The true measure of any college sports scandal—a real scandal, not a bullshit "teenagers use drugs" witchhunt—is how high the housecleaning goes. Rutgers has reached DEFCON 2, as athletic director Tim Pernetti is out. It can still go higher.
Pernetti will be fired, or maybe forced to resign, for his role in the non-discipline of former head coach Mike Rice. Video emerged this week of an abusive Rice in multiple practices swearing, screaming, and flinging basketballs at his players. It took less than a day for Rice to get the ax, but really—and this is why Pernetti's gone—it took five months.
The aftermath of a scandal is almost always more fun than the initial revelations: Was there a cover-up? Who knew what, and when? Who's throwing who under the bus to keep their own job?
The Rutgers athletic department was aware of the allegations against Rice, made by a former assistant threatening a whistleblower lawsuit, as early as November. They were aware of more than allegations; they saw the video. In announcing Rice's three-game suspension in December, Pernetti specifically mentioned the profanity and the ball-throwing, though notably not the homophobic comments.
"We commenced a pretty thorough and lengthy investigation and this was the result of that investigation. There was obviously some things that are not to the Rutgers standard that we evaluated.”
The outcry after the release of the video indicates Pernetti's crime was not firing Rice on the spot. His downfall was in assuming the tape would never get out (it's always hubris, rarely outright evil that does ADs in). Now that he's gone, who can he take down with him?
Pressure is mounting on Rutgers President Robert Barchi, who has only been on the job for six months. After screening the tape for reporters on Tuesday, Pernetti was asked if Barchi had been aware of the allegations against Rice.
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.”
But upon Rice's firing, Barchi indicated that Tuesday was the first time he had seen the tape. A spokesman from Barchi's office later said that Pernetti didn't mean to suggest Barchi had seen it in November. So who's jobbing who here? Was Pernetti trying to save his ass by kicking the blame upstairs? Is Barchi covering himself by capping accountability with the AD? Is it all just a wacky mix-up?
But this is why the school joined the Big Ten, right? I mean, it's Final Four weekend and all anyone can talk about is Rutgers basketball.