Saturday, April 6, 2013

From Red to Yellow: The Sad Saga of Rutgers University and Mike Rice

"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 controversy.

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

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 adapt accordingly.

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

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