Video exposes Rice’s abuse, gay slurs
A 30-minute DVD compiled by a former Rutgers men’s basketball assistant reveals repeated violations of program rules by head coach Mike Rice during a three-year period.
Rice, in his third year with the program, is seen using a homophobic slur during practice, throwing basketballs at players and using physical force at point-blank range.
Athletic Director Tim Pernetti, who hosted members of the media yesterday before appearing on ESPN’s Outside The Lines at 3 p.m., said Rice’s use of the word “faggot” was most damning.
“That word was at the core of this suspension,” said Pernetti, who suspended Rice for three games Dec. 14 and fined him $50,000 as a direct result of the video’s findings. “It absolutely concerns me.”
Pernetti, who hired Rice on May 3, 2010, said he approached a team of independent investigators when the attorneys of Eric Murdock, the team’s former director of player development, showed him the video.
Murdock’s attorneys’ compilation, featuring footage that spans the 2010-2011 and 2011-2012 seasons, shows Rice using verbally abusive language and physical demonstrations of irritation.
Gilvydas Biruta, a former Scarlet Knight, draws the majority of Rice’s ire.
Footage finds Biruta, who has since transferred to Rhode Island, as the target of many of Rice’s basketball heaves and verbal abuse.
In one instance, Biruta stumbles away from a play after suffering a blow to the face. Rice approaches him before saying, “I hope that hurt. Did it hurt?”
“Understand that I enjoyed my time at Rutgers and formed a great relationship with ?@Tim_Pernetti and students,” Biruta tweeted yesterday. “I made many friends at RU.”
Rice is also seen throwing a basketball at a player’s head.
“There’s definitely a fine line,” said Pernetti, one of five athletic directors nominated for SportsBusiness Journal’s AD of the Year. “The rule of thumb, in general, is to never put your hands on a player. I don’t think anything warrants that.”
Pernetti said he wanted to be accountable for Rutgers’ athletic department in revealing the footage, which aired an hour before ESPN’s half-hour segment. He said while he heard Rice use disparaging language before, he did not know the extent until reviewing the practice tapes.
It was part of a concerted effort from Rice to curb poor representation in front of Pernetti, Murdock said.
“The problem is whenever Tim Pernetti came to practice, Mike was on his best behavior,” Murdock said in an interview with ESPN. “As soon as Tim Pernetti leaves, it’s ‘asshole’ or ‘bitch.’”
Rice hired Murdock as part of his first staff in Piscataway. But while Pernetti said he did not renew Murdock’s contract for the 2012-2013 season, Murdock’s attorney, Raj Gadhok, released a statement on ESPN that Murdock was fired unlawfully.
The University is dealing with an ongoing legal matter with Murdock, Pernetti said.
“We chose to take this as an opportunity to re-educate Mike Rice about the Rutgers standard,” Pernetti said.
Part of that standard, Pernetti said, is working at one of the world’s most diverse universities. The revelation of Rice’s homophobic slur coincides with the University’s month-long Gaypril, which is an opportunity for the entire campus to involve itself in educational and celebratory programming on queer issues, according to the University’s Social Justice Education and LGBT Communities’ website.
One clip finds Rice yelling at an unidentified player, “You’re a fucking fairy. You’re a fucking faggot.”
Attempts to contact Jenny Kurtz, the University’s director at the Office of Diverse Community Affairs, were not immediately returned.
Pernetti said Rice has undergone sensitivity training as part of his reinstatement. He also hired a sports psychologist to commit hours of work with Rice.
But Pernetti reprimanded more than only his embattled head coach.
One portion of the video features assistant Jimmy Martelli engaging in a shoving altercation with an unidentified player, at one point standing with his face only inches apart.
Martelli, son of longtime St. Joe’s head coach Phil Martelli, was one of Rice’s first hires and served as Rice’s assistant at Robert Morris, where Rice coached for three seasons before arriving in Piscataway.
“Jimmy was spoken to about the matter,” Pernetti said.
Pernetti insists the half-hour video, broken up into seconds-long clips, does not show the practices’ full context. It does not reveal the moments when Rice is candid with players, or when he carries out his own in-practice punishments, Pernetti said.
Rice received national praise for his handling of the Big East Tournament in 2011, when replays revealed a St. John’s player walking off the court with the ball in his hands as seconds remained. The Knights trailed by a possession at that point, and the game’s officials quickly left the floor.
But away from the podium, Rice secretly dealt with in-house issues that led to another damning moment for the program two years later.
“Mike took the whole thing very, very seriously,” Pernetti said. “He knows he screwed it up. The team and he made some strides on that front. In the end, Mike’s going to have to sit in a kid’s living room and explain why this happened and explain what he’s done to get himself better.”
Rice welcomed a consensus top-15 recruiting class in 2011, before allegations of his practice behavior surfaced. Since Pernetti announced Rice’s three-game suspension, Rice signed Shane Rector, a three-star guard according to Rivals.com, and a pair of junior college transfers.
Three other players have transferred since 2011, but no information available suggests Rice’s practice behavior led to their departure.
“While there’s a pattern here over a period of time … this was not an issue we were dealing with on a daily basis,” Pernetti said. “We thought this was the best course of action.”
Pernetti said he did not originally rule out firing Rice. He consulted University President Robert L. Barchi, who watched the video and is aware of the state of the program, Pernetti said.
Pernetti and Barchi also spoke with the University Board of Governors. Barchi and University Media Relations declined to comment.
“I would tell you that all options were on the table at that time,” Pernetti said. “I haven’t had a line out my door of coaches, players, people at practice.”
Pernetti said he was aware of “Mike’s DNA” when he hired him — Pernetti’s first significant hire as athletic director — from Robert Morris. He said he did due diligence on Rice’s passion, which was the only issue those close to Rice could offer.
Pernetti said he talked to everyone — Robert Morris personnel, Rice’s former schools and even gymnasium janitors — during his vetting of Rice.
“We were definitely looking to hire someone with an edge,” Pernetti said.