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Rutgers Right To Fire Mike Rice, NJ Residents Say [AUDIO]

Despite firing him, Rutgers is still reeling from the release of video footage showing men’s basketball coach Mike Rice throwing basketballs at his players, kicking them and yelling profanities and homophobic slurs.

Rutgers University President Robert L. Barchi
Rutgers University President Robert L. Barchi (Andy Marlin/Getty Images)

Today’s Monmouth University-Asbury Park Press poll asks Garden Staters what they think of the scandal.

Nearly all say Mike Rice needed to go, but many feel his behavior is fairly common among high profile college coaches.

The scandal did not fall between the cracks. More than 8-in-10 Garden State residents (82 percent) have heard about the issues surrounding the now-fired Rutgers basketball coach, including 50 percent who have heard a lot and 32 percent a little.

Most say that it has not changed their opinion of the state university (70 percent), while 27 percent now have a more negative view and just 2 percent have a more positive one. Overall, 58 percent of all New Jerseyans have a favorable impression of Rutgers compared to just 10 percent who have an unfavorable one. Another 32-percent have no opinion.

“There’s no question that Coach Rice’s behavior was unacceptable,” explains Patrick Murray, director of the Monmouth University Polling Institute. “93 percent say it was. 82 percent agree with Rutgers decision to fire him. New Jerseyans seem to agree that (former Rutgers Athletic Director) Tim Pernetti needed to resign because of what happened. 56 percent side with that decision. 35 percent say it was not necessary.”

Just over half (51 percent) say that the university’s president, Robert Barchi, does not need to leave his post, compared to 36 percent who feel he should tender his resignation because of how he handled this situation.

“It seems that all of the moves taken by Rutgers in the aftermath of the video’s release meet with general approval,” says Murray. “There is a sizable minority, though, who feel that Pernetti should have stayed and Barchi should have resigned.”

Despite their disapproval, most New Jerseyans feel that this type of behavior is probably widespread in high profile college sports, including 15 percent who believe it is very common and 37 percent who say it is fairly common. Another 32 percent say this type of behavior by college coaches is not too common and 14 percent say it is not at all common.

Physical Abuse and Homophobic Slurs

Anyone who has seen the videotape knows some of the verbal abuse uttered by Rice included homosexual references. Most New Jerseyans say that the Rutgers campus is about the same as other colleges when it comes to welcoming gay and lesbian students (62 percent).

Another 8 percent say Rutgers is more gay and lesbian friendly than most and 6 percent say it is less friendly.

Most (71 percent) say the Rice’s physical abuse and his verbal abuse were equally offensive, while 14 percent say physically hitting his players was more egregious and 7-percent say his use of homophobic slurs was worse.

The long-term impact of the scandal on Rutgers’ image and enrollment is unclear. Just 6-percent of New Jerseyans aware of the issue say that they would actively discourage a high school senior they knew from attending Rutgers.

Governor Christie’s Role

New Jersey Governor Chris Christie generally gets positive marks for his role in dealing with the situation at the state higher education system’s anchor institution. Just under half (48 percent) approve of the way he has handled the Rutgers situation while only 19 percent disapprove. The remaining 33 percent have no opinion on the governor’s role.

The poll was conducted by telephone with 806 New Jersey adults from April 11 to 14, 2013. This sample has a margin of error of + 3.5 percent.

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