PHILADELPHIA (CBS/AP) – Tim Pernetti has resigned as Athletic Director for Rutgers University.
“Tim and I mutually agreed that this is in the best interest of Rutgers,” Rutgers president Robert L. Barchi said at a press conference on Friday. “I believe that Tim always had the good of Rutgers on his mind.”
Pernetti has come under fire for his handling of inappropriate behavior by former men’s head basketball coach Mike Rice. Rice was caught on video throwing basketballs at players and using homophobic slurs at practice.
Pernetti was given the video in late November by a former employee. With the approval of university President Robert Barchi, he suspended Rice for three games, fined him $75,000 and ordered him to attend anger management classes. But the video was broadcast Tuesday on ESPN, and prompted scores of sharp criticism nationwide.
Barchi said he didn’t see the video when they were first made aware of it in November. “If I had to do it again, I would have asked for that video,” he said.
Pernetti, 42, is a New Jersey native and a Rutgers graduate who played tight end for the Scarlet Knights from 1989-93.
Rutgers posted Pernetti’s resignation letter on their official website. The text is as follows:
Dear Dr. Barchi:
I write in confirmation of our conversation earlier today during which we agreed that it was in the best interests of Rutgers University that I step down from my position as Director of Intercollegiate Athletics. I do so reluctantly because I always have and always will love Rutgers. I want to thank the people who have supported me throughout my years as a student-athlete and Athletic Director and help them understand my reasoning in this situation.
My continued tenure as Athletic Director is no longer sustainable for the University which I attended and where a piece of me will always remain. In connection with the incidents involving former basketball Coach Mike Rice, as was the case with all other matters which I handled on behalf of the University, I always tried my best to do what is right. I have spent a great deal of time reflecting on the events which led to today. As you know, my first instincts when I saw the videotape of Coach Rice’s behavior was to fire him immediately. However, Rutgers decided to follow a process involving university lawyers, human resources professionals, and outside counsel. 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.
I trust that my tenure at Rutgers will not be judged by this one incident. I am proud of my efforts to lead Rutgers into the Big Ten, and of all of the accomplishments of our student-athletes in the classroom and on the field of play. I want to thank our great fans, the hardest working staff in collegiate athletics, and every one of our fine student-athletes. It has been my great pleasure to serve my alma mater.
Class of 1993
Pernetti hired an independent investigation firm to look at the video, which was given to him by former director of player development Eric Murdock, and came to the original conclusion that a termination wasn’t necessary. There has been some discrepancy this week in when Barchi saw the video. Pernetti said in a radio interview Tuesday, that Barchi saw the video in November, yet Barchi said in a statement Wednesday that he didn’t see it until this week.
“The decision today by Athletic Director Tim Pernetti to resign is appropriate and necessary given the events of the past six months. I commend President Barchi for his decisive leadership in coming to an agreement with Mr. Pernetti to have the Athletic Department of Rutgers University come under new leadership,” New Jersey Governer Chris Christie said in a statement.
“This entire incident was regrettable and while it has damaged the reputation of our state University, we need to move forward now on a number of fronts which provide great opportunities for Rutgers’ future. Completing the ground-breaking merger agreement with UMDNJ. Preparing for our academic and athletic entry into the Big 10 conference. Implementing Rutgers’ share of New Jersey’s $1.3 billion capital commitment to higher education. Finally, conducting a national search for a new athletic director and a new men’s basketball coach for athletic competition next year and in 2014 for our entry to the Big 10. I want to thank Tim Pernetti for his many contributions to Rutgers as a student, athlete and athletic director and for taking responsibility for his role in this difficult episode in the 250 year history of Rutgers University,” Christie said.
Also Thursday, assistant coach Jimmy Martelli resigned.
There had been growing calls for Pernetti to be fired, coming from Rutgers faculty and state legislators. But there was also a push to keep him, playing out largely on social media.
By Friday morning, nearly 3,000 people had joined a Facebook site calling for the university to keep him, several accusing the media and politicians of a witch hunt. Former Rutgers football players including Baltimore Ravens running back Ray Rice and Eric LeGrand, who was paralyzed during a game in 2010, were also campaigning for Pernetti to remain in place, saying that Pernetti cares deeply about them as individuals.
Pernetti’s finest hour in what amounted to a short tenure was when he helped to orchestrate the school’s move to the Big Ten Conference, which means additional revenue by way of television contracts and more national exposure, especially in football. The move, which will officially be activated in 2014, should provide a big boost to the program in recruiting, season ticket sales, and media coverage. The Scarlet Knights will continue to play next season in the Big East.