Reaction to Rice video has Rutgers reconsidering

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“You have to be always cautious about public reaction, because the reaction the public is having is the same I had when I saw it (the film),” Pernetti told the radio station. “I am factoring everything into what we do going forward. The most important thing I am factoring in is trying to make sure that we don’t do harm to Rutgers University, because we are a small slice of the pie here at this great place. I don’t want to put any negatively on the university when we have a lot of real good things going on.”

Pernetti said 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,” he 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 … 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 AD’s job.

Assemblyman Reed Gusciora (D-Mercer/Hunterdon) called Rice’s conduct indefensible, and said he should have been fired in December, after the tape was given to Pernetti.

Gusciora also said Pernetti’s decision deserves a full review.

“If the university does not act, I will seek to add a provision to the state budget defunding Mr. Rice’s salary,” Gusciora said. “Taxpayers should not be paying for this behavior.”

Pernetti said his decision to only suspend Rice was made in part because the coach was remorseful and admitted he made mistakes. Pernetti said Rice also worked hard to improve himself with the counseling.

Rice had a reputation as being “a fiery guy with an edge” before coming to Rutgers and Pernetti said the two talked about it for five hours before he was hired.

“He convinced me he understood his reputation, but he also understood where the line was,” Pernetti said. “I made clear to him if he crossed the line he would be held accountable. In this case he did, and we held him accountable for it.”

That might not be enough in the wake of the video made by Eric Murdock, the former NBA player who was hired by Rice to be director of player development.

The two had a falling out over Murdock’s appearances at a camp, and Pernetti said Murdock’s contract was not renewed. Murdock, who said he was fired, then compiled the video, splicing together the practice lowlights of Rice’s first three years as coach.

Pernetti said about 60 percent of the incidents happened in Rice’s first season. He also was upset with Rice using a certain gay slur at a university where student Tyler Clementi committed suicide after a roommate used a webcam to spy on him with another man.

“I would tell you that that word was at the core of the suspension,” Pernetti said. “It absolutely concerns me. It’s not acceptable.”

Copyright 2014 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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