"Of course he's coming back," Rutgers athletic director Tim Pernetti told the Newark Star-Ledger on Monday. "It's been an interesting year to say the least. ... There's been a lot of progress. [But there's one place where the progress] doesn't show, and that's in the win-loss column. I would like it to show there. I think everyone in the program would. I know Mike and the players would. But you can definitely see us getting better."
Rutgers finished the regular season 14-15 overall, 5-13 in the Big East and plays DePaul on Tuesday in the opening round of the league tournament. Barring a surprise, the Scarlet Knights will finish with a losing record for the third straight year under Rice. That combined with the fact that Rice was suspended three games and fined $50,000 this season for violations of athletic department policy amid allegations he mistreated players seemed to have his future in jeopardy.
But Pernetti insisted Monday that Rice will return for a fourth season, and he complimented his coach for how he handled the suspension.
"That was a difficult situation for everybody," Pernetti said. "You never want to have to deal with something like that, but sometimes things come up and you have to deal with them. I think everyone here dealt with it effectively. The most difficult it was for anyone was for Mike. But I would also tell you from my close interaction with him and all of the things he has been doing throughout the suspension and following it, he has embraced the situation and has worked as hard at making himself better as he has making our players better."
Rice is 43-50 at Rutgers, 16-26 in Big East play.
"This is not just an on-the-court progress thing," Pernetti told the paper. "This is on the court and off the court. Some people are going to scoff at what I'm saying if they look at it in terms of wins and losses, but of course Mike is going to be back next year."