Rutgers suspends and fines coach Mike Rice

Mike Rice
Rutgers mens basketball coach Mike Rice shouts instructions during a game.

In a statement released by Athletic Director Tim Pernetti, Rutgers mens basketball coach Mike Rice has been suspended without pay for three games and hit with a $50,000 fine for violating athletic department policy, namely inappropriate behavior and language. There were no NCAA violations involved and the matter is strictly internal.

After an athletic department investigation it was found that during one of Pernetti’s first seasons as the head coach at Rutgers (it’s not been determined exactly when), Rice threw basketballs at multiple players’ heads during a practice and that he has a history of using abusive and profane language towards his players. Rice was presented with video evidence of the findings. It’s well know that Rice is incredibly demanding and hard on his players, to the point that he’s had players transfer out of Rutgers because they couldn’t deal with the boot-camp type atmosphere of Rice’s practices.

“Accountability is a vital element of the Rutgers Athletics family and it is imperative our head coaches act and lead in a responsible manner,” said Pernetti. “This was not an easy decision for me to make but absolutely necessary to ensure what is best for our program.”

In a statement released by Rutgers, Rice commented, “Since becoming a coach at the age of 21, I have taken great pride in not only helping young men learn the game of basketball but also in teaching them about character, respect and hard work. To the extent that my conduct has ever been in contrast with those principles, I have failed my players – and myself – and I take full responsibility for my actions and accept the terms of my suspension. I will learn from my mistakes and I will become a better coach, teacher and role model.”

“I sincerely apologize to our players, both past and present; to our incredible assistant coaches and staff; to President Barchi, the Board of Governors and Director of Athletics Tim Pernetti for their belief in me; to the University faculty, staff and student body who represent the greatness of RU and to our Scarlet Knight fans who provide so much support to our teams,” Rice continued. “My commitment to becoming a better man and coach is only matched by my passion to make Rutgers basketball a great source of pride for the community.”

Rice is not allowed contact with the team until December 29th, which puts him back on the Scarlet Knights sideline in time for their Big East opener on Jan. 2nd in Syracuse. Associate head coach David Cox will guide the squad during Rice’s absense, which will include all workouts and three home, non-conference games against Alabama-Birmingham (Dec. 16), Howard (Dec. 21), and Rider (Dec. 28).

According to a local news source, the fine and loss of salary during the suspension amount to a total of $74,905 as Rice is paid $300,000 in base salary making the 20-day suspension worth $24,905 in lost wages on top of the $50,000 Rutgers-imposed fine. There is also talk that the action might be in reaction to a lawsuit filed by a former director of player development, Eric Murdock, who was fired over the summer. Murdock has publicly expressed concern over the well being of players and has threatened to publicly release evidence of the mistreatment, if we wasn’t compensated properly.

“There is some concern for these players — that’s the biggest thing — as far as how they’re being treated,” Murdock said. “Eventually a lot of stuff will come to light and it’s not going to shed a good light on Rutgers University.” (as reported by the Newark Star-Ledger)

Rice’s father, Mike Rice, Sr., was a long-time high school and college basketball coach (he was also drafted in the 1962 NBA draft, but went into coaching instead), but is more well known as a color-commentator for first radio, then television broadcasts of the NBA’s Portland Trailblazers. Rice, Sr. is known as being the only broadcaster ever ejected from an NBA game for questioning an officials’ call, not so much on the air, but to the official who was standing near the announcer’s table. There’s an old saying the goes something like, “the nut (or apple or acorn) doesn’t fall far from the tree…” which seems to be appropriate in this situation.

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