"A body of men holding themselves accountable to nobody ought not to be trusted by anybody.”
- Thomas Paine
I was hesitant to write an article on the recent fall out in Newark,
New Jersey at Rutgers University. I usually leave it to others to get on
their soapbox and preach to the masses about being a good person and
how you should behave as a human being, but this struck a nerve for me
and a lot of other people. You don't need to be a sports fan to notice
how horrid the whole thing was.
At first I thought, "It's just another college sports scandal, big deal." Then I saw the video. It took a while for it to all settle in, and then that's when it hit me how insane Rice's actions were.
Granted he was much smaller than his players, but that should not in
any way hide the fact that he abused them. Maybe it was a Napoleon
complex and that he had to assert his domination...but there is no
valid excuse for his actions. Had it happened once, Rice might have been
able to blame it on heat-of-the-moment actions and been let off with a
fine and suspension. But it happened again, and again and again.
He knew what he was doing every time he was on the practice court. This
wasn't "tough love." It was no love and no respect for his players or
coaching staff who tried to get him to change, but to no avail.
I was disturbed after watching extensive footage of Rice's
questionable practices and further disgusted by how the school handled
The whole thing boils down to one thing: accountability.
Rice only held himself accountable once he was forced to resign.
"It's troubling, but I will at some time, maybe I'll try to explain
it, but right now, there's no explanation for what's on those films.
Because there is no excuse for it. I was wrong. I want to tell everybody
who's believed in me that I'm deeply sorry," he told ESPN.com.
Where was this accountability back in the fall? How about further
back? Had he somehow slipped under the radar longer, would he have
changed his ways on his own? The short answer is most likely not,
although I don't claim to be inside Rice's head. But like other
situations in life, one usually learns the hard way and that they must
The lack of initiative did not end with Rice, though. The school's
athletic director, Tim Pernetti was blatantly trying to hold on to his
job. He was focused on the move to the Big 10, which is why he tried to
sweep the whole mess under a rug. He'd need a pretty big one, though.
Back when the video first surfaced, Pernetti slapped Rice on the wrist with a three-day non-paid suspension and a 50,000 dollar fine.
“Accountability is a vital element of the Rutgers Athletics family
and it is imperative our head coaches act and lead in a responsible
manner. This was not an easy decision for me to make but absolutely
necessary to ensure what is best for our program," Pernetti told the
Star Ledger's Brendan Prunty.
It's not only the coaches who need to act and lead responsibly. The
administration should, too. Hypocrisy leads to the loss of credibility
and Pernetti should have known this. Hind sight is fifty-fifty, they
say...but this was not a Monday morning quarterback situation. There was
no variety of options to handle it. There was one option: fire
Rice. Once he let Rice off easy as opposed to unemployed, his
credibility was lost. Rice going to therapy for his temper was a failed
attempt at teaching an old dog new tricks.
The decision Pernetti spoke of being difficult was not about the
punishment he doled out, but more so about how he could cover his butt
and turn a blind eye to the big picture of the scandal. Yet Pernetti is
not the most absurd part to this story.
That distinction belongs to school president Robert Barchi.
After assistant coach Jimmy Martelli resigned (who also abused players), Pernetti stepped down as athletic director
yesterday; a move anyone with half a brain saw coming. He mentioned
regretting not making the decision to terminate Rice and cited lawyers,
outside counsel and human resource professionals in what prevented him
from making the only move he could've saved himself with.
In January, an outside counsel hired by Rutgers, John Lacey of
Connell Lacey LLP stated that, "...due to the intensity with which Coach
Rice engaged in some of the misconduct, we believe AD Pernetti could
reasonably determine that Coach Rice's action tended to embarrass and
bring shame or disgrace to Rutgers in violation of Coach Rice's
employment contract with Rutgers."
Your move, Rutgers. I mean surely the president of the school was
curious to know why his head coach was suspended for three games, right?
Apparently not. He approved the suspension and fine then claimed to
have never seen the video until this week. Either he thinks the general
public are morons, or he lacks the motivation to take the reigns and
handle the debacle with an iron fist. I''ll go with both. His press
conference on Friday was a dizzying array of big words to
try and fool reporters and people watching it on television, but what
it really amounted to was, "Don't blame me. I'm taking care of this now.
Everyone is accountable except me."
Barchi is making himself the hero of this story and attempting to
make it look like he is doing all the right things, but he should have
been doing this back when he first became aware in the fall. He even
admitted to only taking secondhand information from his "experts" on
what exactly went down at practices. He went on to throw up smoke and
mirrors by implying he was very busy and cannot be everywhere at once,
hence why he relied on his "experts". If this didn't show a complete
lack of accountability and responsibility, I don't know what could.
At least fifty Rutgers faculty members had signed a letter to fire
Pernetti, but where are the people asking for the head of Barchi?
Governor Chris Christie is not one of them. His response to the entire
thing was pretty inane, too.
"I commend President Barchi for his decisive leadership in coming to
an agreement with Mr. Pernetti to have the Athletic Department of
Rutgers University come under new leadership," he told ESPN.
Commending him on his decisive leadership? An eight-year old could
have been a better decision maker. There was nothing decisivie about
any of this.
Tough times are when people show their true colors. Robert Barchi,
Tim Pernetti and Mike Rice showed theirs. It wasn't the red adorning the
campus in New Jersey.
It was yellow all along.
Like it? Love it? Hate it? Contact Sean on Twitter @SeanNeutron