Rutgers men’s basketball head coach Mike Rice was fired on April 3, after video of his physical and homophobic verbal abuse of his players was broadcast on ESPN, setting off a growing scandal over who knew what and when, that may yet result in additional removals and resignations.
Rice got a million dollar payoff from Rutgers, as did Athletic Director Tim Pernetti, who was asked to and did resign. The University General Counsel John Wolf resigned from his position, but may have negotiated remaining on the Rutgers payroll in another capacity. Assistant men’s basketball coach Jimmy Martelli was implicated on the video in the abuse of players. He resigned, and if he didn’t get paid off, too, he may be the only one who wasn’t.
Rutgers University President Robert Barchi claimed not to have viewed the video until broadcast by ESPN, though it was in the possession of Athletic Director Pernetti as early as November 26, 2012. Instead of viewing the video himself, President Barchi authorized payment of $64,000 for a 50-page outside report which described the coaching methods of Mike Rice as “permissible training.” Anyone think that was public money well spent?
Rutgers Board Chairman Ralph Izzo and New Jersey Governor Chris Christie have rallied around University President Robert Barchi, seeking to protect him in his job despite his admission of error in not regarding the matter are serious enough to view a video of alleged abuse of his students by their coach. But we know that members of the Rutgers board did view the video as early as last December, and apparently took no action. So in protecting President Barchi, and saying that no further dismissals are called for, the Rutgers board is also protecting its own members.
Meanwhile, the former assistant to Coach Mike Rice who released the video to Rutgers and ESPN, Eric Murdock, is suing Rutgers for damages for wrongful loss of his job. And Rutgers is bracing itself for possible lawsuits by the basketball players alleging abuse by Coach Rice as documented on the video.
Good thing Rutgers is anticipating a financial windfall from joining the Big Ten athletic conference, which was announced right around the time last year when Rutgers became aware of the troublesome video. Good thing the video wasn’t made public then, since that might have spoiled the party. Or was the party and joining the Big Ten, the reason it was covered up?
Does anyone think Rutgers will be anything but a doormat in the Big Ten in the wake of the current scandal? Why would quality athletes with other choices choose a college where abuse like that presented on the videotape is considered “permissible training”?
Who else is to blame for the situation at Rutgers? Or is no one else to blame, because Rutgers is merely experiencing the normal and typical pressures of a big-time athletics program?
Jan Ting is a Professor of Law at Temple University’s Beasley School of Law and a former Assistant Commissioner for Refugees, Asylum and Parole, Immigration and Naturalization Service, U.S. Department of Justice. Jan can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.