Rutgers University has apparently decided to fire head basketball coach Mike Rice, after ESPN aired secret video footage of the coach's behavior during practice sessions in his first two seasons in Piscataway. Athletic Director Tim Pernetti, who hired Rice shortly after taking the helm at Rutgers, suspended and fined the coach back in December, when he first learned about the tapes, which show Rice throwing basketballs at players' heads, and using excessive profanity and gay slurs.
After ESPN aired the video on national television, public outcry erupted for the coach's dismissal. The National College Players Association issued a statement calling for Rice to be fired; reportedly, LeBron James and his Miami Heat teammates were angered by the coach's behavior as well. Even NJ Governor Chris Christie weighed in on the issue (no pun intended), saying that he was "deeply disturbed" by the way the coach conducted himself.
Regardless of whether Rice's behavior was cause for termination, it looks as though he was punished twice for the same conduct. Again, the video footage was filmed during the coach's first two seasons at Rutgers, between 2010 and 2012. In December, AD Tim Pernetti suspended Rice for three games, and fined him $50,000. Since then, there have been no new reports or allegations of misconduct by the coach. So, in essence, he was fired for the same thing for which he was previously suspended and fined. In constitutional law, that's called double jeopardy, though I don't believe that that has much, if any, bearing on employment law. Even if firing Rice was the right thing to do, from a moral perspective, or for public relations, Rutgers is still obligated to honor the coach's employment contract (which I have not seen).
The contract probably allows the university to fire the coach for cause, and it's tough to argue that what he did wasn't cause for termination. But it's hard to imagine that the contract would allow the university to discipline the coach twice for the same conduct. If I were Coach Rice, I'd be speaking with an experienced contracts attorney. Don't get me wrong, it's highly unlikely that he'll get his job back, but there's a strong argument that Rutgers should have to buy out the contract, or, at very least, return the $75,000 he lost as a result of the suspension and fine they imposed on him in December. Rather than firing Rice for the same thing they previously fined and suspended him for, Rutgers would've been better off to fire the coach for his performance—or lack thereof—the Scarlet Knights failed to finish above .500 this past season, with an even worse 5–13 record in the soon-to-be-defunct Big East Conference.