Tim Pernetti out as Rutgers athletic director

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In mid-November Rutgers athletic director Tim Pernetti seemed to have taken the final step in transforming the athletic department, as it was announced that the school would join the Big Ten.

But the original punishment handed to men’s basketball coach Mike Rice the following month in regards to Rice’s abusive behavior at practices would ultimately lead to a major shift at the school.

Just two days after firing Rice, Pernetti finds himself on the chopping block as he was removed from his position Friday morning according to multiple reports. WNBC’s Bruce Beck confirmed the report.

Pernetti suspended Rice three games, fined him $75,000 and required him to undergo sensitivity training due to actions such as throwing basketballs at players, shoving them and using abusive language.

But once video footage of Rice’s behavior went public it became clear that the punishment did not fit the crime, leading to school faculty and state politicians calling for immediate action.

As a result Rutgers is in search of both a basketball coach and an athletic director, and with the heat being applied to president Robert L. Barchi this week who knows if more heads end up rolling before the school can turn the corner.

The move to fire Pernetti is unlikely to be received well by some prominent boosters and alumni, which will only add to the turmoil surrounding the program as Rutgers prepares to join the Big Ten in 2014.

Pernetti’s dismissal is sure to spark fury among Rutgers boosters, sports fans and prominent alumni like Baltimore Ravens running back Ray Rice and paralyzed football player Eric LeGrand, both of whom lent their names to a growing grassroots movement to save the embattled administrator. In the immediacy, it throws the men’s basketball program into turmoil; a player exodus could occur as the search for a new coach is delayed, and Pernetti was spearheading a much-needed renovation of the Louis Brown Athletic Center.

Given how much work needed to be done with the basketball program in regards to both needed facilities upgrades and the struggling on-court product, this is a very bad time for Rutgers (understatement).

And the longer this entire situation plays out, the tougher the task of turning around Rutgers basketball gets for the next head coach.

Raphielle also writes for the NBE Basketball Report and can be followed on Twitter at @raphiellej.

Shareef O’Neal decommits from Arizona

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Shareef O’Neal, the son of NBA legend Shaquille O’Neal, has decommitted from Arizona following the latest in the FBI scandal.

Considered a five-star prospect on Rivals, the 6-foot-9 Shareef becomes one of the best available prospects in the country in the Class of 2018.

Arizona head coach Sean Miller was reportedly caught on a wiretap discussing a $100,000 payment to secure the services of freshman Deandre Ayton. The conversations that were intercepted were between Miller and Christian Dawkins, who is a focal point in the FBI’s investigation.

Recruiting has taken a major hit for Arizona over the last several months as the program lost five-star point guard Jahvon Quinerly and now O’Neal due to scandal.

Sean Miller’s contract with Arizona pays him $5 million more if he’s fired for cause

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Following a bombshell report from ESPN on Friday night that Sean Miller is caught on a wiretap discussing a $100,000 payment for superstar recruit Deandre Ayton, the Arizona head coach will not be coaching the Wildcats on Saturday night when they play at Oregon.

It seems as if Miller’s tenure in Tucson is coming to an end, which puts the University into a weird position. According to ESPN, the way that Miller’s contract is written, if he is fired for cause, he will receive twice as much money in a buyout — $10.3 million vs. $5.15 million — as he would receive if he was not fired for cause.

The reason for this?

According to Forbes, it appears to simply be a mistake that was made by Arizona when drafting the contract. In a section titled “Termination by University Without Cause; Liquidated Damages”, the contract states clearly that he’ll be entitled to receive 50 percent of his base salary for each year left on his contract. But in the section discussing what happens if Miller is fired FOR cause, the contract reads that “the University’s sole obligation to Coach shall be the payment of his Base Salary” for each year left on the contract.

His full base salary.

No agent in their right mind is going try and sneak something like that into a contract with a school because no school is going to be dumb enough to agree to put a clause like that in the contract. It is, quite literally, an incentive to break rules in order to get fired for cause.

What does that mean?

Well, Miller is probably not going to be fired for cause.

And if he is, he’ll double the amount of money that he’ll have to toss into his bank account while he figures out what the next move for him will be.

