lives. The way these young men were treated by the head coach was completely unacceptable and violates the trust those parents put in Rutgers University. All of the student-athletes entrusted to our care deserve much better.

“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.”

Ex-Head Basketball Coach Mike Rice (Source: WABC TV)

“Again, as I stated three months ago, after I watched the video, how deeply regrettable those actions, I also stated I was going to try and work on changing, and I think I’ve accomplished a lot of that. I can’t say anything right now except I’m sorry, and there will never be a time where I’m going to use any of that as an excuse or will there be any excuse. I’ve let so many people down, my players, my administration, Rutgers University, the fans, my family – who’s sitting in their house, just huddled around because of the fact that their father was an embarrassment to them. It’s troubling, but I hope at some time, maybe I’ll try and explain it. But right now, there’s no explanation for what’s on those films, because there’s no excuse for it. I was wrong. And I want to tell everybody who’s believed in me that I’m deeply sorry for the pain and the hardship that I’ve caused. Thank you very much.”

Rutgers President Robert L. Barchi

Dr. Robert L. Barchi
New Rutgers President Dr. Robert L. Barchi (Rutgers)

Rutgers University has a long and proud history as one of the nation’s most diverse and welcoming academic institutions. Coach Rice’s abusive language and actions are deeply offensive and egregiously violate the university’s core values. 

When video excerpts of basketball practices were reviewed last fall by Athletic Director Tim Pernetti, he immediately notified me and sought the advice of internal and outside counsel.  The university hired an independent investigator to look into this matter thoroughly. Based on the external investigator’s findings and recommendations, Tim and I agreed that Coach Rice should be suspended, penalized $75,000 in fines and lost salary, ordered to undergo anger management counseling, and put on notice that his behavior would be closely monitored. Tim Pernetti also made it clear to Coach Rice that there would be zero tolerance for additional infractions. Tim kept me fully apprised and I supported his actions.

Yesterday, I personally reviewed the video evidence, which shows a chronic and pervasive pattern of disturbing behavior. I have now reached the conclusion that Coach Rice cannot continue to serve effectively in a position that demands the highest levels of leadership, responsibility and public accountability. He cannot continue to coach at Rutgers University. Therefore, Tim Pernetti and I have jointly decided to terminate Mike Rice’s employment at Rutgers.

Senate President Steve Sweeney (D)

Today’s decision, while months late, was the right thing to do. There is simply no way Rutgers could have allowed Mr. Rice to continue in his position.

“That Mr. Rice had to go was clear. But questions still remain as to why we are only now finding out about this and why the school’s athletic director initially defended his handling of the situation. Were the student’s parents informed of what occurred? Were they made aware that their kids were having basketballs thrown at their heads, being shoved around and being called disparaging names by someone in a position of authority? The very fact that Rutgers would subject these kids to this kind of behavior after the fact calls into question, yet again, what goes on in the athletic department over there. The athletic director has many questions to answer and one has to wonder whether he should pick the new coach.”

Assembly Speaker Shelia Oliver (D)

“Rutgers has done the right thing by firing Mr. Rice, but that still doesn’t resolve questions about how he was allowed to continue overseeing college students after this behavior first came to the attention of Rutgers administration last year.

“I’m puzzled as to how anyone could think Mr. Rice was someone who should be representing our state university on a national level.

“I expect a full and detailed explanation from the Rutgers administration as to why Mr. Rice was not dismissed sooner and how exactly that decision was made. If answers aren’t forthcoming, we are prepared to do what’s needed to get them for the people of New Jersey.”

 New Jersey Assembly Higher Education Chairwoman Celeste Riley

As chairwoman of the Assembly Higher Education Committee, I work alongside our college and university officials to ensure New Jersey has an elite system of higher education that rivals any in the nation. New Jerseyans demand a higher education system New Jerseyans can be proud of, but the shameful conduct of Mike Rice was a downright embarrassment.

I find it difficult to imagine that anyone found Mr. Rice’s behavior and language to be acceptable in any situation, let alone from a taxpayer-paid employee who represented Rutgers — and thus New Jersey — on a national stage.

The leadership at Rutgers must explain to the people of New Jersey why Mr. Rice’s firing didn’t happen sooner and how such an abusive environment was ever permitted to exist at our state university.

If the Rutgers administration refuses to explain itself, I will seek to get the answers the people of our state deserve as to why he wasn’t fired sooner.

 

 

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