PISCATAWAY, N.J. (CBSNewYork) — It was a sad and disappointing day for some major donors to Rutgers University Friday, after athletic director Tim Pernetti resigned in the wake of the Mike Rice player abuse scandal.
“I don’t think Tim Pernetti deserved to be fired,” said Daniel Wheeler, who received his undergraduate and law degrees. “Tim has done more for Rutgers than every other athletic director in history of Rutgers University.”
Wheeler is a founding member of the Society of Queens College, an alumni organization that is reserved for those who have donated at least $1 million to the university over a lifetime, according to a published report.
But while Wheeler told WCBS 880’s Peter Haskell he has been very generous in the past, he now has to think twice.
“It is very difficult to raise money at Rutgers University, and it just got a lot harder,” he said.
Wheeler said he feels Pernetti made a mistake in failing to dismiss Rice when the player abuse scandal hit. But he said that situation did not warrant Pernetti’s departure.
Meanwhile, about a dozen students held an impromptu rally Friday in Pernetti’s support. Adam Bergo runs track and field at Rutgers, and told WCBS 880’s Marla Diamond that he was thoroughly disappointed in Pernetti’s resignation.
“All the support that he showed all the athletes throughout his years here — coming to games, coming to practices, you know, making himself readily available for all of us,” he said. “It’s always been the biggest thing.”
Bergo said he thought Pernetti was the “scapegoat” for the Rice scandal.
Added senior Matt Mortenson, “I think he handled the situation as best as he could.”
Also Friday, some faculty members at Rutgers issued a letter of support for university president Robert Barchi, after group of 13 others on the faculty demanded that university that Barchi resign for his “inexcusable handling” of the situation.
The faculty members noted that Barchi has a background in the hard sciences, and “is leading the university through a transformation process that will greatly expand our mission of instruction, research, and service.”
The faculty members defending Barchi said his “continuing leadership” would get the university through the Rice scandal.
“Over the years many of us have argued with one another about the proper place of athletics in university life. But we all agree that abusive behavior and racial and homophobic language have no place at our university,” they said in the open letter. “We know that President Barchi stands with us on this matter.”
At a news conference Friday, Barchi said it was a mutual decision made “in the best interest of Rutgers” for Pernetti to stop down.
“I do so reluctantly because I always have and always will love Rutgers,” Pernetti said in a letter to 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.”
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.
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