Rutgers hires new top in-house lawyer amid scandal

NEW BRUNSWICK, N.J. (AP) - Rutgers University took steps Thursday to publicly address the administrative fallout from the scandal over its men’s basketball coach, announcing an expected independent review and hiring a new top lawyer for the school.

The university will hire lawyers to do the review and the board of governors said it intends to learn how to better run the school from the lessons in the report.

Basketball coach Mike Rice was suspended, fined and ordered to anger management counseling in December after a former basketball program employee gave school officials a video showing Rice hitting and kicking players and using gay slurs as he yelled at them during practice.

ESPN reported on the video last week, and Rice was fired, an assistant coach resigned and so did Tim Pernetti, the school’s popular 42-year-old athletic director. Pernetti, who was named last month as one of five finalists for the Sports Business Journal’s athletic director of the year award, said in his letter of resignation that his first instinct last November was to fire Rice. But it’s not clear whether he recommended that to anyone else.

In announcing the independent review, board Vice Chairman Gerald Harvey also condemned Rice’s actions.

“It is our continuing commitment that all students are treated with respect and dignity and no single program is allowed to undermine that commitment,” he said.

Board member Daniel Schulman said the board’s athletics committee had a candid discussion on the troubles in the basketball program.

“We’ll learn from this and become a really model citizen going forward,” he said.

The board also announced that a widely respected former state attorney general, John J. Farmer, will be the school’s new top lawyer. Farmer had been serving as dean of its Newark law school.

The school’s former top lawyer, John Wolf, had resigned from the university altogether hours earlier when it surfaced that he had merely been demoted amid growing anger over his role in the controversy. Wolf had approved a decision in December to suspend rather than fire Rice, even though he was aware of the video.

Some state lawmakers felt they’d been deceived and were calling for his resignation.

For their part, Rutgers players said Thursday before the board of governors meeting that they didn’t feel threatened by Rice’s behavior and that they want one of his assistant coaches to take over the program.

“Even though the stuff on that tape looks bad, we never felt threatened,” forward Kadeem Jack said.

He and other players called for Rice’s assistant David Cox to become head coach, saying Cox has kept the team together during the scandal.

Who knew about Rice’s behavior earlier and what they did about it has become the focus of fallout. Lawmakers also planned hearings of their own to address some of the same questions.

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