The Tribune Democrat, Johnstown, PA

College

April 6, 2013

Rutgers AD resigns amid basketball video scandal

NEW BRUNSWICK, N.J. — The Rutgers basketball scandal claimed two more university officials on Friday, including the athletic director and an interim senior vice president, who were involved in a decision to “rehabilitate” rather than fire the coach whose abusive behavior was captured on a video.

University President Robert Barchi’s job appeared to be safe after getting a public nod of support from the school’s board of governors.

The day began with a letter of resignation sent to Barchi by AD Tim Pernetti, who said he hoped his tenure at Rutgers “will not be judged by this one incident.”

When he first saw the video of coach Mike Rice pushing, shoving and throwing balls at players in November, Pernetti said he wanted to fire him on the spot. However, he said the consensus among school officials at the time was that it didn’t warrant dismissal.

The video, shown Tuesday on ESPN, prompted outrage not only on the Rutgers campus, but nationwide. It also includes obscenities and slurs, which the campus is especially sensitive about because of the suicide by student Tyler Clementi, who jumped off a bridge days after his roommate used a webcam to see him kissing another man.

At a 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 it 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 LGBT 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 information 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.”

Pernetti was given the video by a former employee, former NBA player Eric Murdock, and the decision was made in December to suspend Rice for three games, fine and dock him pay totaling $75,000 and order him to attend anger management classes.

The 42-year-old Pernetti is a Rutgers graduate who played tight end for the Scarlet Knights from 1989-93.

Barchi also said Friday that John B. Wolf, Rutgers’ interim senior vice president and general counsel, who is believed to have recommended against firing Rice in December, had resigned. The university said Thursday that assistant coach Jimmy Martelli resigned. Barchi’s position appears to be safe.

“At the end of the day, he has to run this place, day in and day out,” Ralph Izzo, chairman of the school’s board of governors, said. “And I think he is the right person to run this place for many years to come.

“Dr. Barchi was brought on here eight months ago with two primary objectives: No. 1 was to build a strategic plan for this university for 10 years, going forward, to lead us to academic success and academic greatness; and No. 2, an enormous challenge of integrating a medical school with this university. Being on the job two months, hearing from a general counsel and the athletic director that there was a serious problem, I think he did the right thing by acquiescing to that advice at the time.”

Gov. Chris Christie issued a statement Friday calling Pernetti’s resignation “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,” he said. “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.”

Pernetti said in his resignation letter to Barchi that he has “spent a great deal of time reflecting on the events which led to today. As you know, my first instincts when I saw the videotape of Coach Rice’s behavior was to fire him immediately. However, Rutgers decided to follow a process involving university lawyers, human resources professionals, and outside counsel.

Pernetti’s finest hour may have been when he helped in the school’s move to the Big Ten Conference, which means millions in additional revenue by way of television contracts.

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