Rutgers University basketball coach Mike Rice is coming under fire over video that was obtained by ESPN. In the video, Rice is seen verbally berating his players during team practice, as well as hurling basketballs at them, and kicking them.
Rice was suspended for three games in December and fined $50,000 after a portion of the footage was viewed by Rutgers athletic director Tim Pernetti. The reason cited for the suspension was “inappropriate behavior and language.”
The footage shows Rice screaming at his players, using foul language, calling them names and even using gay slurs against them. He’s also seen pushing players around, throwing balls at them from point blank range and kicking them.
Eric Murdock, a former director of player development for the team, says he reported Rice’s misconduct to Pernetti as early as last Summer. He was fired from the team in early July. According to his attorney, Raj Gadhok, “Mr. Murdock was terminated for having complained of and reported illegal conduct by Mike Rice.” He adds that Murdock plans to pursue legal action for the termination.
Gilvydas Biruta transferred from the team to the University of Rhode Island before last season. “He would throw his cap at me and he would call me many names,” Biruta says, “The adjectives were creative. They were mean words.” His main problem was that Rice’s insults toward him weren’t about his skill as a player, but about him personally. “If you’re going to criticize me as a basketball player, I’m OK with that,” he says, “but he would criticize me as a person.”
Several current and former players who were interviewed didn’t have a problem with Rice’s methods. Tyree Graham, who attended every practice while injured for two seasons, says he wasn’t offended by the tactics. However, when they didn’t bring the results he wanted, something should have changed. “It didn’t work,” he says, “If those tactics don’t work, it should stop.”
Though the team didn’t fare so well this season, with a record of 14-18, Rice is scheduled to return next year. When asked in March, Pernetti confirmed, “Of course he’s coming back.”
You can see some of the footage released before, but be warned it’s pretty vulgar: