US & Canada

Basketball coach Mike Rice sacked by Rutgers University

Mike Rice on the sidelines of a game in New Jersey on 5 March 2013
Image caption Rutgers was already aware of coach Mike Rice's behaviour

A US university has bowed to pressure to sack its head basketball coach over footage of him physically abusing players and screaming homophobic slurs.

The dismissal of Mike Rice from Rutgers University in New Jersey was effective immediately, a college spokesman said.

New Jersey Governor Chris Christie and NBA star LeBron James were among those who condemned the coach's conduct.

Mr Rice apologised on Wednesday, saying there was no excuse for his actions captured on video.

He was recruited in 2010 to be head basketball coach at Rutgers, which finished last season near the bottom of their league, the prestigious Big East Conference.

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Media captionMike Rice: "There's no excuse for it - I was wrong"

"I've let so many people down: my players, my administration, Rutgers University, the fans," Mr Rice told ABC News in an interview outside his home on Wednesday.

"My family [are] sitting in their house just huddled around because of the fact that their father was an embarrassment to them."

'Disturbing behaviour'

Featuring clips shot between 2010-12, the video aired on sports network ESPN shows Mr Rice shouting obscenities, hurling balls at team members, as well as kicking and grabbing them.

Rutgers athletic director Tim Pernetti reportedly viewed the footage late last year.

The university then suspended Mr Rice for three games, fined him $75,000 (£50,000) and ordered him to attend anger management classes.

On Wednesday, Rutgers President Robert Barchi said in a statement on the university website: "Coach Rice's abusive language and actions are deeply offensive and egregiously violate the university's core values."

Mr Barchi added that the video revealed a "chronic and pervasive pattern of disturbing behaviour", which led to his dismissal.

The decision to fire Mr Rice comes amid mounting pressure at both state and national level for the university to take action.

Gov Christie said in a statement that he was "deeply disturbed" by the footage.

"This was a regrettable episode for the university, but I completely support the decision to remove Coach Rice," he said.

Image caption Miami Heat forward LeBron James was among those who criticised the shamed college coach

New Jersey Assembly Speaker Sheila Oliver said the coach's conduct was "unbecoming of our state".

She called for an investigation into why Rutgers decided not to fire Mr Rice when it first became aware of the video.

One of the most famous basketball players in the US, the Miami Heat forward LeBron James, tweeted: "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.''

Athletic director Mr Pernetti apologised for not taking more robust action when the footage first came to his attention.

"I am responsible for the decision to attempt a rehabilitation of Coach Rice," he said in a written statement.

Saying that Rutgers had considered firing him at the time, Mr Pernetti added: "I thought it was in the best interest of everyone to rehabilitate, but I was wrong."

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