When Rutgers athletic director Tim Pernetti initially viewed troubling video of coach Mike Rice physically and verbally abusing players during practice in November, he determined the penalty should be a $50,000 fine and a three-game suspension.
Only now that video of Rice's behavior has been made public is Pernetti finally willing to do what he should have done months ago.
One day after ESPN's Outside the Lines aired clips of Rice shoving players, chucking balls at them and berating them with curse words and homophobic slurs, Rutgers announced Wednesday morning it has fired the third-year coach. Pernetti acknowledged he had made a mistake opting to issue a stern warning to Rice in the first place rather than banishing him on the spot.
"I am responsible for the decision to attempt a rehabilitation of Coach Rice," Pernetti said in a 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."'
The decision to fire Rice became almost inevitable by Tuesday evening as video of Rice's behavior became national news. Everyone from LeBron James to Jared Sullinger to New Jersey governor Chris Christie weighed in on the deplorable behavior of Rice and how they would have responded if they were in the shoes of the Rutgers players.
What's especially hard to believe is that Pernetti would risk his own job to back a coach who hasn't exactly been ultra-successful turning the Rutgers program around.
In three years since Rutgers hired him after he made back-to-back NCAA tournament appearances at Robert Morris, Rice has never led the Scarlet Knights to a finish higher than 11th in the Big East. His team finished a disappointing 15-16 overall this season and 5-13 in league play.
It's difficult to imagine another Division I athletic director ever giving Rice a second chance to be a head coach. What will be more interesting to see is if Rutgers backs Pernetti in the long run or if his job also becomes collateral damage from this embarrassing episode.
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