(TheBlaze/AP) — Rutgers officials had already seen the video showing coach Mike Rice shoving, grabbing and throwing basketballs at players during practice and yelling gay slurs at them before it was aired by ESPN on Tuesday.
The school punished Rice in December, suspending him for three games and fining him $50,000.
But now that the video has gone viral, many – including the governor of New Jersey – asked why Rutgers let Rice keep his job at all.
After scores of outraged social media comments and sharp criticism from elected officials (even Miami Heat star LeBron James weighed in), Rutgers fired basketball coach Mike Rice Wednesday morning.
Pernetti was first given a copy of the video in late November by a former employee, according to reports. In addition to the suspension and fine, Pernetti ordered Rice to attend anger management classes.
But ESPN’s recent broadcast prompted a nationwide outcry.
“Governor Christie saw the video today for the first time and he is obviously deeply disturbed by the conduct displayed and strongly condemns this behavior,” spokesman Michael Drewniak said. “It’s not the type of leadership we should be showing our young people and clearly there are questions about this behavior that need to be answered by the leaders at Rutgers University.”
LeBron James weighed in with a tweet: “If my son played for Rutgers or a coach like that he would have some real explaining to do and I’m still gone whoop on him afterwards! C’mon.”
The video shows numerous clips of Rice at practice firing basketballs at players, hitting them in the back, legs, feet and shoulders. Rice was also shown pushing players in the chest and grabbing them by their jerseys and yanking them around the court. Rice could be heard screaming obscenities and gay slurs at players.
Assembly Speaker Sheila Oliver (D-Essex/Passaic) called Rice’s conduct “unacceptable not only at our state university, but in all circumstances. It is offensive and unbecoming of our state.”
Rice, who was hired by Pernetti three years ago, is 44-51 at Rutgers, including 16-38 in the Big East, after going 73-31 in three seasons at Robert Morris. The Scarlet Knights went 15-16 this season and 5-13 in the Big East.
With mounting criticism on a state and national level, the school has relieved Rice of his duties after three largely unsuccessful seasons at the Big East school. There will be a national search to replace him.
Pernetti said he understands why many are asking why Rice wasn’t fired after the initial investigation.
He said it was in part because the coach was remorseful and admitted he made mistakes. Rice said he worked hard to improve himself with the counseling.
But that wasn’t enough in the wake of the video made by Eric Murdock, the former NBA player who was hired by Rice to be director of player development.
The two had a falling out over Murdock’s appearances at a camp, and Pernetti said Murdock’s contract was not renewed. Murdock, who said he was fired, then compiled the video, splicing together the practice lowlights of Rice’s first three years as coach.
Pernetti said about 60 percent of the incidents happened in Rice’s first season. He also was upset with Rice using a certain gay slur at a university where student Tyler Clementi committed suicide after a roommate used a webcam to spy on him with another man.
“I would tell you that that word was at the core of the suspension,” Pernetti said. “It absolutely concerns me. It’s not acceptable.”