NEWARK, N.J. (AP) — Rutgers is turning to former dean Carl Kirschner to run its athletic department amid the basketball scandal that led to the firing of coach Mike Rice and the resignation of athletic director Tim Pernetti.
Rutgers president Robert Barchi announced the appointment Monday, just three days after Pernetti resigned in the wake of the scandal that has tarnished the university’s reputation, caused donors to consider cutting off financial gifts and threatened the school with the possibility of being named in litigation after players were subject to bullying.
The Star-Ledger of Newark first reported the decision.
This is the second time that Kirschner will run the program. He took over at the start of 2009 after Robert Mulcahy was fired, and held the role for four months, stepping down when Pernetti took over.
“I thank Carl for stepping up to take interim leadership of intercollegiate athletics,” Barchi said in a statement issued late Monday afternoon. “His many years of service to the university community and to our student athletes give me every confidence in his ability to oversee the Rutgers athletics program until we find a new athletic director.”
Barchi added that Kirschner will be helped by Doug Fillis, senior associate athletic director, and Janine Purcaro, chief financial officer for athletics, who will manage the day-to-day operations of the Division of Intercollegiate Athletics.
Kirschner is taking over in a time of crisis. Rutgers has seen it status plummet after ESPN aired a video last Tuesday, showing Rice grabbing and kicking players at practice while uttering anti-gay slurs. Rice was fired on Wednesday, less than 12 hours after Barchi viewed the video for the first time.
Jimmy Martelli, one of Rice’s assistants, and university interim general counsel John Wolf, resigned over the next two days. And Pernetti resigned Friday, claiming the university’s legal department and independent counsel explained to him that there was not sufficient evidence to fire Rice initially.
Kirschner’s first order of business will be to find a new athletic director, who then would have to hire a new coach for a basketball team that hasn’t been to the NCAA tournament since 1991.
Kirschner is special counsel for academic programs in the Office of the Executive Vice President for Academic Affairs. He was dean of Rutgers College for 13 years. He also has served as chair of the Academic Oversight Committee for Intercollegiate Athletics, which reviews the applications of prospective Rutgers student athletes and monitors their academic progress.
Timing is critical now for Rutgers, which also was cast in a negative spotlight in 2010 when freshman Tyler Clementi committed suicide after a roommate made a webcast of him kissing another male student.
Some influential donors have threatened to cut off funds to the university, which also might face legal action from former athletes. And Eric Murdock, a former member of Rice’s staff who released the video, has filed a whistleblower suit.
Barchi also announced that Rutgers alumna Kate Sweeney, a senior vice president and certified financial planner with Morgan Stanley, and Richard Edwards, executive vice president for academic affairs, will co-chair the search for the new athletic director.
Sweeney captained both the women’s basketball and lacrosse teams in the late 1970s. She serves on the executive committee of the President’s Council at the Rutgers University Foundation.
Edwards, who also serves as interim chancellor at Rutgers-New Brunswick, was appointed executive vice president in September 2012. He came to Rutgers in August 2005 as dean of the School of Social Work.
Barchi said the remainder of the committee members will represent a cross-section of the university community.
“As we seek to move the university and Rutgers athletics forward,” he said, “it is imperative that we move expeditiously to fill this important post.”
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