Whatever Mike Rice has been doing at practice, it cost him $50,000 and a suspension of more than two weeks.
The Rutgers University men’s basketball coach was suspended for three games and fined $50,000 for a pattern of “inappropriate behavior and language” in practices, Scarlet Knights director of intercollegiate athletics Tim Pernetti said on a conference call Thursday.
The suspension will last through Rutgers’ game Dec. 28 against Rider University. Pernetti said the suspension is a “complete removal from the program,” including practices and recruiting. Associate head coach David Cox will serve as interim coach until Dec. 29, when Rice can return to practice.
Pernetti declined to specify the exact behavior and language that led to the suspension. He said only that it was “a pattern” and that it was directed toward players in practice. Pernetti said there were no NCAA violations involved.
“I was made aware of some things within the last couple of weeks,” Pernetti said. “We commenced a pretty thorough and very lengthy and fair investigation, and this was the result of that investigation. There was, obviously, some things that were not to the Rutgers standard that we evaluated and decided upon.”
Senior forward Austin Johnson said during a conference call that he had not noticed inappropriate behavior from Rice.
“We’re all in coach Rice’s corner,” Johnson said.
Rice, 43, is in his third season at Rutgers after three years at Robert Morris. The Scarlet Knights are off to a 6-2 start after posting losing records the previous six seasons.
Rice, who earns $300,000 in base salary in addition to $350,000 in guaranteed compensation in the third year of a five-year contract, will lose $24,905 in salary, according to the Newark Star-Ledger. Coupled with the $50,000 fine, the total loss of $74,905 for the 20-day suspension is roughly 25 percent of his base salary for this season.
“Since becoming a coach at the age of 21, I have taken great pride in not only helping young men learn the game of basketball but also in teaching them about character, respect and hard work,” Rice said in quotes provided by the school. “To the extent that my conduct has ever been in contrast with those principles, I have failed my players — and myself — and I take full responsibility for my actions and accept the terms of my suspension.”
Cox said on a conference call that he will try to follow the same formula in practices. He did not talk about the specific incidents besides comparing Rice to legendary former Georgetown coach John Thompson in terms of intensity.
“Times have changed,” Cox said. “We probably as coaches and as adults probably have to come a little bit further to meet some of these young men that we’re working with.”
Cox will coach Sunday's game against Alabama-Birmingham and the next two games against Howard (Dec. 21) and Rider (Dec. 28), all at the Rutgers Athletic Center.
Pernetti said he has spoken to Rice on several occasions previously about his behavior. The athletic director specifically mentioned an incident last season when Rice was ejected against Louisville.
However, Pernetti said he never considered firing the coach and still believes the program is heading in the right direction.
“I knew exactly what I was getting (when I hired him), and I still know what I got,” Pernetti said. “Mike coaches with an edge, and that’s certainly what we were looking for. We were looking for high energy. We were looking for that edge. We think that that personality is ideal for our program here in New Jersey and everything we were expecting to build.
“At the same time I think, as I said before, there’s a Rutgers standard and … if something falls outside that standard, (that person is) accountable.”
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