Rutgers Scandal Update: Pernetti Resigns; President Apologizes for 'Failure of Process'

Tim Pernetti resigned as Athletic Director of Rutgers University on Friday, saying that he realizes his decisions for disciplinary action toward men’s basketball Coach Mike Rice, rather than firing him, “were out of keeping with Rutgers community’s values.” Pernetti, who graduated from Rutgers in 1993, apologized in a resignation letter, noting that stepping down from his position was in the best interests of Rutgers.

Rutgers President Dr. Robert Barchi officially announced Pernetti’s resignation—and apologized for the scandal on behalf of himself and Rutgers leadership—today at a press conference, when he called the incidents that led to Rice’s suspension a “failure of process.” Barchi noted that assistant basketball Coach Jimmy Martelli also resigned, and that Interim General Counsel John Wolf resigned his position.

Barchi reaffirmed that he had not seen the video until this week, and that Rice’s actions were more “abusive and pervasive” than he had understood them to be. The Board of Governors says it supports him; however, many are calling for Barchi to also step down.

Pernetti wrote in his resignation letter:

My continued tenure as Athletic Director is no longer sustainable for the University which I attended and where a piece of me will always remain. In connection with the incidents involving former basketball Coach Mike Rice, as was the case with all other matters which I handled on behalf of the University, I always tried my best to do what is right. I have spent a great deal of time reflecting on the events which led to today. As you know, my first instinct 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. 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.

Fallout continued to spread on Monday.

  • In his first press conference since the scandal erupted, New Jersey Governor Chris Christie called Rice “an animal” but defended Barchi. “The university would be hurt drastically by the departure of Dr. Barchi, that’s why I don’t support it,” Christie said. “Also, I don’t think his conduct necessitates it.”
  • Rutgers announced that it is commissioning an independent review of the way the university responded to the Rice video, and Barchi said at a town hall meeting on Rutgers’ Newark campus that the school is reviewing practice video of all sports to see if any other coaches have engaged in similar behavior.
  • The FBI is also getting involved, The New York Times reports. A university official told the paper that an FBI agent met with Pernetti and made other stops on the New Brunswick campus to investigate whether former Director of Basketball Operations Eric Murdock tried to extort the university.
  • Meanwhile, Rice’s previous employer, Robert Morris University, wrapped up an internal investigation into Murdock’s claims that he was told that “there were five coaches-versus-player brawls in practice.” Robert Morris Athletic Director Craig Coleman said that the investigation uncovered no evidence of the fights, but that one former player told school officials that Rice used a homophobic slur and threw a basketball at a player “once or twice” while he was at the Pennsylvania school.

DiversityInc CEO Luke Visconti, a member of the Rutgers Board of Trustees and of the Rutgers Board of Governors Standing Committee on Intercollegiate Athletics, said he was never informed about Rice’s anti-gay slurs or the fact that the video existed. Visconti says he had been told there was a disciplinary issue, which was addressed with the suspension.

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