Why Did Rutgers Wait to Fire Coach After Anti-Gay and Abusive Actions?

Rutgers should have fired basketball coach Mike Rice in November instead of waiting until a video surfaced yesterday of his homophobic and vicious attacks on players.

Mike Rice, fired Rutgers basketball coachRutgers University’s decision to fire basketball coach Mike Rice today for anti-gay slurs and physical abuse of players is too late. University President Dr. Robert Barchi and Athletic Director Tim Pernetti should have fired Rice on the spot in November when they learned of his actions, especially since both actually viewed them at that time in a series of video clips.

Instead, they suspended him for three games, fined him $50,000 and sent him to anger-management classes. They only fired him after ESPN aired the video, which went viral and prompted demands for Rice’s firing from everyone from New Jersey Governor Chris Christie to Human Rights Campaign President Chad Griffin to basketball star LeBron James.

DiversityInc CEO Luke Visconti, a member of the Rutgers Board of Trustees and of the Rutgers Board of Governors Standing Committee on Intercollegiate Athletics, said he was never informed about Rice’s anti-gay slurs or the fact that the video existed. He said he had been told there was a disciplinary issue, which was addressed with the suspension. DiversityInc General Counsel and Senior Vice President, Transformation Practices Lora Fong also is a member of the Rutgers Board of Trustees and also was uninformed about Rice’s specific transgressions.

“Had I known what he said and did, I would have urged Rutgers to fire him on the spot,” Visconti said.

One of the clips was broadcast on ESPN’s Outside the Lines last night. It was part of a series of clips compiled by retired NBA player Eric Murdock during practices from 2010–2012. Murdock was Rice’s Director of Player Development. All of the video, demonstrating prolonged verbal and physical abuse of players and frequent use of the anti-gay slur “f – – – – t,” were shown to Pernetti in November.

In a statement issued today, Barchi took responsibility for not initially firing Rice:

Coach Rice’s abusive language and actions are deeply offensive and egregiously violate the university’s core values.

When video excerpts of basketball practices were reviewed last fall by Athletic Director Tim Pernetti, he immediately notified me and sought the advice of internal and outside counsel. The university hired an independent investigator to look into this matter thoroughly. Based on the external investigator’s findings and recommendations, Tim and I agreed that Coach Rice should be suspended, penalized $75,000 in fines and lost salary, ordered to undergo anger management counseling, and put on notice that his behavior would be closely monitored. Tim Pernetti also made it clear to Coach Rice that there would be zero tolerance for additional infractions. Tim kept me fully apprised and I supported his actions.

Yesterday, I personally reviewed the video evidence, which shows a chronic and pervasive pattern of disturbing behavior. I have now reached the conclusion that Coach Rice cannot continue to serve effectively in a position that demands the highest levels of leadership, responsibility and public accountability. He cannot continue to coach at Rutgers University. Therefore, Tim Pernetti and I have jointly decided to terminate Mike Rice’s employment at Rutgers.

Pernetti separately issued a statement:

I am responsible for the decision to attempt a rehabilitation of Coach Rice. Dismissal and corrective action were debated in December and I thought it was in the best interest of everyone to rehabilitate, but I was wrong. Moving forward, I will work to regain the trust of the Rutgers community.

Public Values

The issue of being inclusive is critical to Rutgers’ public image, especially after the very public September 2010 suicide of gay student Tyler Clementi and the subsequent trial and publicity about bullying and invasion of privacy.

As Visconti has stated in his Ask the White Guy column, “Credibility received for your professed values is dependent on your decisive execution of actions based on your values. This does not preclude empathy and forgiveness for mistakes, but values cannot be parsed without exposure to repercussions.” He also notes that in this age of transparency, an organization cannot EVER think it can hide offensive actions.

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  • Bruce A. Hubbard

    I fully agree with both Luke Visconti and Lora Fong. No full disclosure was made by the Athletic Director and the President of Rutgers to either the Board of Trustees or the Board of Governors. If a Black, Female, Gay, Hispanic, Asian or other minority coach had done this he/she would have been fired back in November when the DVD was first disclosed. It was the “old white boy network” to which Rice, Pernetti and Barchi are Members that protected Mike Rice, until ESPN made the DVD public. This is why he was only suspended for three games, fined, sent to rehab and provided a baby-sitter at practices!

  • “Rutgers University’s decision to fire basketball coach Mike Rice today for anti-gay slurs and physical abuse of players is too late. University President Dr. Robert Barchi and Athletic Director Tim Pernetti should have fired Rice on the spot in November when they learned of his actions, especially since both actually viewed them at that time in a series of video clips.”

    Dut to their failures, university President Dr. Robert Barchi and Athletic Director Tim Pernetti should now be fired — especially Parnetti.

    Pernetti stating “Moving forward, I will work to regain the trust of the Rutgers community” is insufficient. He should not be given that opportunity to work to rebuild trust — he failed in his insufficient response to the long term misbehavir of his subordinate.

