Rutgers basketball scandal: Tim Pernetti is the wrong fall guy

It appears in the aftermath of Mike Rice getting fired as Rutgers basketball coach for his abusive behavior toward players and Tim Pernetti being subsequently forced to resign as athletic director over the fiasco, that university President Robert Barchi is really the one to blame for this debacle.

When Barchi announced Friday during a news conference that Pernetti was resigning by mutual agreement -- that’s a covert way of saying someone must take the blame -- the president clearly implicated himself as a culprit in the scandal. Barchi admitted he didn’t watch the video of Rice physically and verbally abusing the players when he first found out about it.

Pernetti also came off looking like a victim when, in a prepared statement approved by the university, the former athletic director says his first instinct was to fire Rice when revelations were brought forward last year by Eric Murdock, then the director of player development who has now filed a whistle-blower lawsuit after his contract was not renewed. Instead, a formal university procedure was followed, at the end of which Rice was only suspended for three games, fined $75,000 and ordered to take anger management classes.


“This was a failure of process,” Barchi said during the news conference. “I regret that I did not ask to see this video when Tim first told me of its existence. I want to apologize to the entire Rutgers community for the negative impact that this situation has had on Rutgers.”

Pernetti, 42, happens to be a Rutgers graduate who played football from 1989 to 1993 for the Scarlet Knights. He helped the university navigate from the crumbling Big East Conference to the powerful Big Ten Conference. If everything that was said, and read, on Friday is true, he was probably the one person who was prepared to act appropriately in the handling of the Rice revelations.

“As you know, my first instincts when I saw the videotape of Coach Rice’s behavior was to fire him immediately,” Pernetti’s statement said. “However, Rutgers decided to follow a process involving university lawyers, human resources professionals, and outside counsel. Following review of the independent investigative report, the consensus was that university policy would not justify dismissal. I have admitted my role in, and regret for, that decision, and wish that I had the opportunity to go back and override it for the sake of everyone involved.

“I trust that my tenure at Rutgers will not be judged by this one incident. I am proud of my efforts to lead Rutgers into the Big Ten, and of all of the accomplishments of our student-athletes in the classroom and on the field of play.”

Maybe Pernetti could have been more adamant about removing Rice from his job. But once the university president failed to assess all the facts at hand and turned the matter over to a review process, it was out of the athletic director’s hands.

It appears that the biggest fall guy yet in this matter is the one who actually was prepared to do the right thing.


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