(USA TODAY)-- Rutgers men's basketball coach Mike Rice and athletics director Tim Pernetti are under fire after video of the misconduct toward players that earned him a suspension and fine in December aired on ESPN on Tuesday.
The footage, aired on ESPN's "Outside the Lines," showed Rice throwing and kicking basketballs at players, shoving players and hurling bleeped-out expletives at them. Pernetti showed reporters a more extensive, 40-minute version that revealed expletive-laced homophobic slurs.
The videos, which were compiled by former Rutgers basketball staff member Eric Murdock, first came to Pernetti's attention in November. He suspended Rice three games and fined him $50,000.
Pressure on Pernetti to terminate Rice - and explain his decision to retain him after in November - came in from all corners of the national media, starting with an intensive grilling by the "Outside the Lines" hosts.
Murdock, a Bridgewater native and resident who played nine years in the NBA, served as Rice's director of player development in 2010-11 and 2011-12 before his contract was not renewed last June. He furnished the video to ESPN.
In an interview with reporters Tuesday, and on ESPN shortly thereafter, Pernetti defended his handling of Rice, which included contracting an independent investigator to review the practice videos in full and to interview the players.
But later in the day, during a radio interview on WFAN, Pernetti softened his stance, indicating Rice's is in serious jeopardy of being fired over the next 48 hours.
"Honestly my biggest concern as AD is I'm always trying to protect the interest and reputation of the university," Pernetti said on the air. "I made that decision. I'm accountable for it. I have to live with that."
He added, "As you look at the impact it has on the university, quite frankly, will we ever have the ability to be effective on a going-forward basis in this situation? I think everything has to be weighed. But we did an independent review of this situation for a reason, which was we wanted unemotional people to review it and help us with this decision."
Asked by Francesa whether firing Rice is now an option, Pernetti said, "It's a tough question to answer. I think now that it's out there - we knew it was going to get out there - the reaction, we knew (what) it was going to be. But again I need to sit here and think about what gives us the ability to be effective going forward in men's basketball and more importantly what protects the university."
Speaking to reporter earlier, Pernetti acknowledged that university president Robert L. Barchi had seen the tape, adding, "The president and I worked closely together when this issue came up. We worked closely together with members of the Board (of Governors). And (Barchi) is a lot like me. We deal with everything into the wide open."
Through a spokesman, Barchi declined to comment and referred all inquiries to Pernetti.
Speaking for Barchi, Pernetti said, "We had all the same concerns but we felt strongly" about the decision to suspend and fine Rice.
Asked specifically about Rice's shouting of gay slurs at players, Pernetti said, "I'll just tell you this about certain words that were used, they're unacceptable and if you use them once it's once too many. At a place like Rutgers - one of the most diverse universities in the world, which we pride ourselves on, it's absolutely unacceptable."
Reporters pointed out to Pernetti that the gay slurs were used at Rutgers shortly after the highly publicized Tyler Clementi suicide and ensuing bias intimidation court case.
"I would tell you that that word was at the core of the suspension," Pernetti said. "It absolutely concerns me. It's not acceptable."
Asked about Rice making aggressive contact with his players as seen on the video, Pernetti said, "I think in a couple of those clips there you see Mike demonstrating a technique where he's making contact as he's demonstrating a technique.
"And then there's other incidents where putting your hands on a player is not acceptable no matter what. Yeah, there's a line but I think the rule of thumb in general is never put your hands on a player."
In their grilling of Pernetti, the "Outside the Lines" hosts quoted former Rutgers forward Gilvydas Biruta as saying he transferred to Rhode Island after two years because of Rice's actions during practice.
Shortly after the show, Biruta tweeted, "Understand that I enjoyed my time at Rutgers and formed a great relationship with Tim Pernetti and students. I made many friends at RU."
Rice, who has two years left on a five-year contract and was Pernetti's first major hire, declined to comment via text message. Pernetti said the coach will be reaching out to communities he has offended.
"Mike has undergone some pretty intensive sensitivity training as part of this whole deal and has dealt with, or continues to deal with a lot of those issues. This is not the kind of thing that once the basketball season is over, penance is paid," Pernetti said. "I've had a sports psychologist working 60-to-80 hours with him since the suspension took place. He's going to be involved in all those communities that he may have or will offend on the going-forward basis."