SBD/April 9, 2013/Colleges

N.J. Gov. Christie Calls Mike Rice An "Animal," Gives Support To Rutgers President

Christie questioned Rutgers' decision to seek outside counsel on the issue
New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie yesterday used a 43-minute news conference to "disclose that he had been deeply engaged" in managing the Rutgers Univ. basketball scandal all week while on vacation in Jamaica, according to a front-page piece by David Halbfinger of the N.Y. TIMES. Christie called former RU men's basketball coach Mike Rice an “animal” following the incident that also cost AD Tim Pernetti his job. The governor all but "claimed credit for the coach’s ouster." Christie said that a few hours after learning of the videotape, he called Pernetti and told him, “You need to get rid of this coach and you need to get rid of him right away.” Rice was "fired the next morning." Meanwhile, Christie yesterday said RU President Robert Barchi had his "absolute confidence." Christie: “He should’ve looked at the videotape. But I do not believe that not looking at the videotape was a fireable offense.” He added, “If I had been shown this tape in November, I would have used my persuasive powers to make sure that Coach Rice was gone." Christie "questioned Rutgers administrators’ decision to seek outside counsel before doing anything about Mr. Rice, saying the 'legality and the niceties' were of no concern to him." Christie: "Fire him and let him sue you. And let the courts decide. But get him away from the student-athletes. That would’ve been my call on it" (N.Y. TIMES, 4/9). Christie added, "The university would be hurt drastically by the departure of Dr. Barchi. I think we need to move on.” He said that he had "four 'lengthy' conversations with Barchi on how to handle the scandal" (WSJ.com, 4/8).

BEGGING YOUR PARDON: In New Jersey, Charles Stile writes of Christie, "New Jersey’s chief executive suddenly became Rutgers’ chief trouble shooter, coming up with steps aimed at quelling the storm." And in "so doing, he effectively pardoned" Barchi. A source said that Pernetti "tried to contact Christie after their Tuesday conversation but the governor did not return his messages." By then, the "clamor for Pernetti’s departure began to build." Christie, who "warmly praised" Pernetti's work, took "sharp aim at him" yesterday, saying that he let Rice's "abusive conduct go unchecked." Christie: "All reports tell us that this conduct was going on for some form or fashion for three years" (Bergen RECORD, 4/9). Christie said that Pernetti made the "right decision to step down and the university has an obligation to fulfill the terms of his contract." Christie: “It was a reasonable settlement to make under all the circumstances." Also in New Jersey, Melissa Hayes writes under the agreement, Pernetti "'agrees not to make any disparaging remarks about Rutgers' but is allowed to truthfully discuss the Rice issue." At the same time, RU "agreed not to criticize Pernetti and to provide him with 'favorable job references.'" RU also "agreed to represent Pernetti" if he is sued for work he did as AD (Bergen RECORD, 4/9).

NEXT STEPS: RU yesterday announced that it will "begin an investigation into its men's basketball program." School officials also acknowledged yesterday that BOG athletic committee head Mark Hershhorn was RU's "highest-ranking official to see the video before it was made public." He "saw it in early December." Hershhorn said that he "called for Rice’s firing after watching the video and that he was displeased when his recommendation was not followed." RU also said that it would "form a search committee" for an AD to replace Pernetti, and that it had appointed RU Special Counsel for Academic Programs Carl Kirschner to "serve in the role temporarily." Barchi said that he "trusted his senior staff to handle Rice's misconduct." Barchi: "It seemed to me that the right people had put their eyes on it, and this was the right course of action" (N.Y. TIMES, 4/9). Barchi said that RU will "review practice tapes from every campus sport team to look for bullying similar to the abuse found in the recent basketball controversy." In Newark, Kelly Heyboer notes RU also will "set up a system to make sure practices are reviewed regularly for abuses" (Newark STAR-LEDGER, 4/9).

FILLING IN FOR PERNETTI: Barchi noted that Kirschner "will be helped" by Senior Associate AD/Administration Doug Fillis and CFO for Intercollegiate Athletics Janine Purcaro, who will "manage the day-to-day operations." Barchi also announced that RU alumna and Morgan Stanley Senior VP Kate Sweeney and Exec VP/Academic Affairs Richard Edwards will "co-chair the search for the new athletic director" (AP, 4/8). Meanwhile, in Newark, Tom Luicci reports Wisconsin Deputy AD Sean Frazier, Michigan State Deputy AD Greg Ianni, Stony Brook AD Jim Fiore, Baylor AD Ian McCaw and Buccaneers Dir of Football Operations Kevin MacConnell are "among the names on the preliminary list when the search gets under way" (Newark STAR-LEDGER, 4/9).

LAYING DOWN THE LAW: In New Jersey, Brian Giuffra notes a town hall meeting at the school's campus yesterday was "fiery and at times hostile." Barchi at the meeting said, "I will not tolerate that sort of behavior on this campus. I want to know we are living up to the kind of behavior we should have at this university" (Bergen RECORD, 4/9). In N.Y., O'Keeffe & Vinton note students and faculty at the meeting "confronted Barchi with grievances and met his careful responses with catcalls and calls for him to resign." But Barchi "seems to be hanging on to his job" (N.Y. DAILY NEWS, 4/9).

SOUNDING OFF: Patriots CB and former RU football player Devin McCourty said of Pernetti's decision to resign, "I was just kind of hurt when I saw a guy like Tim who I thought did an amazing job when he got to Rutgers. He would reach out to all the former athletes. ... A lot of student-athletes believe in him, and I respect him now to see he took kind of the fall by resigning" (PROVIDENCE JOURNAL, 4/9). Former Georgetown men's basketball coach John Thompson Jr. said of Rice's behavior, "I had never in my life seen anything like that on such a consistent basis. The thing that puzzled me more than anything is that the kids permitted him to do it." He added, "Then you've got a staff that's sitting there watching. I mean, stop and think about that, man" (WASHINGTONPOST.com, 4/8). ESPN.com's Lester Munson wrote former RU assistant coach Eric Murdock, who released the videotape, has been "labeled either as a hero for standing up for abused players or as a money-grubbing extortionist who held a damaging video over officials' heads in exchange for payment" (ESPN.com, 4/8).
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