Robert Morris investigation turns up prior accusations against Mike Rice

By Matt Norlander | Staff Writer

Mike Rice has been accused of bad coaching tactics during his short time at RMU as well. (USATSI)

The fallout from the Mike Rice debacle at Rutgers continues, this time with his prior school, Robert Morris.

Rice took RMU to the NCAA tournament in back-to-back seasons, 2009 and 2010, which led him to a Big East promotion. But in the wake of Rice's firing over verbal and physical abuse due to last week's practice-video leak, Robert Morris found it in its best interest to do some digging within the department.

It found other evidence and allegations of Rice being less than ethical in his coaching practices while he was employed there.

TribLive.com reports Rice was twice accused of bad behavior, but neither time did the accusations or ensuing discussions reach a point of seriousness the way they did at Rutgers. Remember, Rice did initially serve a three-game suspension, was fined $50,000 by Rutgers and could not be around the team for two weeks.

Per the TribLive.com report:

[Athletic director Craig] Coleman said he started the investigation when Eric Murdock, Rutgers' former director of player development, alleged Rice engaged in brawls with players while Rice was Robert Morris head coach from 2007-10. ...

“Let's bias the sample,” Coleman said of the five-day study that included interviews with 17 current and former coaches, players and support staff. “Our goal was not to make it look good. If something happened, we wanted to find out. Kids who left might be more likely to reveal something.”

Coleman said one individual spoke of physical altercations between Rice and his coaches and the players. One unidentified former player, who left Robert Morris while Rice was there, said the coach directed homophobic slurs toward him and “once or twice” threw a basketball at another player, Coleman said.

At this point, these are only more accusations, but it looks to further smear Rice's reputation and could lend credence that the Rutgers incidents weren't endemic to only that institution.

Another account from an unnamed former Robert Morris player, according to the report, went like this: Rice was involved in a shoving match in the locker room at halftime of a game. But said player involved in that alleged shoving match denies it happening, noting only that it got intense on a vocal level.

"This may be as close as we can get to the truth of what was experienced here five years ago,” Coleman said in a statement. "Despite a vast majority of evidence refuting these suspicions, we feel duty-bound to report fully what we have learned. We are distressed to hear about even one account of inappropriate behavior toward any of our players. Whether corroborated or not, we must use this as an opportunity to reaffirm that RMU does not -- and will not -- tolerate abusive behavior."

The Rice story dominated conversation at the Final Four in Atlanta among those in and around the coaching profession. And Rice may not be the only one who cost himself. In talking to many people in Atlanta, there was a feeling that whistleblower Eric Murdock has sigificantly damaged his chances at getting another job in college basketball as well.

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