TRENTON – When Rutgers University’s president appeared before Assembly lawmakers Thursday, he told officials he was unlikely to budge on a big payout for former head basketball coach Mike Rice.
Hours later, the university announced it had agreed to a $475,000 separation settlement following Rice’s April dismissal for physically and verbally abusing his players, and that announcement caught some Statehouse insiders in the Assembly by surprise.
However, Gov. Chris Christie said Friday he thought President Robert Barchi’s statements aligned with the university’s settlement announcement.
“I think it was half of what they originally said he was going to get and I think that was probably what he was implying in his answer,” said Christie during a press conference, explaining that it was reported following the controversy that Rice could have received a much larger severance package.
“I think originally they were talking about three quarters of a million dollars and so now he made it less. I think that’s what he was implying was that he was not going to budge on there being a large payout above what they’re required to do under the contract,” Christie said. “So, I think his statements were consistent.”
The agreement came after Rutgers terminated Rice following the release of videos that showed him physically and verbally abusing players. The video spurred the university to dismiss two other high-ranking employees.
“Tonight’s agreement is in the best interests of the university, and I am pleased this issue has been resolved,” Rutgers’ Barchi said in a statement issued Thursday evening.
Earlier in the day, Barchi said he had not yet approved the roughly $1 million severance package reportedly owed to Rice. Barchi told Assembly lawmakers Rice had “damaged” the university.
Christie was also asked during the afternoon news conference regarding gun and violence control if he had any comment on news of the university suspending its men’s lacrosse coach after allegations of verbal abuse surfaced.
The governor responded by saying he didn’t have enough information on the situation to comment.
“I was inside in my office working on this and I saw it online, that’s all I know about it. It’s very dangerous for me to comment on it based on that, so I won’t,” Christie said.
“I’m just not going to get into the micromanagement of this stuff. I don’t know enough to do it. The Rice situation was different for all of us because all of us got to see it, so everyone can make their own judgment on it,” he said. “I don’t know what the lacrosse coach said or did. I only know what I read on a short story online before I came out here so it wouldn’t be appropriate for me to comment on.”