NEW BRUNSWICK, N.J. (AP) - Just a few months ago, things could not have been more promising for Rutgers as it looked to bolster its place in college sports.
The university said to be the birthplace of college football had just been accepted to the Big Ten Conference. And with that came guarantees of national exposure and big paydays. The conductor of this gravy train was a fresh-faced, popular athletic director.
The state university of New Jersey finally had its invitation to join the elite of college sports. That was in November.
Then April came.
In a span of four days, a men’s basketball scandal ripped through the campus. Suddenly, all the buoyant feelings were gone, replaced by crisis and controversy reaching the highest level of the university. Jobs were lost and reputations damaged, the debate rippling across the country.
“There is no question that big-time athletics have some risks. I didn’t expect to see them so quickly.”
On Wednesday, Rutgers fired coach Mike Rice after a video aired showing him shoving, grabbing and throwing balls at players in practice and using anti-gay slurs. The video, broadcast Tuesday on ESPN, prompted stinging criticism, including a statement from Gov. Chris Christie.
On Thursday, Jimmy Martelli, one of Rice’s assistants, resigned. And on Friday, the crisis came to a head, when Barchi announced the resignation of athletic director Tim Pernetti, as well as that of John Wolf, Rutgers‘ interim general counsel.
“This,” Barchi said, “was a failure of process.”
And it may have been avoided if Rice was fired in November, when Pernetti was first given the video from former basketball staff member Eric Murdock. Instead, after an investigation from an outside firm, Pernetti, with the approval of Barchi, elected to give Rice a three-game suspension, a $75,000 fine, and ordered him to attend anger management classes.
“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. “As Tim acknowledged on Wednesday, his decision to rehabilitate, rather than fire, coach Rice was wrong.”
“As we move forward here,” Barchi said, “we are going to take a hit.”