NEW BRUNSWICK -- It's one thing when Saturday Night Live makes
fun of the affair enveloping the Rutgers University campus with a skit
mocking Mike Rice, a light-hearted depiction of an out-of-control
women's basketball coach who throws toasters at her players and drives a
golf cart on the court.
It's quite another
when the ESPN investigative program that started it all compares the
affair to the most infamous political scandal of all time.
the great questions, and it almost resonates from Watergate, is who
knew what and when did they know it," Bob Ley, ESPN's award-winning
host, said midway through the "Outside the Lines" report detailing the
Five days after the Rutgers
scandal became national news with ESPN's "Outside the Lines" unveiling
of an explosive videotape showing Rice physically and verbally abusing
his Scarlet Knights men's basketball players, more layers to the story
were peeled back by the network's investigative show Sunday morning.
focus of John Barr's report centered on what Rutgers President Robert
Barchi knew, and what he should have done to remedy the latest in a
string of scandals that has rocked college athletics.
details how the Rutgers president admits to being informed of Rice's
behavior, and yet opted not to review the videotape provided by former
Rutgers basketball aide Eric Murdock in late November - mere days after
Barchi sat front and center as the university enhanced its athletic
profile by joining the Big Ten Conference.
begins with Barchi delivering his now-famous line - "This was a failure
of process" - and continues with Barr saying, "but the process is made
of people and after a tumultuous week at Rutgers University a head coach
(Rice), an assistant coach (Jimmy Martelli), the athletics director
(Tim Pernetti) and the university general counsel (John Wolf) are all
out of their jobs. The reason: the now infamous Mike Rice practice
It details Pernetti's decision to suspend Rice for three
games without pay and fine the first major coach he hired $50,000 rather
than fire him after commissioning outside counsel to investigate
Belinda Edmondson, director of women's and gender studies at Rutgers-Newark, called for Barchi to resign.
have heard and seen all that we need to see and the time has come for
President Barchi to step down," she says in the report. "Whether
President Barchi heard it on tape or the athletic director communicated
this to him and they let it pass with a slap on the wrist essentially ...
if I laid my hands on a student, if I called a student those names, they
should kick me out the door before I can take another breath."
report balances the criticism levied on Barchi by showing a letter that
lists three dozen faculty members praising Barchi's leadership as he
integrates a new medical school, and notes the votes-of-confidence
Barchi received from Gov. Chris Christie and Ralph Izzo, chair of the
university's governing board.
It concludes with Barr stating: "The question remains, does the fallout end here?"
It didn't end there on "Outside the Lines" at least, as a panel then peeled back more layers on the Rutgers scandal.
Van Natta Jr., ESPN's investigative reporter, delves into the 52-page
report produced by John Lacey of Connell Foley LLP and notes that
Lacey's recommendation is that he could've terminate Rice's contract.
quite confusing why Tim Pernetti said the consensus he heard was Mike
Rice couldn't be fired," Van Natta said. "Read that report and there is
plenty of cause there that Mike Rice could've been fired for cause back
Van Natta then notes what he
calls "red flags" from Rice's coaching staff, detailing how Lacey's
report includes evidence of Rice's assistants notifying Pernetti of
Rice's behavior "long before Eric Murdock" complained.
plenty of notice and Pernetti, really, I think just ignored it," Van
Natta says. "I think the evidence is quite clear here that he tried to
deal with it himself and really hoped this thing would go away."
That's when Van Natta offers a possible motive to Pernetti's decision.
we know," Van Natta said, "beginning in September through last fall
Pernetti was very busy trying to get Rutgers into the Big Ten and he
made that happen."
Ley notes how Barchi, during Friday's press
conference, told reporters, "you can look for a cover-up (but) you will
not find one," and then asks his panel: "Is this a cover-up?"
certainly smells like it," Van Natta said, "because the thing I keep
going back to is that on Nov. 20, with great fanfare Dr. Barchi and Tim
Pernetti announced Rutgers' acceptance into the Big Ten, an incredibly
lucrative move for the university. And at that time Tim Pernetti already
knows about these questions about Mike Rice's behavior. He sort of has
kicked the can down the road, and only six days later he sees the
"Now, think about this for a second - if he decides on
the spot or the next day to fire Mike Rice, this is an incredibly
embarrassing bit of news for Rutgers just one week after winning entry
into the Big Ten. But my question is whether that was part of the motive
here for Tim Pernetti not to take action right away, to seek second
opinions, to hire an outside investigator and then to only suspend Mike
Rice in mid-December."
Dr. David Ridpath, a professor of sports
administration at Ohio University and former athletics administrator,
then looks at the big picture of the Rutgers scandal by calling it
"We act irrational in certain situations
with regards to college athletics where we try to justify and moralize
certain behavior," Ridpath said. "'You just had Rutgers at its finest
hour, getting into the Big Ten, really the pinnacle of their athletic
success, and then you have something potentially very embarrassing that
can derail that publicly."
"What I would tell you
from my time in athletic departments," Ridpath adds, "is nothing is more
important than image. Nothing is more important than protecting the
interests, and that appears to be what was happening at Rutgers at this
ESPN columnist Howard Bryant also questioned the timeline
of it, saying: "There's no question that you're not going to let
anything get in the way of that Big Ten deal. Whether it's Pernetti or
Rice or Barchi, they all know what's taken place here. ... You have $25
million at stake, you're not going to get in the way of that deal. And
this easily could've derailed it, especially with those details."
then asks, "Who bears the ultimate responsibility for this tiny, little
relatively aspect - as horrible as the tapes are - metastasizing into
something that has become this national spectacle?"
"I think it
leads to the larger cultural issues," Ridpath says. "When are we going
to finally sit down and say do we have a model here that works? And
frankly we don't. The model of college athletics, how it's structured
now at least at the Division I level is kind of like trying to stick a
square peg into a round hole. It's time we really address the model and
accept that the current model does not work. ... There are ways to fix
this but we need to sit down and have that serious conversation."