Rutgers athletic director Tim Pernetti announced on Thursday afternoon that the school was suspending head coach Mike Rice three games without pay and fining him $50,000 due to a violation of athletic department policy.
Inappropriate behavior and language were the reasons cited by Rutgers, and according to Brendan Prunty of the Newark Star-Ledger, the school found out that Rice threw basketballs at players’ heads during a practice in either his first or second season on the job.
“It’s a difficult situation, certainly,” Pernetti said during a conference call on Thursday according to the Star-Ledger. “I was made aware of some things in the last couple of weeks. We commenced a pretty thorough and lengthy investigation and this was the result of that investigation.
“There was obviously some things that are not to the Rutgers standard that we evaluated.”
Associate head coach David Cox will coach the Scarlet Knights (7-2) in games against UAB, Howard and Rider. Rice will return for the team’s Big East opener January 2 at Syracuse.
In addition to Pernetti’s statement Rice released a statement of his own:
“Since becoming a coach at the age of 21, I have taken great pride in not only helping young men learn the game of basketball but also in teaching them about character, respect and hard work,” said Rice. “To the extent that my conduct has ever been in contrast with those principles, I have failed my players – and myself – and I take full responsibility for my actions and accept the terms of my suspension. I will learn from my mistakes and I will become a better coach, teacher and role model.
“I sincerely apologize to our players, both past and present; to our incredible assistant coaches and staff; to President Barchi, the Board of Governors and Director of Athletics Tim Pernetti for their belief in me; to the University faculty, staff and student body who represent the greatness of RU and to our Scarlet Knight fans who provide so much support to our teams,” Rice continued. “My commitment to becoming a better man and coach is only matched by my passion to make Rutgers basketball a great source of pride for the community.”
Rice has been one of the more passionate coaches in college basketball for some time now, dating back to his years spent at Robert Morris where he led the Colonials to two NCAA tournament appearances.
But clearly Rutgers has seen something that needs changing, hence the suspension. And it isn’t as if the program hasn’t been down this road with a head coach before, as Fred Hill eventually lost his job for behavioral reasons.
Hill got in trouble at a Rutgers baseball game (his father Fred Hill Sr. has led the Rutgers program for nearly three decades), ignoring Pernetti’s orders to not attend a series between the Scarlet Knights and Pittsburgh. The end result was Hill being fired, opening the door for Rutgers to hire Rice.
With the school’s past dealings with its head coach’s behavior in mind, it’s good for both Rutgers and Rice (even though he’s lighter in the wallet as a result) to address this situation now.