Rutgers Reviewing All Sports Practice Videos, Commissioning Independent Probe Into Basketball Scandal
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NEWARK, N.J. (CBSNewYork/AP) – Rutgers University is reviewing practice videos of all sports to see if any coach engaged in behavior like the type that cost men’s basketball coach Mike Rice his job.
University President Robert Barchi announced the review Monday during a town hall meeting on the school’s Newark campus.
Barchi said he wants any instances of bullying or homophobic language to be immediately reported. He also said he will not tolerate that sort of behavior.
The scandal spun out of control when the video went public last week showing Rice screaming obscenities and gay slurs at his players and punching, kicking and throwing basketballs at them.
At the town hall, Barchi reiterated that he wished he had viewed the video where Rice was seen physically and verbally abusing his players when it first surfaced in November. Barchi said he would have fired Rice then.
“Horrible words were used, and I don’t know why that has to be used in an athletic arena,” one woman said at the town hall.
“Let’s focus on what we’re doing going forward and about how strongly I feel about this,” Barchi responded.
Pernetti has claimed he wanted to fire Rice but was overruled. Barchi denied he overruled any recommendation to fire the coach.
But Rutgers has released a report that was on Pernetti’s desk. As CBS 2’s Aiello reported, an outside lawyer found “certain actions of Coach Rice did cross the line of permissible conduct – and Pernetti could reasonably determine that Coach Rice’s actions tended to embarrass and bring shame or disgrace to Rutgers,” in violation of his contract.
“I’m not covering up for anybody,” Barchi said Monday.
There were a few outbursts from the packed house at the town hall.
“College athletics has been a money pit for this university,” one opponent of the school’s handling of the situation said.
Some professors also spoke out against the focus given to athletics, Silverman reported.
“Do not waste our money on sports,” one man said to cheers.
“In order for you to take a moral step and lead by example, why don’t you pay the next basketball coach half of what you pay now,” Rutgers assistant professor Rich Gomes said at the town hall.
Some town hall attendees vented their anger that former coach Rice and former athletic director Pernetti will each collect more than $1 million in severance, CBS 2’s Tony Aiello reported.
Barchi did not address that point directly, though he noted that he had no input on the payouts.. But when asked about any plans to step down, Barchi said he intends to stay where he is.
“I serve at the pleasure of the board,” Barchi said.
About 25 minutes into Barchi’s presentation Monday, a professor came to the microphone and interrupted him, saying people needed to be heard.
Former assistant coach Eric Murdock compiled hours of video and showed it to university brass last year. Instead of firing Rice, the university suspended him for three games and slapped him with a fine.
Murdock’s contract was terminated. In a lawsuit, he claims wrongful termination.
“Mike Rice’s removal was long overdue, the first step in stopping the mistreatment of Rutgers student athletes,” said Murdock.
But now, the New York Times reports the FBI is investigating Murdock, asking pointed questions about his request for a nearly $1 million settlement from the university.
Some say it sounds like a shakedown, but Murdock’s attorney calls that “nonsense.”
“That’s clearly not true,” said attorney Barry Kozyra. “Mr. Murdock acted without any motivation for money when he brought this to the attention of Rutgers in June of 2012. It’s Rutgers who didn’t act.”
Meanwhile, Gov. Christie on Monday defended Barchi’s handling of the scandal, as the university announced it plans to commission an independent probe of what happened.
While he’s issued statements, a news conference Monday was the first time Christie answered questions about the situation.
He said that ousting Barchi now would be a mistake for Rutgers, and he praised the president, who took office in September, for working quickly last week to fire Rice and get Pernetti to resign within days after he – and the public – first viewed a video of Rice’s behavior in practices from 2010 through last year.
Christie said Rice should have been ousted last year when university officials, including Pernetti, a university lawyer who has since resigned and a member of the school’s board of governor’s first saw the video – if not sooner.
“They were wrong not to come to the conclusion that Coach Rice needed to be fired immediately,” Christie said. The Republican governor added that had he been aware of the issues earlier he would have used his “power of persuasion” to try to get Rice fired then.
“When he saw the videotape on Tuesday night, he took decisive action from there. Coach Rice was fired the next morning and soon thereafter he came to an agreement on Mr. Pernetti’s resignation. It’s pretty good work for 72 hours,” Christie said.
Barchi responded to that vote of confidence from the governor.
“It’s important to me to know that the governor of the state feels that we’re doing the appropriate thing and taking the right action and doing a good job,” Barchi told CBS 2’s Aiello.
But Barchi admitted he has made some mistakes in the handling of this scandal.
“If somebody had asked me what my worst possible dream of the first six months that I was here, this would kinda be right at the top,” Barchi told Aiello.
Christie said it was a mistake for Barchi, who took office in September, not to watch the video last year when he first was told about it. But he said presidents must delegate some matters and that the mistake was not a firing offense.
Ahead of Monday’s town hall meeting, Barchi and Board of Governors Chair Ralph Izzo issued a joint statement saying the university is commissioning an independent review of Rice’s conduct and the way the university handled the situation.
“We believe it is in the interest of the entire Rutgers University community to fully understand the circumstances surrounding the inappropriate behavior in the men’s basketball program and how they were addressed and to make recommendations on how we can improve,” Barchi and Izzo said. “We believe that such a review will benefit from the involvement of an independent adviser, and it is our intention to move quickly with this review.”
Also Monday, Izzo said that one board member, athletics committee chairman Mark P. Hershhorn, had seen the video in December.
Izzo said that it was not shown to other members and while the topic of the coach’s conduct was discussed at a committee meeting in December, it was not discussed at the whole-board meeting that month.
Rutgers said its Board of Governors will meet Thursday to discuss hiring the independent adviser to review the case.
Meanwhile, some faculty are demanding Barchi step down.
“Clearly, the ugly words that were said that day struck them as within the bounds of reason,” said Professor Rob Snyder. “I don’t think that’s the case.”
Other faculty members are backing their president with a petition of support.
Monday’s meeting was meant to address the sweeping plan to re-organize the state’s higher education system, a priority of Gov. Chris Christie that the state legislature signed off on last year.
The New Jersey Assembly will hold a budget hearing that will address the plan at the school Tuesday.
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