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Robert Morris comments on Rice allegations

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One former player accuses ex-coach of abusive behavior

Last Thursday, former Rutgers University Director of Player Development Eric Murdock made allegations about “coaches-versus-player brawls” during Mike Rice’s tenure at RMU, in the course of discussing the behavior that resulted in Rice’s firing as head coach of the Rutgers men’s basketball team.

Even though RMU had received no previous reports nor had any record of such behaviors during Rice’s tenure, Murdock’s allegations prompted the university to conduct an internal inquiry of the RMU men’s basketball program under former head coach Rice.

Led by RMU Athletic Director Craig Coleman and his senior staff — and reporting regularly to RMU’s president and senior administrators — this inquiry included interviews and testimonials taken from players, former players, coaches, former coaches, trainers and members of the media and public at large.

The focus of the inquiry was whether, during Rice’s three years as coach of the Colonials, any of the following occurred:
- Physical altercations between players and coaches
- Physical abuse of players by Coach Rice
- The use of homophobic slurs by Coach Rice

A total of 17 personal interviews were conducted to date with the five current RMU basketball players who played under Coach Rice; seven former players, including four who left the university during Coach Rice’s tenure; three current and former members of the RMU basketball coaching staff, including one who left RMU during Coach Rice’s tenure; as well as two members of the athletic training staff.

Coleman and staff also reviewed comments documented in news reports and via social media by other former players as well as high school coaches, members of the media and university officials, many of whom regularly attended RMU practices in the Charles L. Sewall Arena, a venue that is open to the university community.

None of these interviews and testimonials revealed evidence of the “coaches-versus-player brawls” alleged by Mr. Murdock.

All but one of these interviews and testimonials revealed no evidence of physical altercations of any kind between coaches and players taking place during Rice’s time at RMU, nor that players were subjected to the physical and verbal abuses shown in the Rutgers video.

However, one individual — a former player who left the university while under Coach Rice’s tenure — did recount that Coach Rice directed homophobic slurs to him and “once or twice” threw a basketball in the direction of a player. Additionally, he said that he witnessed, on one occasion during a halftime in the locker room, Coach Rice and a fellow player shoving each other. The other player in question, who was also interviewed, vehemently denied shoving or being shoved by Coach Rice.

“We conducted our investigation because accusations were made and questions were raised about the way our players were treated under Coach Rice,” said Coleman. “This may be as close as we can get to the truth of what was experienced here five years ago. Despite a vast majority of evidence refuting these suspicions, we feel duty-bound to report fully on what we have learned.

“We are distressed to hear about even one account of inappropriate behavior towards 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. We will continue to do all that is possible to ensure that players and coaches act and are treated with mutual respect going forward.”

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