The evidence against Mike Rice was too damning, too vile, too extreme for him to spend one more day on the Rutgers University payroll.

That he remained employed this long — long after a line of Rutgers officials that winds all the way to the president’s office had watched the now infamous video — is an embarrassment. It is bad enough that Rice behaved like an unrestrained child having a temper tantrum, but what puts this over the top were the anti-gay slurs.

Rutgers Athletic Director Mike Pernetti and President Robert Barchi need to ask themselves how they would have reacted if Rice used a racial slur. Our guess is he would have been fired, without all the outside pressure. Bigoted attacks on gays should be taken no less seriously.

Pernetti has acknowledged that he knew the video — showing the head basketball coach assaulting his players, over and over, with heaved basketballs and hurled slurs — would go public. It became one of the nation’s most talked-about stories. That makes the decision to handle Rice’s behavior with a suspension and fines, all while planning to let him keep coaching college students, all the more bone-headed.

Rice had to go.

Can a lesson be learned from this? It’s a lesson that should have been learned from the tragedy of Tyler Clementi’s suicide. Clementi, a gay Rutgers student, jumped to his death after he was electronically spied on by his roommate.

Clementi’s story unfolded at Rutgers, right under Rice’s nose. Yet the slurs continued. People who know the coach — including players who took his abuse — say it wasn’t as bad as the video makes it look, that there’s no video showing Rice’s chest bumps and high-fives.

In the end, it was the verbal attacks, not the physical ones, that sealed Rice’s fate. How should the rest of Rutgers — students and faculty, gay or otherwise — watch the video and see that intolerable behavior was to be tolerated at the university’s highest levels?

Rice deserved to be fired. Now attention has to be turned to Pernetti and others who failed to see what was unmistakable to everyone else.

— The Star-Ledger, New Jersey, April 3

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