PISCATAWAY, N.J. (CBSNewYork/AP) — Rutgers athletic director Tim Pernetti has resigned as the school continues to come under pressure due to a growing player abuse scandal.
“I do so reluctantly because I always have and always will love Rutgers,” Pernetti said in a letter to Rutgers president Robert Barchi. “I want to thank the people who have supported me throughout my years as a student-athlete and Athletic Director and help them understand my reasoning in this situation.”
At a press conference Friday, Barchi said it was a mutual decision made “in the best interest of Rutgers.”
“I want to apologize to the entire Rutgers community for the negative impact that this situation has had on Rutgers,” Barchi said.
Speaking to reporters briefly Friday afternoon, Pernetti was somber.
“It’s a really sad day for a lot of people, including me and my family,” Pernetti said. “I always have and I always will, no matter what, want what’s best for Rutgers.”
Pernetti dismissed basketball coach Mike Rice Wednesday after a video aired showing him shoving, grabbing and throwing balls at players in practice and using gay slurs. The scandal has now cost Pernetti his position some five months after he didn’t fire Rice when the video first became available.
“I have admitted my role in, and regret for, that decision, and wish that I had the opportunity to go back and override it for the sake of everyone involved,” Pernetti said in the letter.
Pernetti was given the video in late November by a former employee, Eric Murdock, who filed a wrongful termination suit against the school, Barchi, Rice, the former athletic director and others on Friday.
With the approval Barchi, he suspended Rice for three games, fined him $75,000 and ordered him to attend anger management classes. But the video was broadcast Tuesday on ESPN, and prompted scores of sharp criticism nationwide.
WEB EXTRA: READ THE MURDOCK COMPLAINT (PDF)
“I believe that Tim always had the good of Rutgers on his mind,” Barchi said.
“I trust that my tenure at Rutgers will not be judged by this one incident,” Pernetti said. “I am proud of my efforts to lead Rutgers into the Big Ten, and of all of the accomplishments of our student-athletes in the classroom and on the field of play.”
“The conduct displayed by Mike Rice in the videotapes recently released by ESPN was egregious and unacceptable,” Big Ten Commissioner James Delany said in a statement. “Rutgers University has acknowledged that its initial response was insufficient and that more needed to be done. Its review of this matter is ongoing.”
“While we remain interested in the outcome of Rutgers’ review, and will continue to monitor the situation as appropriate, it will have no impact on Rutgers’ transition to, or membership in, the Big Ten Conference,” Delany added.
Pernetti said his initial instinct was to fire Rice “immediately.”
“However, Rutgers decided to follow a process involving university lawyers, human resources professionals, and outside counsel,” he said. “Following review of the independent investigative report, the consensus was that university policy would not justify dismissal.”
Pernetti’s wife, Danielle, told reporters Friday that the situation was “unfair.”
“Tim Pernetti is the best athletic director that they could ever have,” she said. “Always does the right thing.”
Former Giants center and Rutgers alum Shaun O’Hara was also making the rounds defending Pernetti. O’Hara was a guest on WFAN’s “Boomer & Carton” show when Craig Carton delivered the news — the athletic director was out at RU.
“Wow,” said a stunned O’Hara. “I’m extremely disappointed and really, I’m flabbergasted. I feel like during this whole thing, from the information that I have gathered and that I have gotten people that I respect, Tim Pernetti did what he was supposed to do. He did the protocol as the athletic director: report this to your superiors. He hired an outside firm to do an investigation. He went through the protocol for this type of situation.”
O’Hara added: “He saw the wrongs, he corrected them, he disciplined the coach, he did what he should have done. And now nobody is sticking up for him. This has gone from a black eye now to another step further for Rutgers. And losing Tim Pernetti, I feel like this is a huge loss for the university as well as the athletic department.”
Pernetti has also received support from Baltimore Ravens running back Ray Rice and the inspirational Eric LeGrand, both former football players at Rutgers.
Pernetti, 42, is a New Jersey native and a Rutgers graduate who played tight end for the Scarlet Knights from 1989-93.
“My continued tenure as Athletic Director is no longer sustainable for the University which I attended and where a piece of me will always remain. … I am proud of my efforts to lead Rutgers into the Big Ten, and of all of the accomplishments of our student-athletes in the classroom and on the field of play. I want to thank our great fans, the hardest working staff in collegiate athletics, and every one of our fine student-athletes. It has been my great pleasure to serve my alma mater,” he said.
The video shows numerous clips of Rice at practice firing basketballs at players, hitting them in the back, legs, feet and shoulders. Rice was also shown pushing players in the chest and grabbing them by their jerseys and yanking them around the court. Rice could be heard yelling obscenities at players and using gay slurs.
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