Wednesday, April 3, 2013

Firing of Mike Rice Not Good Enough: Rutgers’ Pernetti, Barchi Must Go

He’s made national headlines in the wake of his video scandal, unwittingly and oddly. It was time for Rutgers to fire the head basketball coach, upon seeing a disturbing videotape that aired showing Mike Rice berating, kicking, grabbing, throwing basketballs at his players' heads and groins, and using homophobic slurs during practice.

The enormity of an upsetting video went viral by Tuesday afternoon with outrage growing over Rice’s abusive behavior — and by now the world has seen the video footage exposed by ESPN, and by now the world is a bit bewildered and stunned, but mainly infuriated that Rutgers athletic director Tim Pernetti and university president Robert Barchi were grossly negligent and failed to resolve the problem. It goes without saying that Pernetti and Barchi should be relieved of their duties at the university. The firing of an abusive coach was not enough to protect the reputation of a basketball program in ruins or purge the traces of a disgraced athletic department, and in the meantime, Pernetti won’t sell his program to prospects.

There’s a dark cloud hanging over Rutgers, a university in hot water in the wake of Rice’s deplorable actions and obscenities that resulted in a three-game suspension and $50,000 fine. The videotape evidence of Rice’s contemptible behavior was shown to Pernetti in November, but he failed to take responsibility and public accountability, and he did not decide to take action in the best interest of Rutgers University and waited months to terminate Rice. The world was watching, disturbed and outraged, Rice taunting and putting his hands on players, unable to stomach the verbal and physical abuse — something America wouldn’t have known about had the video not surfaced.

Maybe this was an embodiment of how some coaches are treacherous and maniacal. Maybe this was a moment for people to be aware of the corruption and be able to see that not all coaches are honest and good. Maybe this was an alarming sign for people, realizing it is not wise to ignore any harsh treatment of players. It’s hard not to wonder, whether defamatory language and physical abuse might have occurred at more universities, as we often read or hear about educators and priests molesting children in an insane, twisted and sick-minded world. The scenes simply were horrifying, but when Pernetti first saw the video, he allowed a coach who assaulted players at practice to keep his job.

He has been an overbearing enabler, an unworldly patron, an indifferent athletic director, in denial and embarrassed by the actions of a now-fired coach. He has shot his credibility, then stained his reputation for standing behind a bully and a raging monster, and should eventually be canned by the school’s board of governors. He has not only let down the students but perhaps the university — including the taxpayers of New Jersey, numbed and distraught — for allowing Rice to undermine Rutgers University for months because of his bad temper.

It will be the topic of discussion for a couple of days whether Pernetti should be fired or forced to resign. But now he is safe, or so they say, for brokering a deal to navigate Rutgers into the Big Ten, quickly becoming part of the fabric of that university. And since he was embarrassed by Rice’s wrongdoing, the uncertainty of his future will germinate in our minds, until the school’s board of governors ponder and decide whether to retain or dismiss Pernetti, whose full body of work and hard-working ethics are not vital or befitting for a university. Sadly, while he was salvaging a shaky program, he was aware of a videotape of Rice’s appalling behavior and stupidly welcomed him back to coach after suspending and hitting him with a fine.

Moving forward, he will have a hard time regaining the trust of Rutgers University, after refusing to look out for the best interest of the players for the sake of the school’s image. Rice has mistreated a daunted group, diminished the morale of the team, and demanded discipline that had a negative approach, all while customarily belittling and assaulting his players. Finally, Rice is done, removed from his coaching position very belatedly, and shouldn’t be allowed to coach kids again. But now that Rice is gone, the taxpayers of New Jersey and dignitaries are calling for Pernetti and Barchi’s job.



He’s held liable for the lack of responsibility and for the mismanaging of the program. He’d made a mistake in not dismissing Rice, an awful decision by someone who’s in a position of power and had too much influence on the university. Pernetti will likely keep his job, over Rice, but after giving the man a chance and believing he could build a program, he warrants a dismissal, appropriately and justly. There’s a lot of disingenuousness, a lot of fallacies that have tarnished the university with a growing scandal from a videotape, obtained by a worldwide sports network and revealed to the world. Feeling perturbed and shaken, Rice unquestionably would still be coaching Rutgers today.

It amazes me that Rice was slapped on the wrist and that no university official, not one, policed Rutgers. It bothers me that the only disciplinary action was a suspension and fine, but it should surprise no one that Rice, when considering he has anger-management issues, fired basketballs at his players, scolded them and launched into profanity-laced tirades at practices. The hell for Pernetti worsened by admittedly acknowledging that he was so meticulous and that he watched the entire videotape. It was that moment when Pernetti, seemingly after watching the disturbing footage, heard vulgar epithets and anti-gay slurs. It was that moment when he saw pushing and shoving, kicking and grabbing, but did nothing about it.

It’s becoming more transparent that Barchi may not be telling the truth, but was certainly more concerned with reducing the devastation, just as Pernetti tried to do the same. If you believe Pernetti, he claims he informed Barchi about the video and said he saw it four months ago. If you believe Barchi, he said he’s never seen a video. Someone is lying. Someone is not being truthful. The truth is that Pernetti and Barchi panicked when this story went national, finally realizing the seriousness of the damning footage leaked out for the world to see it. The lunacy of the scandal is actually about what Barchi knows about the videotape, denying knowledge of it when he’s the president of the institution but apparently knows nothing about video evidence. As the public outcry generates a controversy, for all of the talk of the Rutgers scandal, Barchi will take as much of the blame as Pernetti.

The outrage at Rutgers was unacceptable and inexcusable, mostly despicable and downright embarrassing, an issue that could be affecting more schools. So now people realize the president might be the bigger problem for his failure to gain knowledge of what was happening on his campus to athletes and students, and for covering up the mistreatment of players. The first thing that comes to mind, with reference to a crushing sports scandal, is the Penn State sex abuse scandal — which is far more sickening than a coach throwing basketballs at kids’ heads and groins. The president and athletic director have learned nothing from Penn State. Whatever decisions the university will make Rutgers better make them fast and should not be hesitant about firing Pernetti for not doing the right thing.

This isn’t Penn State. And Rice is not Jerry Sandusky.

Rice is not Bobby Knight, either

Because, well, Knight, despite his behavior issues, won three national championships at Indiana. For Rice, he’s won zero national championships and lost more than he’s won games at Rutgers. By the way, Knight has 902 career wins when Rice has only won 44 of 95 games as the school’s coach. So Rutgers really won’t miss him.

The awful thing about it, for all concerned, is that he crossed the line. If he ever coaches again, it won’t be for at least a couple of seasons. If he never coaches again, it won’t be surprising but Knight ended up coaching at Texas Tech. There’s no excuse for Rice’s actions, no way a sane person defends Pernetti’s inaction. First and foremost, by employing Rice as long as he did, it justified the right that it was fine to physically and verbally abuse student athletes.

It turns out Rice’s behavior was just as bad as his losing record and evil-minded personality. And by definition, he was a loser and had to go. With Rice around, Rutgers would not have won games or gain national regard, and might not even win with an imprudent athletic director still around.

The coach is gone, but what about the AD and president?

For those who fathom the seriousness behind this, they know it is time to clean house at Rutgers.