Friday, April 5, 2013

The Rutgers Leadership Dilemma


There is a lot to the story, but Tim Pernetti losing his job as Athletic Director at Rutgers University would appear to be up for debate.  Pernetti felt that he took the right and considerable action last fall when he fined men's head basketball coach, Mike Rice, $50,000 and suspended him for three games, because of Rice's mistreatment of players on the basketball team.  This seemed to be a good call at the time (and to others involved, apparently).  What is now certain is that the coach, Rice, has lost his job because of an ESPN report by Outside the Lines where the network has showed an unfortunate video of the coach abusing his players, physically and verbally.  It has also come about that an assistant coach under Rice who was also responsible for mistreating players has been fired.  Now, the athletic director himself has been fired.  Some are going to blame ESPN for much of this, and a case could certainly be made for such.  But, this is the result of investigative reporting that those in the sports world do, much the same as those in the political world.  I am not saying it is ethical or right, but "it is what it is" in the society that we presently live in.

What coach Rice did was reprehensible.  He should have been disciplined...and the debate will continue as to whether he should have been fired on the spot -- it is certainly feasible that this should have been the action by the A.D.  But, Pernetti was doing what he thought was best to help the man and to diffuse the situation.  I do not see how that this is so wrong and unredeemable?  Certainly coaches have been disciplined for similar matters and not lost their jobs.  But, rest assured...if anyone has eyes to see through the eyes of our culture...the coach did not lose his job because he threw basketballs at players or shoved them (although both of those actions are clearly in error); the coach lost his job because of the insensitive slur he made, which certainly should not have been done.  But, in the hypersensitive, reactive culture that we live in...that is all it takes in order for their to be a firestorm on the part of certain militant groups.  I could take an entirely different tangent at this point and discuss just how out of sorts our culture is in relationship to this point, but I am going to resist the temptation. 

I am not defending Pernetti's action not to fire the coach.  What I am defending is Pernetti himself...and whether what he did was a fireable offense.  It is important to note that as a 1993 Rutgers graduate who was hired as Rutgers' AD in April 2009, Pernetti was instrumental in Rutgers moving from the Big East to the Big Ten Conference for 2014. Because of the move, Rutgers will increase its media rights revenue from about $3 million annually in the Big East to more than $40 million annually by 2017, sources said.  On top of this, NFL All-Pro running back Ray Rice (a Rutgers graduate) said when he returned to campus recently after the Ravens won the Super Bowl in February, Pernetti's main message was positive and inspirational -- he wanted Rice to complete his degree.  It is apparent from a number of reports that Pernetti is a good man who has looked out for the best interests of people at Rutgers University and beyond.  I believe that he acted in good faith with the program, and so, to fire him seems to be the result of pressure from others in the university system and on the state level.  Could it be that they felt the need to make Pernetti the fall guy because this has been an enbarrassment to the University and so that they could save face?   This would seem to be the case.  But, was it the right thing to do?  I do not believe so...but this will be debated for some time. What has happened to Pernetti appears to be the result of the same "mob mentality" witch hunt that is created by such situations that usually results in someone "paying the price".  Should we be surprised by this?  No. It has been the same for millenia. And once again, I am going to resist the temptation to take a religious tangent with regard to Jesus' own crucifixion as the result of a "mob mentality."  But, I think the point is made...and open for thought, discussion.

Blessings, Don

P.S.  Now the reporting is that Pernetti "has resigned." 

P.S.S.. As I have further come to understand it, Pernetti was seriously considering firing coach Rice last fall after the incidents, but was talked out of it by a "consensus of school officials."  Apparently, it is a consensus of "officials" that have chosen to run him off, as well. Hmmm.

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