CORRECTED-ESPN video shows Rutgers coach berating, hitting players

Tue Apr 2, 2013 9:01pm EDT

(Corrects paragraph 4 to show Rutgers athletic department did not return calls for comment)

By David Jones

NEWARK, N.J., April 2 (Reuters) - The ESPN sports network released video on Tuesday showing a Rutgers University men's basketball head coach, briefly suspended for his behavior last year, shoving players, hurling balls at their heads and berating them with homophobic slurs and profanity during practices.

The video of Coach Mike Rice prompted the office of New Jersey Governor Chris Christie to release a statement condemning the coach's behavior. Rutgers, home to about 58,000 students, is a public university based in New Brunswick, New Jersey.

"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," said the statement. "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."

A university spokesman referred a request for comment to the athletic department, and Jason Baum, a spokesman for Rutgers' athletic department, did not return calls seeking comment.

The video of Rice, taken during team practice sessions, came from attorneys for Eric Murdock, a former professional basketball player and former official at the Rutgers athletic department, according to ESPN. The video of Rice has not been seen by the public previously.

Murdock said he reported Rice's behavior in 2012 and the school later declined to renew his contract, ESPN said.

In December 2012, Rutgers athletic director Tom Pernetti announced that Rice had been suspended for three games and fined $50,000. The suspension took place after Rutgers authorities saw the video, according to Pernetti, who said he saw it in November.

When Rutgers authorities announced the suspension, they provided few details but said there was a "pattern" of inappropriate language and behavior. Rice is in the third year of a five-year contract, and was paid $655,000 by the state university last year, according to public records.

In an interview with ESPN, which was posted on the sports network's website on Tuesday, Pernetti said Rice's suspension stemmed primarily from his use of anti-gay slurs.

Pernetti denied Murdock's claim that he was wrongfully terminated and said his contract was not renewed after he attended a speaking engagement against the wishes of the Rutgers coach.

The video, and other footage of Rice, will be featured on ESPN's "Outside the Lines" show on Sunday. ESPN is a division of Walt Disney Co.

Legal experts familiar with the program said they were at a loss to explain how Rice's behavior was tolerated by the school.

"On a number of levels I'm just really shocked and embarrassed by this whole thing," said Jerrald Colton, a Voorhees, New Jersey-based attorney and an agent at CS Sports Management, which represents professional athletes. "Based on what I've seen he should have been terminated immediately." (Editing by Ellen Wulfhorst and Eric Walsh)