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Rutgers AD steps down amid Mike Rice scandal

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Tim Pernetti had to go. Or did he?

The Rutgers University Athletic director submitted his resignation letter Friday in the wake of head basketball coach Mike Rice’s physical and verbal abuse scandal.

 “I always have and I always will want what’s best for Rutgers”, Pernetti told reporters in front of his house in Oakland, New Jersey.

You’ve seen the video, and you may have heard Pernetti say that upon watching the video last fall – he recommended that Coach Rice be suspended and not fired.

But A.D. Pernetti dropped a bombshell on his way out the door – writing in his resignation letter, “…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.”

It’s clear – based on what Rutgers president Dr. Robert Barchi told reporters Friday…that someone is not telling the truth.

“I don’t’ recall any statements to me, that his first instinct was to fire him” Dr. Barchi told reporters during a Friday news conference.

That answer leads us to this question: Is Pernetti – who has been universally vilified in the media – now a scapegoat for someone else’s bad decision making?

 Dr. Barchi continued, “I would say we all bear responsibility for our decisions, and that the decisions – consequences have to be shared by all that make them”.

Pernetti and Dr. Barchi are now using terms like “on advice of counsel” and “university policy” to describe how the decision was initially made to suspend Coach Rice.

“At the time, the legal team advising Tim and me agreed that the decision we made was within the bounds of reasonableness”, said Dr. Barchi.

Barchi was on the job for just 2-months when he first learned but chose not to personally watch the video.

 “In retrospect, it’s easy to say that I should have and could have. What I heard is that my chief counsel was there looking at it and giving his expert opinion, as was an outside counsel – as was my ad. This is a very, very large organization and those of you who run organizations understand that in any given day situations come up where you do look to your direct reports for their expert advice. And you cannot necessarily run down the primary source on every one of those. This is one where I dearly wished I had”, said Dr. Barchi.