Rutgers president: Rice won't get hefty severance package
TRENTON, N.J. (AP) Rutgers President Robert Barchi told a New Jersey Assembly budget panel on Thursday that he has not signed a settlement agreement with the university's recently fired men's basketball coach and would not approve a hefty payout to the disgraced coach.
If the university comes to terms with former Coach Mike Rice, "it will be a fraction of" the $1 million the coach would be due under terms of his contract, Barchi said. The university did not fire Rice for cause, though Barchi, who is not a lawyer, said he thought it could have.
"My personal position is that the university was damaged by his actions. My personal position is there was conduct there that was unethical, not acceptable," Barchi said.
Gov. Chris Christie, who is a lawyer and father of a college athlete, also has said Rice should have been fired for cause.
The coach was fired after a video of him throwing basketballs at players during practices, shoving them and uttering anti-gay slurs was shown on ESPN.
Barchi said severances worth between $420,000 and $1.2 million had been finalized for two other officials caught up in the scandal. The university's lawyer and athletic director both resigned in what Barchi termed mutual separation agreements.
Rutgers took steps last week to publicly address fallout from the scandal, announcing an independent review and hiring a respected former state attorney general as the school's new top lawyer.
The measures were intended to get the university back on track during a time of transformation. Rutgers is absorbing most parts of the University of Medicine and Dentistry of New Jersey, which gives it a coveted medical school, and is working on a strategic plan for how to catapult the school to be among the highest regarded public universities in the nation.
The university, set to enter the Big Ten Conference, is reported to have reached a tentative agreement with Los Angeles Lakers assistant Eddie Jordan to take over as coach of the scandal-marred program.
The video of Rice, taken at practices during his three years at Rutgers, showed numerous clips of the coach firing basketballs at players, hitting them in the back, legs, feet and shoulders, grabbing players by their jerseys and yelling obscenities and using anti-gay slurs.
"There may not be a settlement, we may be in court over this," Barchi said after the hearing at the Statehouse in Trenton, where the president was called to answer questions as lawmakers reviewed $487 million in proposed aid to the state's largest university.
Barchi, who said he viewed the tape for the first time the day it was broadcast nationally, said Rice was allowed to keep the Scarlet Knights football seats that he's had for 30 years - but he'll have to buy the tickets.