Rutgers AD Tim Pernetti Resigns Amid Player Abuse Scandal (page 2)
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New Jersey gay rights group Garden State Equality said Pernetti’s exit was “necessary and appropriate” and called for further action from state government.
“(W)henever a terrible situation like this one occurs, the end-goal must not be a single firing or even multiple firings,” Garden State Equality executive director Troy Stevenson said in a statement. “It has to be about changing the climate and culture of the university: eliminating homophobia, misogyny, and hate speech from campus locker rooms and making sure that no student is ever subjected to harassment, intimidation, or bullying on campus.
“That’s why we will continue to demand a full and thorough, investigation initiated by the state that goes to the highest levels of the Rutgers administration, to determine who knew what, when they knew it, and why they failed to act immediately.”
The group said it will be filing an Open Public Records request to the Rutgers Board of Governors “to release all documents and information related to the internal investigation conducted on Coach Rice.”
Gov. Chris Christie released a statement Friday saying, “The decision today by Athletic Director Tim Pernetti to resign is appropriate and necessary given the events of the past six months. I commend President Barchi for his decisive leadership in coming to an agreement with Mr. Pernetti to have the Athletic Department of Rutgers University come under new leadership.
“This entire incident was regrettable and while it has damaged the reputation of our state University, we need to move forward now on a number of fronts which provide great opportunities for Rutgers’ future. Completing the ground-breaking merger agreement with UMDNJ. Preparing for our academic and athletic entry into the Big 10 conference. Implementing Rutgers’ share of New Jersey’s $1.3 billion capital commitment to higher education. Finally, conducting a national search for a new athletic director and a new men’s basketball coach for athletic competition next year and in 2014 for our entry to the Big 10.
“I want to thank Tim Pernetti for his many contributions to Rutgers as a student, athlete and athletic director and for taking responsibility for his role in this difficult episode in the 250 year history of Rutgers University.”
At the campus news conference Friday, Barchi said he first saw the video this week, but was aware it existed in late November. He said Pernetti gave him a summary of what was on the Rice video at the time.
“This was a failure of process. I regret that I did not ask to see this video when Tim first told me of its existence,” Barchi said. “I want to apologize to the entire Rutgers community for the negative impact that this situation has had on Rutgers.
“I also apologize to the LGBTQ community and all of us who share their values for the homophobic slurs shown on that video. I personally know how hurtful that language can be.”
Based on the summary he received from Pernetti, Barchi said he “agreed with and supported his recommendation to suspend, rather than fire, coach Rice at that time. It was not until Tuesday evening of this week, when I watched the video, that I had the opportunity to witness personally for the first time what Tim had seen last fall.”
“I was deeply disturbed by the behavior that the video revealed, which was much more abusive and pervasive than I had understood it to be. As Tim acknowledged on Wednesday, his decision to rehabilitate, rather than fire, coach Rice was wrong.”
Also resigning Friday was John B. Wolf, Rutgers’ interim senior vice president and general counsel who is believed to have recommended against firing Rice in December. Assistant coach Jimmy Martelli resigned on Thursday.
“If I had to do it again, I would have asked for that video,” Barchi said.
The resignation of Pernetti hasn’t assuaged the concerns of many members of the faculty.
“I would have grave concerns about the future of Rutgers University with President Barchi and his administration still running the show,” graduate school dean Maggie Shiffrar at Rutgers Newark told WCBS 880 reporter Levon Putney on Friday.
She’s one of several faculty members who signed a letter calling for Barchi to resign.
“If read that the students in my university are being physically and psychologically assaulted by their coach, how do I decide that’s not something that needs to be dealt with severely and immediately?” she said.
What should be done going forward?
“There should be safeguards in place that the university’s highest management, from the president up to the governing boards are aware of activities and behaviors with the athletics department,” said Rutgers faculty union head Patrick Nowlan, adding that academics should be treated as as important as athletics.
“I consider resigning every single day when I wake up,” Barchi said Friday.
There had been growing calls for Pernetti to be fired, coming from Rutgers faculty and state legislators. But there was also a push to keep him, playing out largely on social media.
By Friday morning, nearly 3,000 people had joined a Facebook site calling for the university to keep him, several accusing the media and politicians of a witch hunt.
Pernetti’s finest hour in what amounted to a short tenure was when he helped to orchestrate the school’s move to the Big Ten Conference, which means additional revenue by way of television contracts and more national exposure, especially in football. The move, which will officially be activated in 2014, should provide a big boost to the program in recruiting, season ticket sales, and media coverage. The Scarlet Knights will continue to play next season in the Big East.
But Pernetti’s first major move as the athletic director came in May 2010, when he hired the volatile Rice away from Robert Morris forming a union that would eventually cost both of them their jobs. That coaching search was created by the unexpected dismissal of Fred Hill, Jr., and came at a time — two months removed from the regular season — in which many coaches were already in place and were not playing the field, looking for a new job.
Rice, 44, who helped Robert Morris to two NCAA tournament appearances, was a marketable candidate during March Madness in 2010. But as programs fired and hired coaches after that postseason, he didn’t find a new home and returned to the Colonials with a new contract in hand. At that time, Rice interviewed with Fordham, and it first appeared the New York school was seriously interested in him.
There was a fit, of course, because Rice played point guard at Fordham and he had strong recruiting ties in the New York metropolitan area. Ultimately, though, Fordham went in a different direction and hired Tom Pecora away from Hofstra.
Something was off. Here was a young coach who was winning at a lower level, and had experience as an assistant at higher levels, and he couldn’t get a better, bigger job. Of course, his fiery nature didn’t help matters. In fact, in the 2010 NCAA tournament, the Colonials took Villanova to overtime before losing 73-70. Under the glare of the national spotlight, Rice showed a bit of the over-the-top behavior that would become his calling card. He erupted at the officials in the waning seconds of the game, screaming profanities at them.
But things change quickly in the coaching business, and when Rutgers had to relieve Hill after an incident at a Scarlet Knights baseball game, Pernetti looked up Rice.
Within days, Rice was hired — just like that. Turned down by an Atlantic 10 school in Fordham, and content to stay at a Northeast Conference school in Robert Morris, suddenly he was in the Big East — a much higher level than both of those conferences — with a dream job.
“He convinced me he understood his reputation, but he also understood where the line was,” Pernetti said of the hire. “I made clear to him if he crossed the line he would be held accountable.”
The move might have been too soon for a coach like Rice, and clearly Pernetti took a serious risk. After all, most Big East coaches do not land there immediately after stops in the NEC, but Rutgers and Pernetti looked at Rice and saw the man who could turn the perennially underachieving program around.
It never happened. Rice went 44-51 in three years and posted a 16-38 mark in the Big East after going 73-31 in three seasons at Robert Morris. The Scarlet Knights went 15-16 this season, including 5-13 in the league, and questions about Rice’s status — based on wins and losses alone — began to surface.
But Pernetti again made a questionable decision. Given what he knew about the videotape, and taking Rice’s record into consideration, he still gave the coach a public endorsement at season’s end.
“Of course he’s coming back,” Pernetti said at the time. “It’s been an interesting year to say the least, and while I think in one case some of the progress — and there’s been a lot of progress — doesn’t show, and that’s in the win-loss column. I would like it to show there. I think everyone in the program would. But you can definitely see us getting better.”
But on-the-court success is now secondary. Amid the scandal, it is now a matter of right and wrong, and the school must push forward as it tries to repair its image without Rice and Pernetti.
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