Rutgers community reacts to firing
NEW BRUNSWICK, N.J. -- Rutgers did the right thing by firing men's basketball coach Mike Rice.
That was the sentiment from most students on campus Wednesday, shortly after the university announced that Rice had been terminated. Rice came under heavy scrutiny after video surfaced on ESPN's "Outside the Lines" showing him abusing his players both verbally and physically during practice.
"There's just no place for that in the game, so it's the right thing to do," said 19-year-old freshman Mike Denis while waiting for a bus near the university's famous Grease Trucks.
"You just have to move on and get somebody who's going to come in and treat his players better. ... Throwing basketballs at players' heads is not something I've ever seen done. Coaches get intense, they get mad, it happens, but doing things like that is just not right. Your players are considered your family, so you shouldn't be doing that."
Added 22-year-old junior Alexander Hughes: "Personally, I honestly think he should've been fired a lot sooner. If they knew he was doing this -- throwing basketballs at his players and using gay slurs -- back in the fall, they should've done something then."
Twenty-year-old junior Jack Daily, however, disagreed, saying that Rice shouldn't have been let go for the way he treated his players. Rather, he should've been let go because his teams underachieved in his three seasons at the helm, compiling a 44-51 overall record, including a dismal 16-38 mark in the Big East.
"I don't think Mike Rice shouldn't have gotten fired for the reason he got fired," Daily said. "Rutgers sucks at basketball, so I think that's reason enough. That being said, being a tough coach and calling your players p------ isn't reason enough to get fired."
Freshman Mike Popowich said Rice's firing has dominated talk on campus and social media.
"On Facebook, everybody's posting pictures of the news trucks on campus and stuff, so it's getting around," Popowich said.
"I just came home from work and a couple of my co-workers were talking about it," Hughes added, "and I know it's going to be referenced in one of my classes tonight."
The students didn't believe the university needed to go as far as firing athletic director Tim Pernetti and president Robert Barchi, who initially only suspended Rice for three games and fined him $50,000 in December.
"I don't think they should go that far, but they should be under tough scrutiny, because they knew that this was happening and they didn't do anything," Popowich said.
Barchi released a statement on why he decided to fire Rice now when he could have done it earlier.
"Yesterday, I personally reviewed the video evidence, which shows a chronic and pervasive pattern of disturbing behavior," Barchi said. "I have now reached a 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."
Twenty-year-old Michael Nicholson, a junior at The College of New Jersey who considers himself a huge Scarlet Knights fan, thought highly of Rice's passion and believes Rutgers will miss him on the sideline.
"I thought he was a really great coach while he was here, and it's a shame to see stuff like that to the players, because you never want to see players treated like that," Nicholson said. "But I really loved his intensity for the team and the school. I thought he had a lot of pride for the school, so it's going to be a big loss, and it's unfortunate."
Chris Johnson, a 29-year-old NJ Transit worker who lives in nearby Metuchen, was shocked that the players would allow Rice to treat them so terribly.
"It's crazy," Johnson said. "Those kids aren't young. If I were those kids, I would've taken care of it myself, honestly. It's unbelievable."
Mike Mazzeo is a regular contributor to ESPNNewYork.com.