Rutgers Athletics Takes Another Hit

Go Rutgers!

Go Rutgers! (Photo credit: slgckgc)

Earlier this week, the ESPN program “Outside the Lines” aired footage from 2010 to 2012 that showed Rutgers University’s head basketball coach Mike Rice verbally and physically abusing his players during several practice sessions. And believe me, the video of Rice’s unacceptable behavior is pretty disturbing.

Haven’t seen it yet? Then check it out here.

Although the university knew about Rice’s terrible behavior some time ago, they chose to try and “rehabilitate” him rather than simply firing him. Basically, Rice was suspended for three games, forced to pay a slightly hefty fine and ordered to attend anger management classes.

Whether or not these things actually happened, I have no idea. Not that it matters much now.

On Wednesday—and following all the outrage from those who had just seen this video for the first time—Rutgers finally took action and terminated Rice’s employment. Feeling he might be next—and given that some videos also showed him abusing players—assistant coach Jimmy Martelli resigned the very same day.

In other words, the Rutgers basketball program took a tremendous hit this week. And things didn’t get any better on Friday.

In the wake of this abuse controversy—and after being criticized for his handling of Rice when he first learned of his treatment of players—Rutgers’ Athletic Director Tim Pernetti resigned, leaving an even bigger hole in the athletic department of this New Jersey university. However, it’s completely possible that he was simply the scapegoat for a mess he never created.

Consider Pernetti’s resignation letter for a moment. In it, he mentioned that when he initially saw footage of Coach Rice abusing his players, his gut instinct was to terminate him immediately. Obviously, this never happened. And what actually did happen was described by Pernetti in his letter. I quote:

“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.”

Rice and Pernetti… gone (courtesy of AP/Rich Schultz)

Sounds to me like Pernetti may have gotten thrown under the bus by his superiors.

Bowing to public pressure and outrage is one thing. And perhaps Pernetti could have done more to either deal with this sooner or to sweep it under the rug, which is what the university basically did when this first happened. Rice was disciplined, as I mentioned before, but it amounted to little more than a slap on the wrist. Does that even seem fair given the abusive behavior seen in that practice footage?

It certainly doesn’t from where I’m sitting.

Incidentally, I should mention that Rutgers’ general counsel and interim VP John Wolf  quit as a result of this controversy, as well. This was announced by President Robert Barchi, who also caught flak for not dealing with Rice faster. Is it possible that this was a scapegoat situation, too?

Actually, yes. And you can thank former NBA player Eric Murdock for bringing this to light… sort of.

Around the same time Pernetti’s resignation was being announced on Friday, Rutgers was informed of a lawsuit filed by Murdock, the basketball team’s former director of player development. According to him, the university fired him for “blowing the whistle” on Coach Rice.

Bear in mind that this has not yet been proven and quite possibly may never be. Murdock could simply be pissed off and abnormally litigious. Then again, he might not be, but it does make me suspicious. And I am inclined to believe Murdock, if for no other reason than he would be stupid to sue unless he felt his claim could be corroborated by others. If he was aware of Pernetti’s situation—and if Pernetti was indeed a scapegoat—then perhaps Murdock felt this would be enough to substantiate his claim.

Sometimes all it takes is a few honest, yet disgruntled, former employees to really stick it to the man. And anyone willing to blame someone else for their own culpability would certainly qualify as “the man.” That’s pretty low. And what is it people sometimes say? “Don’t do the crime if you can’t do the time?”

Eric Murdock as Whistleblower (courtesy of AP/Rich Schulz)

I can’t say I disagree with this statement. But when the person “doing the crime” is someone’s boss, all it takes is one call to shift “the time” onto some subordinate. And then the person who probably did most of the work anyway suddenly finds themselves out of a job and, in the case of someone like Pernetti (not Rice), blamed for a crime they didn’t commit.

Ain’t life grand?

Posted on April 6, 2013, in Perspectives and tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 3 Comments.

  1. That is Ridiculous. Everyone in this situation is old enough to know that violence, assault, and abuse, is WRONG AND NOT NEEDED. How is Abuse going the help the team. If he’s expecting to gain respect, this is not how you gain respect. The players won’t respect you, they’ll fear you. I DON’T KNOW ABOUT YOU ALL OUT THERE, BUT I BELIEVE THAT THERE IS A HUGE DIFFERENCE BETWEEN RESPECT AND FEAR. This guy should have gotten fired and severely con-sequenced a really long time ago. I don’t care if they are not considered Minors in the eyes of the law, IT IS NEVER OKAY TO ABUSE, ASSAULT, AND HURT ANYONE, UNLESS YOU WIND UP HURTING SOMEONE WHO WAS PHYSICALLY HURTING YOU IN AN INSTANCE OF SELF-DEFENSE! If you can’t tell, I am pretty outraged and disgusted by this coach’s behavior.

    • Same here, pangirl. There is such a thing as POSITIVE reinforcement and, in my experience, it brings more respect than negativity and abuse. And you’re right. There is NEVER a reason to behave this way, aside from self defense, as you mentioned. Even then, though, you should remain in enough control not to drift into the excessive. This coach was way out of line and should have been fired the moment this abuse came to light. However, I also believe the high-level administrators who ordered people to do this should be at just as much risk of unemployment. After all, most of us need our jobs right now and have to listen to our bosses so we still have some income, even meager income. That doesn’t excuse those who could have done something earlier, though.

      Thanks for the great comments—as usual—as well as the outrage, which we definitely share 🙂

  2. Yep. No problem.

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