    I would guess that if Barchi and Parentti had heard the coach use the n-word or the c-word to demean the school’s student players instead of antigay f-word pejorative the coach actually used, likely a fine, a three-day suspention, and an anger management class wouldn’t have even been considered adequate at all. I don’t see the difference between using a racist pejoratives, sexist pejorative, and aantigay pejoratives: all pejoratives demean not only those who the terms are used against, but also demean known minority populations. Use of pejoratives by people drawing salary from the university shouldn’t be tolerated at all by the university’s managemant.

  • Along with the lingering ‘good ole boy’ network underlying the decisions, there is also the pervasive mentality in and aroud sports, that this screaming insanity and abuse is somehow manly. Look back at how long it took Indiana University to deal with the Bobby Knight issue. Sports hazing continues to be a problem that needs to be addressed in all schools – including elementary and high schools – not just colleges and universities. When we as a society realize that this kind of sports abuse grows up with the kids, and tolerance for this bad behavior is just the same as tolerating bullying – then maybe we will start to deal with the systemic issues in sports as well as the sad and dispicable individuals like this particular coach.

  • The University caved in to media and public perception. The coach was not a winner anyway-cut him from the roster.

  • Coaches are, in essence, teachers. Can you imagine a teacher in a classroom behaving like that? What was Pernetti thinking? Let me guess, Bobby Knight won games or since Pernetti hired Rice, firing him would mean he made a mistake in hiring him. It really is unbelievable in this day and age that Rice was kept on ESPECIALLY since Pernetti knew he had anger/behavioral issues BEFORE he hired him.

  • Just for the record, many of us RU grads didn’t like the RU men’s basketball coach for various reasons that (until yesterday) appeared to be unrelated to his coaching behavior. Here’s an actual dialog between myself and a former roommate from Monday, BEFORE the news broke:

    Oh, and that other guy I couldn’t think of who transferred out was Gilvydas Biruta. He was ineligible this season. I think he will be playing at URI next year.
    Oh, is that where he went?
    URI. Not a big bb school.
    I guess he REALLY wanted O-U-T.
    Wait for the end of the season. I have a feeling that Rice might get replaced.

    Well, now we know WHY Gil left the program. And I didn’t have to wait until the NCAAs were over to see Rice ousted.

    The next question is, of course, does Rutgers replace the Athletic Director as well? At best, he made a big mistake, thinking that the combination of fine/suspension/counseling was enough. Obviously, it was not.

  • ESPN interviewed Gil, he’s Lithuanian – he said the coach didn’t hate him as a player but as a person. His nickname was “the Lithuanian %$g”. Sad.

  • Franklin E Rutledge

    I come from an ethnicity that had to deal with legal unlawful human hangings, legal racial slurs, legal fire hosing, past and present legal discriminations, so I know something about name callings. Fire him on the spot because he used the n-word or the gay f-word is an indication that society doesn’t believe in rehabilitation. I thank God that he sees us as sinners and offer us his Spirit to help us become a better person. “Fire him,” is the cry of those that don’t have the power of God to help him. Where was the homosexual community after they learned that the children in Connecticut were being raped by the two homosexual men, and where were they when the homosexual priests were raping children? I tell you were they were at, they were silent, because they protect they own, even in sexual abuse. This man deserves a chance of becoming a better man. Someone needs to help him. I believe in the holiness and righteousness of the Lord Jesus Christ. His death gives us the opportunity of following him. They spat on him, but he said, “Father, forgive them.” They shouted louder, “crucify him, crucify him.” But, because of his love for man, in righteousness, he knew he had the power to help them change from their sinful ways. Think for a moment, do we have power to help people change, or should we just ‘Fire them on the spot?’

    • Luke Visconti

      It’s offensive and incorrect to imply that gay people aren’t as offended by pedophile priests or rapists as heterosexual people. I’ll note that there are far more heterosexual pedophiles and rapists—and that it’s the top officials in the Catholic Church who play three-card monte with pedophiles. Anyone who saw that video of Rice’s behavior has to be appalled. Did you notice he had a lackey standing by to reload his basketball arm after he threw balls at his players? I’m shocked that a father of one of those young men wasn’t waiting for Rice in the parking lot after a practice for a little kinesthetic lesson learning.

      I doubt you’d be commenting like this if Rice were using the n-word instead of the f-word (and I’m surprised we haven’t already seen video of Rice extending his hate speech to other groups). You need to go back to church and pray on the concept of loving thy neighbor. I believe that the creator made us equal, and the geneticists agree: There is only ONE human race. We are all equal. There are standards of behavior, and Rice skyrocketed past them.

      The Athletic Director apologized yesterday for his attempt at “rehabilitation.” In the cold light of public scorn, it’s very clear that it was a mistake.

      This will be the last comment with religious references; I’m not going to allow people of different beliefs to have to fight it out to defend their beliefs on my website. Take it somewhere else. Luke Visconti, CEO, DiversityInc

  • One question unanswered is: How was Rice behaving after the suspension, the fine, and the anger management counseling?

  • Phil Seeberg

    I didn’t see the reports or videos, but one thing that I don’t understand is whether the behavior that he was suspended for ended after his anger management classes or if it continued. If he is being fired for old actions, then it is because the suspension was not enough. If it is because his actions/behaviors did not change, then it is all on the coach.

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