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.
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.