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Will There Be Additional Firings At Rutgers?

Rutgers University made a 180-degree shift with its decision Wednesday to fire men’s basketball coach Mike Rice, but for some people, that’s not enough.

Rutgers Coach Mike Rice
Chris Trotman, Getty Images

Rice was removed from his position a day after the public got to view video clips of his intense behavior at practice, including him shoving and cursing at players, as well as hitting a few with basketballs when they made mistakes on the court. Originally, Rice was suspended for three games and ordered to pay a fine and attend anger management.

Along with political leaders in New Jersey, gay-rights group Garden State Equality called for a deeper probe into the entire scenario.

“Go to the highest levels of the university to find out who knew about this, when they knew about it, and why it wasn’t released to the public,” said Executive Director Troy Stevenson.

Athletic Director Tim Pernetti admitted Tuesday that he was wrong to “attempt a rehabilitation of Coach Rice” late last year, according to The Associated Press. Pernetti made the video clips public this week on ESPN.

Garden State Equality Executive Director Troy Stevenson
Garden State Equality Executive Director Troy Stevenson (Townsquare Media)

Stevenson said Pernetti should resign or be fired if he consciously hid information from the public to protect the reputation of Rutgers. He also questioned a claim made Wednesday by Rutgers President Robert Barchi, who said he saw the video for the first time this week.

Late Wednesday, a group of Rutgers faculty members demanded the resignation of President Barchi.

Rutgers has been under the harassment-and-bullying microscope since late 2010 when freshman Tyler Clementi threw himself off the George Washington Bridge. Days prior, Clementi’s roommate used a webcam to spy on him kissing another man.

 

“Rutgers has a duty to lead by example,” Stevenson added. “They have a duty to cultivate the next generation of leadership in this state, not the next generation of bullies.”

Troy Stevenson’s comments:

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In a statement on Wednesday, Assembly Speaker Sheila Oliver (D) said Rice’s termination doesn’t resolve questions about how he was allowed to continue overseeing college students after his behavior was first observed by Rutgers administration.

“I expect a full and detailed explanation…as to why Mr. Rice was not dismissed sooner and how exactly that decision was made,” she said. “If answers aren’t forthcoming, we are prepared to do what’s needed to get them for the people of New Jersey.”

Her suggestion was echoed by state Senator Barbara Buono, a fellow Democrat and a graduate of Rutgers.

“There are questions that need to be answered. What changed, for example, between November and today to result in the firing of Rice?” she asked.

Buono said she had to look away when viewing the controversial video.

Governor Chris Christie (R) expressed support for Rutgers’ decision to remove Coach Rice. He said he’s optimistic New Jersey’s flagship university will select a new head coach that puts a winning team on the court and makes everyone proud of the way he directs his players.

Rice should still have his job, according to Tyree Graham who played basketball under Rice for two seasons. On Townsquare Media’s 97.3 ESPN FM, Graham said Rice’s suspension was punishment enough.

“I really wish people would get off Coach Rice’s back,” Graham said.

Some students on campus shared the same view, noting that similar behavior probably occurs at colleges across the country. Students learned of Rice’s termination via mass e-mail.

Reaction from Rutgers students: 

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“I think that coaches, in general, tend to act that way to their players to motivate them,” said Rutgers Sophomore Phil Sgovva.

Rutgers campus, College Avenue
Rutgers campus, College Avenue (Townsquare Media)

Junior Jeff Swope added, “I don’t know if firing him was the best decision. Think about if you lost your job just because you lost your cool a couple times.”

The overwhelming response on campus, though, was praise for the school’s decision.

“We don’t need a guy like that representing Rutgers,” Sophomore Eden Sapir said. “I’m glad he’s gone.”

Junior Edisson Quito said coaches are supposed to act as leaders and not treat their players like “pieces of meat.”

“I don’t think anybody should be treated like that,” added Senior Taylor DeBlase. “We should’ve fired him, probably, a long time ago.”

FULL COVERAGE: Mike Rice Firing

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