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Robert Morris reviews Rice's behavior

The SportsXchange

Robert Morris University found little evidence to indicate that players and coaches fought while Mike Rice served as the school's basketball coach.

Assistant coaches claimed that Rice, who was fired by Rutgers last week after video showed verbal and physical abuse of players, engaged in similar behavior while at Robert Morris.

Former Rutgers assistant Eric Murdock said he heard from former Robert Morris assistant Jimmy Martelli that brawling had taken place at Robert Morris when Rice was there. Murdock filed a whistleblower suit against Rutgers last week and is currently under investigation by the FBI.

Robert Morris athletic director Craig Coleman said Tuesday that 17 people were interviewed as part of the university's review, including five current team members, three former or current assistant coaches and two athletic training staffers.

One player, who has since transferred, said he heard homophobic slurs from Rice and had seen the coach throw basketballs toward players once or twice. The player also indicated that he saw a fight between Rice and a player in the locker room at halftime of a game, but Coleman said the player who was supposed to be in the altercation denied that such an incident took place.

"This may be as close as we can get to the truth of what was experienced here five years ago," Coleman said. "Despite a vast majority of evidence refuting these suspicions, we feel duty-bound to report fully on what we have learned.

"We are distressed to hear about even one account of inappropriate behavior towards any of our players. Whether corroborated or not, we must use this as an opportunity to reaffirm that RMU does not -- and will not -- tolerate abusive behavior. We will continue to do all that is possible to ensure that players and coaches act and are treated with mutual respect going forward."

Robert Morris officials could not find practice tapes from Rice's three seasons as coach, saying the videos were normally destroyed once the season started. Coleman said Rice's practices were open to the public and that he did not believe Rice's use of profanity went over the line.

"In terms of the homophobia, the throwing of basketballs, the physical altercations, if those happened, I think it's probably fair to conclude that they happened on a scale smaller than what happened at Rutgers based on the report we got," Coleman said.
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