Mike Rice Scandal: Rutgers Athletic Director Resigns Over Coach's Abuse

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Mike Rice was fired from Rutgers on Wednesday, and Athletic Director Tim Pernetti was fired two days later.

Rutgers University's athletic director on Friday became the latest official to exit New Jersey's largest public college, three days after revelations that its former basketball coach abused and berated players with homophobic slurs.

But the school's president, Robert Barchi, held the support of Rutgers' board of governors and state Governor Chris Christie who commended his "decisive leadership" after Barchi fired the coach, Mike Rice, and negotiated the exit of Athletic Director Tim Pernetti.

Barchi, who took the top job at the 58,000-student school in September, said he regretted not acting sooner after learning of a video of Rice's behavior last year. At the time, Pernetti suspended Rice.

"This was a failure of process. I regret that I did not ask to see the video when Tim first told me of its existence," Barchi said at the school's New Brunswick campus on Friday.

Barchi said he viewed the video with Pernetti after its release by ESPN on Tuesday provoked outrage among Rutgers' fans, students and faculty. He fired Rice the next day.

On Friday, he said he had been "deeply disturbed" by the images of Rice hitting players and shouting slurs at them, behavior that he described as "much more abusive and pervasive" than he had expected.

The scandal broke as college basketball races through its championships, televised matchups that go on through weeks of "March Madness" playoffs ahead of this weekend's "Final Four." The TV deals are big moneymakers for basketball powerhouses like those in the Big East conference where Rutgers competes.

While the college athletes play without a salary, Rice last year was paid $655,000 in the third year of his five-year contract at the partly state-funded university.

"I commend President Barchi for his decisive leadership in coming to an agreement with Mr. Pernetti to have the Athletic Department of Rutgers University come under new leadership," said Governor Christie, a Republican seen as a contender for the 2016 presidential nomination. "This entire incident was regrettable and while it has damaged the reputation of our state university, we need to move forward now."

'BEGINNING TO UNDERSTAND'

Rice's firing and the resignation of Assistant Coach Jimmy Martelli did little to assuage the anger of 31 faculty members who on Thursday called for Barchi's resignation. Pernetti's resignation, which came the same day as that of interim university general counsel John Wolf, partly mollified some.

Beryl Satter, one of the professors who had called for Barchi to go, described Pernetti's exit as a step in the right direction, but said it was not enough to satisfy her concerns.

"I would like to see it go further, but at least it shows they're beginning to understand if they don't take this abusive action seriously, other people do," Satter said. "There's a chain of command and he's only in the middle."

The speaker of the state assembly, Democrat Sheila Oliver, who had called for hearings into how the university handled the incident, said she was not yet satisfied.

"President Barchi owes New Jersey an explanation for his decision-making, and the university needs to become more transparent," she said.

Ralph Izzo, chairman of Rutgers University's board of governors, defended Barchi's handling of the situation on Friday and told reporters he believed Barchi was "the right person to run this place for many years to come."

Izzo is also chief executive of New Jersey power company Public Service Enterprise Group Inc. Barchi described Pernetti's resignation as a "mutual decision" and said the athletic director "always had the good of Rutgers and its student athletes in mind." 

(Reuters)

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