No. 19 Tennessee tops Ole Miss 73-65

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OXFORD, Miss. — Admiral Schofield scored 23 points, Jordan Bowden scored 15, Lamonte Turner scored 13 and No. 19 Tennessee earned a 73-65 win over Mississippi on Saturday.

The Volunteers (21-7, 11-5 SEC) jumped out to a 29-9 lead in the first 10 minutes and held off a rally by Ole Miss in the second half to earn the key road victory.

Neither team shot well from the floor with Tennessee shooting 39 percent and Ole Miss shooting 34 percent.

The Rebels (12-17, 5-11) struggled from long distance. Ole Miss shot 4 percent (1-for-23) from three-point range. Terence Davis, who was 1 for 7 on 3s, connected in the second half.

Breein Tyree led the Rebels with 17 points, Bruce Stevens scored 14 and Davis finished with 13.

BIG PICTURE

Tennessee: With Saturday’s win, the Vols remained behind No. 12 Auburn and in second place in the league.

Mississippi: The Rebels enter the final week of the season with an attempt to grab momentum heading into the SEC Tournament and the offseason.

UP NEXT

Tennessee: The Volunteers will travel to Mississippi State on Tuesday before closing out the regular season at home against Georgia next Saturday.

Mississippi: Ole Miss travels to Kentucky on Wednesday and will host Vanderbilt on Saturday in the regular-season finale.

Michigan State clears Miles Bridges to play

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Michigan State sophomore Miles Bridges has been cleared to play, the school announced on Saturday.

Bridges was one of the players named in the Yahoo Sports report on Friday that linked numerous players to NBA agent Andy Miller and former runner Christian Dawkins. In the report, Bridges’ mom allegedly received $400, according to an expense report filed by Dawkins, while Bridges’ parents had a meal with Dawkins listed at $70.05.

Even though the report looks bad, a number of programs, including Duke, Kentucky and USC are allowing their players named in the report to continue to play.

“After learning of the allegations in yesterday’s Yahoo! Sports article, our compliance office conducted a thorough internal review. Michigan State presented its findings to the NCAA, and Miles Bridges has been cleared for competition moving forward, beginning Sunday at Wisconsin,” Beekman said.

In the midst of an 11-game winning streak, Michigan State has been one of the best teams in the country over the next several weeks. But now the Bridges case adds another complicated matter that this program has to deal with heading into the Big Ten Tournament next week.

Arizona’s Sean Miller will not coach Saturday night

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Arizona head coach Sean Miller is not expected to be on the sidelines coaching for Arizona on Saturday night as they play at Oregon.

Miller was reportedly caught on a wiretap discussing a $100,000 payment to secure the services of potential No. 1 pick Deandre Ayton. The conversations that were intercepted were between Miller and Christian Dawkins, a former runner for ex-NBA agent Andy Miller. According to ESPN, when asked by Dawkins if he should work through former Arizona assistant coach Emanuel ‘Book’ Richardson to finalize a deal, “Miller told Dawkins he should deal directly with him when it came to money.”

“I believe it is in the best interest of our team that I not coach the game tonight,” Miller said in a statement. “I continue to fully support the University’s efforts to fully investigate this matter and am confident that I will be vindicated. For now, my thoughts are with our team. They are a great group of young men that will support each other and continue their pursuit of winning a Pac-12 championship.”

Ayton will be eligible to play tonight.

Arizona is already playing without Allonzo Trier, who tested positive for a PED for for the second time in his career. He was suspended prior to Thursday night’s game at Oregon State.

Richardson was fired by Arizona after he was caught up in the original FBI complaints in September. He had worked for Miller for 10 years at Xavier and Arizona. He was alleged to have accepted $20,000 in bribes to steer players to Dawkins and another financial advisor.

Ayton committed to Arizona in September of 2016. He is currently averaging 19.6 points and 10.9 boards for No. 14 Arizona and is considered by many to be the No. 1 overall pick in the 2018 NBA Draft.

Miller denied any knowledge of a scheme to pay recruits to enroll at Arizona in October.

There has been speculation all season long that Arizona’s ties to this investigation could cost Miller his job.