Various media outlets, including The New Jersey Star-Ledger, are reporting today that Rutgers University is terminating its relationship with Athletic Director Tim Pernetti after he protected abusive basketball coach Mike Rice. Pernetti had seen video of Rice’s violent and verbal harassment of players, including anti-gay slurs, but chose not to fire him, instead punishing him with a fine and three-game suspension. When that video became public this week, only then was Rice fired, and Pernetti admitted that he was wrong to have not fired him in the first place.
It’s not clear yet whether Pernetti has resigned or if the university is firing him. According to ABC7 News, he may have been asked to resign but refused. A press conference this afternoon at 1 PM will clarify Pernetti’s fate.
Still, the removal of Pernetti does not end the scrutiny against Rutgers for retaining Rice. University President Robert Barchi had also seen the video footage of Rice’s behavior and supported Pernetti’s plans to try to rehabilitate the coach. In his statement Wednesday, Barchi explained that he rewatched the video after it went public and decided he now felt that Rice could not remain:
Yesterday, I personally reviewed the video evidence, which shows a chronic and pervasive pattern of disturbing behavior. I have now reached the conclusion that Coach Rice cannot continue to serve effectively in a position that demands the highest levels of leadership, responsibility and public accountability.
Faculty are calling on Barchi to be held to that same public accountability. Not only have more than 50 faculty members called for Pernetti’s removal — as is happening today — but at least two dozen have signed a letter calling on Barchi himself to be fired:
Although President Barchi is now suggesting otherwise, he has known about Coach Rice’s homophobic, misogynist and abusive behavior for several months now. Not only did he not fire Coach Rice, he in essence covered up the coach’s actions by failing to tell faculty and students about them.
The controversy had one other casualty this week. Assistant basketball coach Jimmy Martelli also resigned, stating that he is “sickened that as an assistant coach I contributed in any way to an unacceptable culture… For my actions, I am deeply sorry and I apologize to the players from the bottom of my heart.”