RUTGERS suspended men's basketball coach Mike Rice three games without pay and fined him $50,000 for a violation of department policy.

Athletic director Tim Pernetti announced the decision Thursday. He said the suspension is a result of inappropriate behavior and language, not NCAA violations.

"Mike will not be permitted to do anything," Pernetti said. "The suspension for this period of time and these games is a complete removal from the program."

Rice will return to his duties as head coach Jan. 2 at Syracuse.

"I was made aware of some things within the last couple of weeks. We commenced a thorough, lengthy and fair investigation and this was the result of that investigation," Pernetti said. "There was obviously some things that are not to the Rutgers' standard that we evaluated and decided upon."

Associate head coach David Cox will serve as the interim coach. Cox said Rice is an intense, passionate coach, along the lines of former Temple coach John Chaney or former Georgetown coach John Thompson.

Rice, 43, apologized to his team and the university and says he's made a commitment to becoming a better coach.

Noteworthy * 

Alabama guard Andrew Steele will be sidelined 4 t0 6 weeks after surgery to repair a sports hernia.

* Police say Illinois State player Geoffrey Allen was arrested on a preliminary charge of selling marijuana in Normal, Ill.

In a Top 25 game * 

At Tennessee, Trae Golden scored 25 points and the Volunteers (5-3) snapped a two-game losing streak by posting a 69-60 win over No. 23 Wichita State (9-1).