Rutgers suspends Mike Rice for throwing basketballs at players’ heads

By Matt Sugam

Rutgers has suspended men’s basketball head coach Mike Rice three games without pay and have fined him $50,000 for a violation of athletic department policy Rutgers Athletic Director Tim Pernetti announced today.

The suspension is for inappropriate behavior and language, not an NCAA violation. The Star-Ledger later reported that it was for throwing basketballs at players’ heads in his first or second year as head coach.

Along with not coaching in the games, Pernetti said Rice’s suspension includes “complete removal from the program” for the span of the three games.

Associate head coach David Cox will serve as the interim head coach and Rice will resume his head coaching duties December 28 after the Rider game.

“It’s a difficult situation certainly,” Pernetti said in a conference call with reporters. “I was made aware of some things in the last couple of weeks. We commenced a pretty thorough and very lengthy and fair investigation and this was the result of that investigation. There was obviously some thing that are not to the Rutgers standard that we evaluated and decided upon.”

While Pernetti would not divulge the details of what exactly Rice did, he did say it took place during practice and involved players. Pernetti also said it wasn’t an isolated incident.

“It’s a pattern I think I would say,” Pernetti said.

And not just a recent one. The athletic director has had talks with his head coach in the past about his behavior.

“Mike and I throughout his tenure here have discussed certain instances,” Pernetti said. “Whether it had been the ejection at Louisville last year or other things I’ve witnessed, but that dialogue has been productive all along the way every time we’ve had to deal with it.”

But this is the first time the two have had to deal with it in a public matters.

Despite the situation, Pernetti emphatically said he did not consider firing Rice over the incident and is committed to the third-year head coach for the future.

“I am committed to Mike,” Pernetti said. “While this is a difficult situation and while it’s certainly negative, there are a lot of positives going on in the program and a lot of improvements for the every day fan who only sees the product on the floor to understand.”

And Pernetti understands who he was hiring in Rice. A fiery coach that’s prone to losing his cool on the sidelines.

“I knew exactly what I was getting and I knew what I got,” Pernetti said. “Mike coaches with an edge and that’s certainly what I was looking for. Mike coaches with a high energy, we were looking for that edge. We think that personality is ideal for our program here in New Jersey and everything we’re expecting to build.

“But as I said before, there’s a Rutgers standard. Everybody that participates in our program at any level – whether or a coach or an athlete or anyone else – I make clear what the Rutgers standard is and if someone falls out of their standard, they’re held accountable. ”

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