The Rutgers basketball abuse scandal: Will more officials get the ax?

Jon Terbush
The Week
Rutgers Athletic Director Tim Pernetti is out for not taking strong enough action against coach Mike Rice for his abusive behavior.

Four people have lost their jobs after video went public of coach Mike Rice abusing his players

Two days after Rutgers fired men's basketball coach Mike Rice for verbally and physically abusing his players, the school's athletic director, Tim Pernetti, is following him out the door.

Pernetti resigned Friday afternoon, though multiple reports earlier in the day, attributed to sources with knowledge of the discussions, said he'd been given the choice to step down or be fired. He's the latest casualty from the backlash over a now-public video of Rice shoving, kicking, and firing basketballs at Rutgers players, all while screaming profane and homophobic remarks during team practices.

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"I write in confirmation of our conversation earlier today during which we agreed that it was in the best interests of Rutgers University that I step down from my position as Director of Intercollegiate Athletics," Pernetti wrote in a statement to Rutgers President Robert Barchi.

"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," he added.

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Pernetti had come under fire for his discipline of Rice, which critics said was far too light for the crime. In December, Rutgers suspended Rice for three games and fined him $50,000 after viewing the practice tapes. But once ESPN's Outside the Lines obtained those tapes, the school took more drastic action, releasing the videos themselves on Tuesday to preempt ESPN, and then firing Rice the very next day.

"It took less than a day for Rice to get the ax, but really — and this is why Pernetti's gone — it took five months," says Deadspin's Barry Petchesky.

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In addition to Rice and Pernetti, Rutgers' general counsel John B. Wolf resigned Wednesday, and assistant coach Jimmy Martelli did the same on Thursday. The question now is whether others will soon lose their jobs as well.

"I want to know what role everybody took in the whole fiasco," New Jersey State Assembly Speaker Sheila Y. Oliver (D) said earlier this week, according to the New York Times.

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Already, there have been calls for Barchi to step down, though there is confusion over when he first saw the video. Pernetti told reporters Tuesday that Barchi saw the video in November, and that the school president then signed off on his decision to suspend Rice. Yet on Wednedsay, Barchi said he'd only seen the tape this week. In a statement on Friday, he indicated he'd at least been aware of the alleged behavior late last year, and that he'd approved of the suspension at that time.

Here's USA Today's Christine Brennan:

If the university president did see it, he's as culpable as Pernetti. If he didn't, why didn't he? He wasn't curious enough to find out what was happening on his campus to young athletes he has been entrusted to watch over? His AD was suspending his coach for three games and fining him $50,000, and the president didn't want to know and see every detail? Has Rutgers learned nothing from the dreadful cover-up at Penn State, other than how to botch its own cover-up? [USA Today]

As of early Friday, 31 faculty members had signed a letter calling for Barchi to step down.

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There have also been calls for a wide-ranging investigation to determine which other administrators, if any, saw the tape last year. 

"This is no longer about the fired Mike Rice, a pathetic excuse for a coach and unemployable on college campuses forevermore," says ESPN's Ian O'Connor. "This is about the senior administrators at Rutgers University, the people who failed to protect their students from a common abuser and homophobe."

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On his way out, Pernetti made a similar charge against the school. In his resignation letter, he alleged that a number of school officials — and perhaps even Barchi — were involved in the review process last year, and that they, not he, were the ones who determined Rice's punishment.

"As you know, my first instincts when I saw the videotape of Coach Rice's behavior was to fire him immediately," he wrote. "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."

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