Rutgers AD Tim Pernetti announced Thursday that men’s basketball head coach Mike Rice has been suspended three games without pay and fined $50,000 due to a violation of athletic department policy.
The suspension is a result of inappropriate behavior and language, and Brendan Prunty of The Star-Ledger reported that Rice threw basketballs at players’ heads during practice in his first or second season.
Associate head coach David Cox will serve as the team’s interim coach, beginning with Sunday’s home game against UAB. Rice will return to his duties as head coach January 2 at Syracuse.
“It’s a difficult situation certainly,” Pernetti said in a conference call with reporters, according to Matt Sugam of SNY.tv. “I was made aware of some things in the last couple of weeks. We commenced a pretty thorough and very lengthy and fair investigation and this was the result of that investigation. There was obviously some things that are not to the Rutgers standard that we evaluated and decided upon.”
According to the Ledger:
Rice is not be allowed to be around the team, make recruiting trips or visits or have any contact with his players while he is suspended. The 43-year old Rice, who earns $300,000 in base salary in addition to $350,000 in guaranteed compensation in the third year of a five-year contract, will lose $24,905 in salary. Coupled with the $50,000 fine, the total loss of $74,905 for the 20-day suspension is roughly 25 percent of his base salary for this season.
Pernetti said he never considered firing Rice, who is in his third year at Rutgers.
“I am committed to Mike,” Pernetti said. “While this is a difficult situation and while it’s certainly negative, there are a lot of positives going on in the program and a lot of improvements for the every day fan who only sees the product on the floor to understand.”
He also said he knew what he was getting when he hired the fiery Rice to replace Fred Hill three years ago.
“I knew exactly what I was getting and I knew what I got,” Pernetti said. “Mike coaches with an edge and that’s certainly what I was looking for. Mike coaches with a high energy, we were looking for that edge. We think that personality is ideal for our program here in New Jersey and everything we’re expecting to build.”
Rice issued this apology.
“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,” said Rice. “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.”
**For the players’ reactions, click here.