NEWARK, N.J. (AP) - Rutgers officials had already seen the video showing coach Mike Rice shoving, grabbing and throwing basketballs at players during practice and yelling gay slurs at them before it was aired by ESPN Tuesday.
The school punished Rice in December, suspending him for three games and fining him $50,000.
Now that the video has gone viral, many -- including the governor of New Jersey -- wondered why Rutgers let Rice keep his job at all.
On Wednesday morning, Rutgers and athletic director Tim Pernetti fired Rice after reconsidering their decision to retain the fiery 44-year-old coach.
The videotape, broadcast Tuesday on ESPN, prompted scores of outraged social media comments as well as sharp criticism from Gov. Chris Christie and Miami Heat star LeBron James. The head of the New Jersey Assembly called for Rice to be fired.
Pernetti was given a copy of the video in late November by a former employee. In addition to the suspension and fine, Pernetti ordered Rice to attend anger management classes.
In an interview with WFAN Radio in New York Tuesday, Pernetti said university president Robert Barchi also viewed the tape last fall and agreed with the punishment.
Phone messages left for Rice by the AP were not immediately returned.
But ESPN's broadcast prompted an outcry.
"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."
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."
The video shows numerous clips of Rice at practice firing basketballs at players, hitting them in the back, legs, feet and shoulders. Rice was also shown pushing players in the chest and grabbing them by their jerseys and yanking them around the court. Rice could be heard screaming obscenities and gay slurs at players.
With mounting criticism on a state and national level, the school decided to take action Wednesday, relieving Rice of his duties after three largely unsuccessful seasons at the Big East school. There will be a national search to replace him.
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.
Before firing Rice, Pernetti said he understood why many asked why the coach was allowed to keep his job 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.
Pernetti said his decision to only suspend Rice at the time 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 wasn't 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 low-lights 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."
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