US: Alumni call for university president to quit for failing to sack abusive coach

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Members of the alumni at Rutgers University in New Jersey have called for the resignation of university President Robert Barchi, who presided during the scandal around abusive basketball coach Mike Rice who subjected students to physical and homophobic abuse.

Rutgers University fired Mike Rice on Wednesday after sports broadcaster ESPN aired footage of Rice subjecting players to homophobic and physical abuse.

Thirteen faculty members on Wednesday demanded that the president step down over the “inexcusable handling” of the Mike Rice case, which the university was aware of months ago, but the video of which did not publicly come to light until this week.

The alumni group, as well as gay rights organisations and lawmakers have called for an inquiry into why the situation was not handled sooner.

Some have also called for the resignation of Athletic Director Tim Pernetti, who suspended Rice in November, but who decided to leave him in post.

Mike Rice was suspended for three games, was fined $50,000 (£33,000), and was made to undergo management classes in December. The video showed Rice calling a player a “fucking fairy” and a “fucking faggot”.

“If the roles were reversed and this was a professor and not a coach and this was a student in the classroom as opposed to a collegiate player this would be completely different. You wouldn’t say, `This was a first offense,'” said Glenn Articolo, a radiologist, and a 1991 Rutgers graduate.

“There’s not a single employee at Rutgers University from the president to the janitor who wouldn’t be dismissed immediately. It seems there’s a double standard when it comes to the basketball coach or the football coach.”

On Wednesday, Barchi, who took up his post in September, said he had agreed with the decision to suspend Rice originally, but that once he saw the video this week, he decided it was only appropriate to sack him.

Pernetti said in a statement on Tuesday: ”I am responsible for the decision to attempt a rehabilitation of Coach Rice. Dismissal and corrective action were debated in December and I thought it was in the best interest of everyone to rehabilitate, but I was wrong. Moving forward, I will work to regain the trust of the Rutgers community.”]

Rice on Wednesday delivered a highly emotional apology, during which he said: “I have let so many people down”.

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

A former member of Rutgers staff has said that his contract was not renewed for bringing the video to light, and has said he intends to take legal action against the university.