Rutgers Athletic Director Forced to Resign

Rutgers University athletic director Tim Pernetti was forced to resign days after the school fired basketball coach Mike Rice amid backlash over a video that showed him abusing his players.

Pernetti told News 4's Bruce Beck in a text message Friday that he was "not fired." 

In a letter of resignation posted on the school's athletic website, Pernetti wrote that he made the move reluctantly, and said he has always tried to do what was right.

Rice was dismissed Wednesday after the video that showed Rice using anti-gay slurs and hitting, shoving and throwing balls at his players, prompted outrage on social media and sharp criticism from Gov. Chris Christie, NBA star LeBron James and the families of former players. The assistant basketball coach, Jimmy Martelli, resigned late Wednesday.

Speaking to reporters Friday, university President Robert Barchi said he and Pernetti had mutually agreed it was in the best interest of Rutgers for him to step down. Barchi reiterated he had known about the video but had not seen it until Tuesday, the day it was broadcast on ESPN. He said that when he did see it, he wished he had asked to see it sooner.

"I was deeply disturbed by the behavior that the video revealed, which was much more abusive and pervasive than I had understood it to be," Barchi said.

Pernetti suspended Rice for three games a month after he saw the video, fined him $50,000 and ordered him to attend anger management classes. The video was made public by a former Rutgers employee who filed a whistleblower lawsuit against the university on Friday.  Once ESPN broadcast the video, many expressed outrage he didn't terminate Rice's contract immediately.

Barchi apologized to the Rutgers community for the negative effect the video had on the school and said it does not represent the standards of leadership by which the university abides. Ralph Izzo, chair of the Rutgers Board of Governors, said Friday that Barchi would remain president of the university despite calls for his firing. 

Pernetti wrote in the letter of resignation that his first instinct was to fire Rice, but said "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," he wrote. "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."

Barchi said Friday that he was not a participant in the legal discussions Pernetti referenced in his resignation letter, and that internal and outside counsel made the decision. He also said his vice counsel John Wolf resigned in the aftermath of the controversy.

Gov. Chris Christie called Pernetti's resignation "appropriate" and "necessary"  and said in a statement that "this entire incident was regrettable and while it has damaged the reputation of our state University, we need to move forward now on a number of fronts."

Martelli, the assistant coach who was also seen in the video shoving players, resigned late Wednesday as pressure mounted. In a statement, he said he was "sickened" that he had contributed in any way to an "unacceptable culture."

Rice apologized to his former players, the Rutgers community and its fans shortly after his firing, saying he was "deeply sorry for my inexcusable actions and language" and for letting "so many people" down.

"I clearly did not treat these outstanding young men, with whom I have worked for so long and known so well, with the respect they deserve," Rice said in a statement. "I wish them and Rutgers the very best on their successes that lie ahead, as I continue to work on being a different kind of coach and a better man." 

Pernetti's finest hour may have been when he helped in the school's move to the Big Ten Conference, which means millions in additional revenue by way of television contracts and more national exposure, especially in football. The move, which becomes official in 2014, should provide a big boost to the program in recruiting and season ticket sales. The Scarlet Knights will continue to play next season in the Big East.

Pernetti's first major move as athletic director came in May 2010, when he hired the volatile Rice away from Robert Morris, which he took to two NCAA tournament appearances.

Among Pernetti's defenders Friday was former Rutgers football player Eric LeGrand, who was paralyzed during a game in October 2010.

LeGrand told NBC 4 New York that Pernetti was among the first faces he saw when he woke up from a coma, and said Friday he felt "more upset about this right now than I even do about my injury."

Copyright AP - Associated Press
Contact Us