Rutgers coach Mike Rice in jeopardy: How powerful is public opinion?

Rutgers coach Mike Rice's questionable tactics might cost him his job — four months after Rice's bosses saw it and gave him a slap on the wrist — in the wake of the video's ESPN airing and the ensuing public outcry.

By , Associated Press

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    Rutgers coach Mike Rice shouts to his players during a March 5 basketball game in Piscataway, N.J. Rutgers said it would reconsider its decision to retain Rice after a videotape, broadcast Tuesday, April 2, on ESPN, prompted scores of outraged social media comments as well as sharp criticism from Gov. Chris Christie and NBA star LeBron James.
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Rutgers said it would reconsider its decision to retain basketball coach Mike Rice after a videotape aired showing him shoving, grabbing, and throwing balls at players in practice and using gay slurs.

The videotape, broadcast Tuesday on ESPN, prompted scores of outraged social media comments as well as sharp criticism from Gov. Chris Christie and NBA star LeBron James.

Athletic director Tim Pernetti was given a copy of the video in late November by a former employee. He suspended Rice for three games a month later, fined him $50,000 and ordered him to attend anger management classes.

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In an interview with WFAN Radio on Tuesday, Pernetti said university president Robert Barchi also viewed the tape last fall and agreed with the punishment.

But ESPN's broadcast prompted an outcry, led by the governor himself.

"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."

The Miami Heat's 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."

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.

Pernetti told WFAN that he understands why many are asking why Rice wasn't fired after the initial investigation.

"I spent more time with that option on whether we should fire Mike or not than any other option," Pernetti said. "At the same the results of the investigation where we ended up, the determination was made to suspend him. My biggest concern as the AD is that I am always trying to protect the interests and reputation of the university and that's what makes this one so difficult. There is a lot of hindsight, 20-20, .... that there will be no other option than to terminate Mike. I made that decision. I am accountable for it. I have to live with it."

Rice was Pernetti's first major hire after getting the job as athletic director.

"In the end I am not going to look back and say shoulda, woulda. All I can do is figure out going forward the decisions I can make to fix the problem for Rutgers," Pernetti told the radio station.

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