Rutgers athletic director resigns in player abuse scandal
(CNN) — Rutgers University Athletic Director Tim Pernetti has resigned in the wake of a basketball player abuse scandal, saying that he regretted not fighting the school’s decision to initially suspend, rather than fire, men’s head coach Mike Rice last year.
The resignation announced Friday by the university’s president came the same day that former NBA player Eric Murdock filed a lawsuit against Rutgers, alleging he was fired as the team’s director of player development for blowing the whistle on Rice.
Rice was dismissed Wednesday after ESPN aired a video showing him shoving and berating player
ESPN got the video from Murdock. The school says he was let go for “insubordinate conduct” unrelated to the video, according to ESPN.
Pernetti came under fire this week for not taking more serious disciplinary action against Rice.
In his resignation letter, Pernetti wrote that his “first instincts” after seeing the video last year, months before ESPN aired it, “was to fire him (Rice) immediately.”
“However, Rutgers decided to follow a process involving university lawyers, human resources professionals, and outside counsel,” Pernetti wrote. “Following review of the independent investigative report, the consensus was that university policy would not justify dismissal.
“I have admitted my role in, and regret for, that decision, and wish that I had the opportunity to go back and override it for the sake of everyone involved.”
The video initially had earned Rice a three-game suspension, a $75,000 fine and a ticket to anger management classes.
“There’s no explanation for what’s on those videos because there’s no excuse for it,” Rice told CNN affiliate WABC after he was fired. Still, he will walk away with a $100,000 longevity bonus, according to the university.
ESPN, which aired the video Tuesday, said it shows practice sessions shot between 2010 and 2012 in which the coach also threw basketballs at players.
“You f**king fairy … you’re a f**king fa**ot,” Rice appears to say during one session.
Rice had just ended his third year as the Scarlet Knights’ coach with a record of 44-51, and was under contract through the 2014-2015 season.
On Friday, Rutgers President Robert Barchi also announced the resignation of John Wolf, the school’s interim senior vice president and general counsel.
Barchi, who has come under fire for not taking swifter action against Rice, said he did not see the video when it was initially brought to the attention of the school’s athletic department.
The first time he saw it, he said, was when the video clip aired this week.
“I’m certain the situation would have had a very different outcome had I done so,” Barchi told reporters.
Assistant coach Jimmy Martelli resigned the same day the school fired Rice.
According to the lawsuit, Murdock is suing the university for violating New Jersey’s employment law, violating his contract and creating a hostile work environment after he accused the former head coach of violating the school’s anti-bullying policies put in place after the suicide of Tyler Clementi two years ago.
Clementi, a student at Rutgers, leaped from the George Washington Bridge in September 2010 after learning his roommate, Dharun Ravi, used a webcam to stream his sexual encounter with another man.
Murdock alleges in the lawsuit he first notified the university about Rice’s behavior last summer and in November supplied Rutgers officials with a copy of a video that culled together a number of allegedly abusive incidents involving the head coach.
“Despite having been in possession of such video footage, the university and its representatives inexplicably chose to ignore … Rice’s unlawful conduct,” the lawsuit said.
Murdock’s attorney, Barry Kozyra, told reporters Friday that he and Murdock at the time told the university that Rice should step down.
When asked about the lawsuit, Barchi declined to comment, citing “an ongoing legal situation.”
Earlier this week, Pernetti had said he made a mistake in favoring suspension for the head coach.
“I am responsible for the decision to attempt a rehabilitation of Coach Rice,” Pernetti said in a written statement. “Dismissal and corrective action were debated in December and I thought it was in the best interest of everyone to rehabilitate, but I was wrong.”
It was a surprising end to Pernetti’s tenure at Rutgers, where he was heralded only last year for his role in moving the university into the powerhouse Big Ten Conference, which will begin in 2014.