(AP) Rutgers alumni call for probe on coach’s firing
By REMA RAHMAN and GEOFF MULVIHILL
NEW BRUNSWICK, N.J.
Mike Rice was fired as the Rutgers men’s basketball coach after a video surfaced showing him shoving players and berating them with gay slurs, but critics said New Jersey’s flagship public university still has more explaining–and maybe some more firing–to do.
A group of 13 faculty members Wednesday demanded that university President Robert Barchi resign for his “inexcusable handling” of the situation.
Alumni, lawmakers and a gay-rights group are among those calling for an investigation into why university officials took months to fire Rice after getting the video from a former basketball program employee in a scandal that touches on two long-standing issues on campus: the role of sports and the treatment of gays.
Some alumni say athletic director Tim Pernetti should also be dismissed and some are questioning what Barchi knew, and when.
In a statement Wednesday, Barchi, who took office in September, said he was told of the video in November and agreed that it would be appropriate to suspend Rice, fine him and send him to anger management counseling. But he said he saw the video for himself only this week, and it was then that he decided Rice should be fired.
Pernetti also issued a statement Wednesday, but he and Barchi were not made available to answer reporters’ questions.
Because he lasted the season, Rice is due a $100,000 bonus on top of his salary. He was paid $622,500 in 2012. Athletic Department spokesman Jason Baum said he’ll get the bonus for coaching the final game of the 2012-13 season last month because it’s contractually obligated.
Assembly Speaker Sheila Oliver, a Democrat who spoke about the topic on several radio and television shows Wednesday, is calling for legislative hearings on the details.
The gay-rights group Garden State Equality also called for an investigation.
Much of the anger over the university’s handling of the situation came because Rice was not fired until after the public saw the video.
Some at Rutgers, a long-time also-ran in major sports, have been debating for years whether it’s been worth it to spend more money and put more focus on trying to elevate the university’s football and men’s basketball programs.
The university has also dealt with how gay students are treated since Tyler Clementi, a freshman there, killed himself in 2010 days after learning his roommate had used a webcam to see him kissing another man. The roommate spent 20 days in jail last year after a jury convicted him of bias intimidation and other crimes in a case that sparked policy changes to try to make Rutgers friendlier to gay students.
Some students agreed that the coach needed to be ousted.
Alison Coopersmith, an 18-year-old first-year student majoring in political science said that if gay slurs are not tolerated by students, they shouldn’t be tolerated by professionals, either.
But on campus, not everyone was up in arms Wednesday.
Taylor Akers, a 19-year-old sophomore pre-med major, said Rice should not have been fired. “That happens all the time,” he said.
Mulvihill reported from Haddonfield. Also contributing to this report were AP reporters Katie Zezima in Newark and Angela Delli Santi in Trenton and sportswriter Tom Canavan in Piscataway.