Newspaper article The Record (Bergen County, NJ)

Rutgers' Shame

Newspaper article The Record (Bergen County, NJ)

Rutgers' Shame

Article excerpt

AFTER video of Rutgers men's basketball coach Mike Rice went viral Tuesday, it was not a matter of if Rice would be fired, but when. The answer was Wednesday.

In video excerpts readily available online, Rice is seen shoving and manhandling his athletes in practice. He throws basketballs at them at point-blank range, including at their heads. And he is heard using homophobic slurs. All of this is disturbing, but more disturbing is that it took months for Rutgers University to do anything substantive about unacceptable employee conduct.

Rutgers Athletic Director Tim Pernetti became aware of the video in December. His response was to suspend Rice for three games and fine him $75,000 in lost salary and fees. In a statement on Rice's firing, Rutgers' new president, Robert L. Barchi, said he was made aware of the video last fall by Pernetti and that he "sought the advice of internal and outside counsel." Rutgers then hired an independent investigator for more input. We can only conclude these independent investigators were of the same mind as the individuals who advised Penn State on how to deal with the Jerry Sandusky scandal.

There is no comparison between the vile actions of Sandusky and what Rice did, but Rutgers' institutional reaction to a possible blot on its athletic program is strikingly similar to the actions at Penn State. The needs of the athletic program and the image of the university were considered more important than the needs of the student-athletes.

Pernetti should have fired Rice immediately. There is no gray area here: A faculty member is seen on video physically shoving students. He calls a player a "f---ing fa--ot." That should be enough. Off the court. Off the campus. And out of a job.

Apparently, if the faculty member is the head men's basketball coach, that is not cause for immediate termination. If a Rutgers faculty member walked into a classroom, threw a hard object at a student's head and then directed a homophobic slur at that student, that faculty member would be history.

So we are left with some tough questions:

Why wasn't Pernetti also fired Wednesday? He put the interests of his athletic department ahead of the interests of his athletes. …

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