Rutgers Coach Fired After Abusive Video Seen

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(CNN) Rutgers University fired head basketball coach Mike Rice on Wednesday after ESPN broadcast a video showing him physically and verbally abusing players.

The video, which ESPN said features excerpts of practice sessions shot between 2010 and 2012, initially had earned Rice a three-game suspension, a $75,000 fine and a ticket to anger management classes.

“You f**king fairy … you’re a f**king fa**ot,” Rice appears to say during one session depicted on the video, which also shows him shoving and throwing basketballs at players.

Under pressure from incensed state officials to take stronger action, Athletic Director Tim Pernetti said Wednesday that he had made a mistake in favoring suspension.

“I am responsible for the decision to attempt a rehabilitation of Coach Rice,” Pernetti said in a written 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.”

Gov. Chris Christie, who a spokesman had said was “deeply disturbed” by the video, said Wednesday he supports Rice’s firing.

“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,” he said.

Rutgers President Robert L. Barchi said he had agreed last year with an outside investigator’s recommendation that Rice be suspended, fined and sent to anger management classes.

Barchi, who apparently did not review the video at the time, said he concluded Tuesday after viewing it that it showed 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,” Barchi said. “He cannot continue to coach at Rutgers University.”

Rice said Wednesday after he was fired that “there’s no explanation for what’s on those videos because there’s no excuse for it,” according to CNN affiliate WABC.

“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,” he said, according to the station. “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.”

ESPN got the video from former NBA player Eric Murdock, the team’s former player development director. He told the network the school fired him for blowing the whistle on Rice. The school says he was let go for “insubordinate conduct” unrelated to the video, according to ESPN.

In the video, Rice is shown several times throwing basketballs at flinching players, shoving one in the back, kicking at another. He frequently berates players in the clips.

“To see your coach physically putting his hands on players, physically kicking players, firing balls at players from point-blank range, the verbal abuse, the belittling, I was in total shock that this guy wasn’t fired, immediately on the spot,” Murdock told ESPN.

But Frank Mitchell, who played at Rutgers under Rice, told CNN what’s in the video wasn’t the norm at practices.

“From time to time, there’s some instances of throwing balls or physically making contact with players, but it only occurred from time to time, it wasn’t an everyday type thing,” he told CNN. “Obviously, the video shows it happened, but they were isolated incidents. They weren’t back to back.”

Efforts by CNN to reach Rice and Pernetti on Wednesday were unsuccessful. But Pernetti previously told CNN affiliate News 12 New Jersey that Rice’s conduct was “unacceptable and is not to the Rutgers standard.”

“That’s why we handed out the significant amount of suspension that we did and all the things that came along with that,” he said.

“I think it will affect Mike Rice wherever he goes,” Pernetti told the station Tuesday. “It certainly affects his tenure. We’re trying to do everything we can to support him. But we also had to penalize him within the process too because there are certain words that are said and actions that are taken that are not acceptable no matter who you are and where you work and certainly not Rutgers.”

On Twitter, the decision to fire Rutgers seemed widely regarded as too little, too late.

“I always find it really admirable when someone can do the right thing when everyone is looking,” Twitter user @adamcox wrote.

“My question is why wasn’t he dismissed last year,” wrote @TheQueez.

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