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Once the state’s governor goes as far to release a statement regarding the coaching situation at a school, it’s all but done. When that governor is Chris Christie, a man with a good deal of national visibility, it’s really done.
Rutgers fired head men’s basketball coach Mike Rice Wednesday morning after video leaked to the press that showed the him grabbing and pushing players, as well as using profane language that included a homophobic slur. The move prompted a nod of approval from Christie’s office, via his Twitter account.
But there is one overriding problem that remains in this situation. The man guilty of the acts themselves is gone, but what about athletic director Tim Pernetti? Pernetti was the one who found Rice’s suspension early in the season satisfactory enough and, had this video not leaked or had whistleblower Eric Murdock not left the program, Rice might still have his job today.
“I am responsible for the decision to attempt a rehabilitation of Coach Rice,” Pernetti said in a statement Wednesday. “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. Moving forward, I will work to regain the trust of the Rutgers community.”
This was not an isolated incident, like the shove we know of that happened between Mike Montgomery and Allen Crabbe earlier this season at California. The tape leaked Tuesday at Rutgers showed a pattern of behavior over a period of time.
The question will ultimately come down to how much accountability there is within that particular program. Should the four-month delay between the evidence of the wrongdoing and firing of Rice be enough to oust Pernetti as well? Does it even go higher up the chain of command beyond him?
With that in mind, there appears to be a contradiction in what Rutgers president Robert Barchi has said about the timing of when he viewed the tape:
“Yesterday, I personally reviewed the video evidence, which shows a chronic and pervasive pattern of disturbing behavior,” Barchi said, as reported by NJ.com. “I have now reached the conclusion that Coach Rice cannot continue to serve effectively in a position that demands the highest levels of leadership, responsibility and public accountability.”
That runs contradictory to this question to Pernetti, via NJ.com:
Q. Has Rutgers president Robert Barchi seen the tape – and if not, has he been made aware of everything that’s on it?
A. “Yes and yes. President Barchi and I worked closely together when this issue came up. We worked closely together with members of the board. He’s a lot like me. We deal with everything in the wide open. We had the same concerns but we felt strongly that the actions that we took was important to take and deal with it.”
Rutgers has not released any specific statements about the job status of Pernetti yet, but the old adage rings true again in this situation. The coverup is typically worse than the crime. Had Pernetti and Rutgers officials fired Rice at the time of the initial viewing of the tape, the public might have slapped them on the wrist for not knowing about the events at practice sooner and it would have been Big East and college basketball news.
But now, with the national spotlight focused upon them, Pernetti and Rutgers have to answer questions about how they viewed that footage and came to the conclusion that a suspension was enough and the incidents depicted merited no further action. And that is not an easy one to answer at this point.
Daniel Martin is a writer and editor at JohnnyJungle.com, covering St. John’s. You can find him on Twitter:@DanielJMartin_