Rutgers’ Pernetti resigns after week of controversy over physical, verbal abuse


FILE - In this Jan. 2, 2013 file photo, Rutgers head coach Mike Rice reacts after Syracuse scored late in the second half of an NCAA college basketball game in Syracuse, N.Y. Rutgers has fired Rice after a videotape aired showing him shoving, grabbing and throwing balls at players in practice and using gay slurs during practice. With mounting criticism on a state and national level, the school decided to take action on Wednesday, April 3, 2013. relieving Rice of his duties after three largely unsuccessful seasons at the Big East school. (AP Photo/Kevin Rivoli, File) (KEVIN RIVOLI/AP)

Tim Pernetti, the athletic director at Rutgers University, has resigned after footage became public this week showing the school’s men’s basketball coach behaving abusively toward players. The coach, Mike Rice, was dismissed Wednesday. The Associated Press reports:

In a letter of resignation sent to university President Robert Barchi on Friday, Pernetti said he hoped that his tenure at Rutgers “will not be judged by this one incident.”

Pernetti said after seeing video of Rice pushing, shoving and throwing balls at players his “first instincts ... was to fire him immediately.” However, he said the consensus at the time was “university policy would not justify dismissal.”

The video was broadcast Tuesday on ESPN. It showed numerous clips of Rice at practice during his time at Rutgers, firing basketballs at players, grabbing them by their jerseys and yelling obscenities in addition to the slurs.

Pernetti and Barchi first saw the tape in December, and Associated Press columnist Tim Dahlberg writes that both should resign because they did not fire Rice immediately:

My only guess is they thought the Rice video wouldn’t surface. There can be no other explanation, because what is seen on the tape is so inflammatory that no reasonable person — much less leaders of our youth — could justify allowing Rice back on the court with the kids he was seen abusing.

And if they’re that clueless in today’s world of viral video, then they need to go, too.

For botching the first punishment, yes. Maybe, too, for hiring Rice in the first place.

The Post’s Tracee Hamilton agrees:

Pernetti let Mike Rice continue to coach the men’s basketball team after seeing that tape, suspending him three games and fining him $50,000 in December. Barchi was told about the video at the time but stunningly chose not to watch it.

Because he didn’t do the right thing and fire him in December, Rice finished out the season, which earned him a $100,000 bonus for his spectacular 15-16 performance. Rutgers said Thursday that it will pay out the bonus because it is contractually obligated to do so. It certainly isn’t morally obligated.

Pernetti’s resignation follows that of assistant coach Jimmy Martelli yesterday and calls from elected officials and university faculty for Pernetti’s ouster, while some players on the team defended their former coach.

Former Rutgers basketball coach Mike Rice spoke with WCBS-TV about the videos that show him abusing players and the university's decision to fire him.

Post columnist Melinda Henneberger writes that the behavior of coaches such as Rice toward their players is responsible for a destructive culture in college sports:

He was in charge of every aspect of their lives at college, and would have had a say, too, in what became of them after graduation. I’ve written a lot about abusive college athletes, but it’s the so-called adults in the room at these institutions who I often find most worthy of blame . . .

The collegiate sports culture is not so much about the athletes themselves as about what they can produce for their sponsors, and if they sometimes seem entitled, well, maybe that’s because they’ve been trained and molded by immature bullies like Rice.

For more on the controversy at Rutgers, continue reading here.

Max Ehrenfreund is a blogger on the Financial desk and writes for Know More and Wonkblog.
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