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Mike Rice, fired by Rutgers, says “I was wrong” (updated)

Mike Rice returned to the Rutgers bench after a suspension in December. (Kevin Rivoli / AP)

Mike Rice has been fired by Rutgers University, less than 24 hours after an ESPN report showed graphic video of the men’s basketball coach physically and verbally abusing players at practice.

Athletic Director Tim Pernetti and the school had suspended Rice for three games and fined him last December, a decision that came under fire when ESPN aired video of Rice’s practices on Tuesday. In a statement this morning, Pernetti said:

“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.”

In the “Outside the Lines” report, video shows Rice throwing basketballs at players, kicking at them, cursing them and using homophobic slurs. The roughly 40-minutes of footage, which Pernetti and Rutgers President Robert L. Barchi saw in December, was obtained from Eric Murdock, a former assistant with the team. ESPN says it has hundreds of hours of other tape of Rice from his three seasons at the school.

Rice spoke of his shame in halting sentences with WABC after his firing.

“As I stated three months ago after I watched the video…how deeply regrettable those actions…I also stated I was going to try to work on changing and I think I’ve accomplished a lot of that. I can’t say anything right now except I’m sorry and there will never be a time when I’m going to use any of that as an excuse — or will there be any excuse.

“I’ve let so many people down, my players, my administration, Rutgers University, the fans, my family who’s sitting in the house just huddled around because of the fact that their father was an embarrassment to them. It’s troubling, but…at some time, maybe I’ll try to explain it, but right now there’s no explanation for what’s on those films because there is no excuse for it. I was wrong.

“I want to tell everybody who believed me in that I’m deeply sorry for the pain and hardship I’ve caused. Thank you very much.”

In a statement issued by the university, Barchi said:

“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.

“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.”

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Rice, Rutgers under fire after ESPN report