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Rutgers President Robert Barchi – Would You Have Fired Him In the Wake of the Mike Rice Scandal [POLL]

Rutgers University President Robert L. Barchi (Andy Marlin/Getty Images)
Rutgers University President Robert L. Barchi (Andy Marlin/Getty Images)

You might think that what we have here is a “fish that stinks from the head down!”

In the sordid tale of the firing of Rutgers head basketball coach Mike Rice, to the resignation of athletic director Tim Pernetti; fingers are being pointed in every which direction.

Here’s probably the one revelation that’s most damning:

Barchi said he wished he could go back in time, watch the Rice DVD in November and fix everything.

“I can’t answer exactly why I didn’t. You can only say in retrospect I sure wish I had,” Barchi said during his news conference.

Despite that revelation, Barchi has the support of Governor Christie, who has said
“I think we need to move on.”

To provide some background to the chain of events:

Barchi not only failed to watch the DVD of Rice’s antics when it first surfaced in November, he made the final decision to suspend and not fire the coach without ever meeting with the independent investigator from the law firm, Connell Foley, hired to look into the affair.

The president also signed off on Rice’s suspension without reading the final version of the investigator’s 49-page report, which would not be completed until January. Instead, Barchi relied on a summary of the investigator’s preliminary findings relayed by John Wolf, the university’s vice president and general counsel.

Everyone at the university seemed to ignore a finding deep in the independent investigator’s report, on Page 34, that said Rice did “cross the line” and violate his contract by bringing “shame and disgrace” on Rutgers when he physically and verbally abused his players. That would have been enough legal justification to fire Rice, according to the terms of his contract.

Barchi’s background as a physician, scientist and former president of Thomas Jefferson University made him well-qualified to oversee the massive merger (of Rutgers and UMDNJ) involving billions of dollars and more than 60,000 students.

Barchi’s workload got even more complicated in November when he and Pernetti sealed a blockbuster deal to move Rutgers into the Big Ten, guaranteeing more money and prestige for its sports teams.

Less than a week after Pernetti and Barchi appeared smiling side-by-side at the Big Ten press conference, they were meeting to discuss the DVD that a former employee had come forward with alleging Rice was abusing his basketball players.

According to those close to him, Barchi did what he usually does when presented with a time-consuming issue. He delegated.

And perhaps in delegating, he made a serious lapse in judgment. As he stated above, he wished he’d have seen the DVD sooner.

That being said, one could then make the argument that athletic director Tim Pernetti was to be the sacrificial lamb in the affair, although his Friday press conference indicates his decision would have been different had there not been an investigation on how to fire Rice.

Ooofaa!

Given all that, Governor Christie feels that Barchi should be allowed to keep his job.

Gov. Christie reiterated his support for the way the president of Rutgers handled the situation involving an abusive coach, saying he thought President Robert Barchi should have watched the video of the coach’s actions months ago but handled it appropriately once he saw it.

“He should have looked at the videotape but I don’t believe not looking at the videotape is a fireable offense,” Christie said today, adding that “the university would be hurt drastically” if Barchi left.

Christie said Barchi showed decisive leadership in firing basketball Coach Mike Rice as quickly as possible. “What parent would let this animal back in their living room to try to recruit their son after viewing this video?” Christie asked.
If a coach who behaved like Rice called him to recruit his son, “I’d hang up the phone,” Christie said.

Christie also said he wouldn’t have hired an outside law firm to investigate Rice’s behavior, as Rutgers did last year. “I don’t even know why they had outside counsel,” Christie said. “Fire him and let them sue you.”

Christie said he first saw the video compilation of Rice’s physically and verbally abusive behavior at 1 p.m. last Tuesday as ESPN was preparing to air it. He had arrived in Jamaica with his family 90 minutes earlier.

“So I had about an hour-and-a-half vacation — a good hour-and-a-half though,” Christie said. “And I became engaged starting then.”

“The conduct on that tape is unacceptable for any person who is supposed to be a role model and leader for student athletes,” Christie said. “He should have been fired in November, and quite frankly should have been fired well before then.”

That’s why he agreed with the resignation of the athletic director, Tom Pernetti, he said. “I don’t know whether he knew and condoned [Rice’s behavior] or didn’t know,” Christie said. “But the fact of the matter is he was the main person charged with supervision of Coach Rice.”

Christie spoke to Pernetti when the video surfaced but did not ask him to step down. “I said, ‘I want to make this really clear: I’m not calling you as governor asking you to do anything,’” Christie said. “’I’m calling you as a friend saying you need to get rid of this coach.’”

Christie said he had no issue with the payouts given to Rice and Pernetti, saying a settlement is better than a protracted court battle that could further damage Rutgers’ reputation.

And as you can imagine, the Legislature is looking to make political hay out of all this.

We can all afford to be armchair quarterbacks. We’re not intimately involved.
But were the decision in your hands, what would you do.

Would you have fired Rutgers President Robert Barchi in the wake of the Mike Rice scandal.

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