By Kristian Dyer
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The scandal involving Rutgers men’s head basketball coach Mike Rice still continues to send shockwaves through the athletic department, including the fallout from a recent scandal involving newly-named athletic director Julie Hermann.
Heading into its final year in the Big East — scratch that, the American Athletic Conference — Rutgers needs to set the ship aright and do it quickly.
What it needs is for Tim Pernetti to return as athletic director.
Pernetti, of course, was the rock-star athletic director of the Scarlet Knights before the university made him the scapegoat for their recent trials and tribulations. It was Pernetti who did so much for Rutgers, including landing the naming rights for the football stadium and leading the athletic program into the Big Ten. The student athletes loved him and programs like the football team continued to win on the field while maintaining high APR rankings for their academics. He had that perfect balance of being a Jersey guy who went to the Jersey school and had a passion for the university.
And it was Pernetti who was the fall guy for the handling of the Rice situation, even after he followed university protocol and did the bidding of the Board of Governors in giving the basketball coach a suspension for his conduct this past December.
The student athletes at Rutgers deserve better than what they’ve gotten the past two months, and what they deserve is for Pernetti to return. Here was the man, an alumnus of the university and a star football player, who in 2009 left his high-profile and high-paying gig at a national sports television network to take a pay cut and come to Rutgers.
The man poured his heart and soul into Rutgers, and when he followed the university’s protocol with regards to punishing Rice for his behavior, he got sold down the river by the same university officials who applauded his handling of the situation.
Now Rutgers is reeling again after failing to fully vet Hermann. Her past is beginning to haunt her, including her time as volleyball coach at Tennessee where she engaged in abusive behavior toward her former players. That Rutgers forced Pernetti to resign over Rice’s behavior, but is willing to look past the very same brutish, boorish behavior from Hermann when she was a coach, is beyond comprehension.
Pernetti, with a sterling reputation, must be the one to come back in and make things right.
Rutgers can’t go into their new conference with someone as tainted as Hermann. The university and President Robert Barchi also must realize that they made a mistake in how they handled Pernetti, forcing him out the door when he did nothing wrong. It was Pernetti who acted on behalf of the university to discipline Rice through a suspension and mandatory counseling. There was nothing in what he did that was against the university’s human resource policies or even against the desires of the school’s administration.
With the transition to the Big 10 just a year away, Pernetti deserves the chance to see his hard work come to fruition.
A year ago, Rutgers was floundering in the Big East Conference with nowhere to go but down. Conference realignment had raided the Big East of any type of validity on the football field and the conference was falling behind the Big 10, the ACC and even in the mid-majors in terms of basketball credibility. Television revenue and the revenue cut from the conference was paltry, meaning that the athletic department was running in the red every year.
Enter Pernetti’s genius at convincing the Big 10 that they had to have Rutgers, and suddenly the school was headed for a move that would elevate it on the practice field and in the classroom as well.
The recent scandal involving Hermann shows someone who is not only not equipped for her new, high-profile job atop the Scarlet Knights’ athletic department, but someone who lacks the moral high ground to manage the position. She’s proven that she doesn’t deserve the job that Pernetti not only made his own, but excelled at. In little over four years as athletic director, Pernetti did more for the school and the sports teams than anyone who came before him.
It is a job that Hermann shouldn’t have even been considered for.
A job that Pernetti never should have left.
A job that should still be his.
Kristian R. Dyer covers college football for Metro New York and also contributes to Yahoo! Sports. He can be followed for news and insight on Twitter @KristianRDyer.
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