Leadership & Governance

Rutgers U. to Investigate Its Handling of Basketball Scandal

April 08, 2013

Rutgers University will hire an independent investigator to review the handling of abuse allegations against Mike Rice Jr., the former head men's basketball coach who was fired last week after video surfaced of him shoving players and yelling gay slurs at them.

The review comes amid continuing questions about why university officials did not fire Mr. Rice when they say they first viewed the video, back in December.

The coach was suspended and fined at that time. He was dismissed only after the damning video footage was broadcast on the ESPN program Outside the Lines.

Ralph Izzo, chairman of the Rutgers Board of Governors, and Robert L. Barchi, the university's president, said in a joint statement on Monday that they would meet on Thursday to identify an adviser to conduct the review.

"We believe it is in the interest of the entire Rutgers University community to fully understand the circumstances surrounding the inappropriate behavior in the men's basketball program and how they were addressed, and to make recommendations on how we can improve," the statement says. "We believe that such a review will benefit from the involvement of an independent adviser, and it is our intention to move quickly with this review."

Dr. Barchi, who is a physician, has said he did not watch the video until last week. The university provided further details on Monday about the circle of people who had seen the footage months earlier. Mr. Izzo said that Mark P. Hershhorn, chairman of the board's Committee on Intercollegiate Athletics, had viewed the video. The full committee and board, he said, did not see the footage.

On Friday, Rutgers announced the resignations of Tim Pernetti, the university's athletic director, and John B. Wolf, the university's interim senior vice president and general counsel.

Under a severance agreement, Mr. Pernetti will be paid $1.2-million in salary and a $12,000 annual car allowance through June 2014, the Associated Press reports. He will also get to keep an iPad and receive more than two years of health-insurance coverage.

At a town-hall meeting on the university's Newark campus on Monday, Dr. Barchi was repeatedly cut off by faculty members who told him to stop lecturing from PowerPoint slides and start answering their questions. A top concern for several professors was the perception that the president views the Newark campus as inferior to or less worthy of resources than the New Brunswick campus, but he also drew questions about the basketball scandal.

One audience member, who identified herself as a "taxpayer" and a representative of the "LGBT community," asked what the president would do specifically to respond to the possibility that Rutgers has become "defined" as intolerant of gay people. The firing of Mr. Rice, who was recorded shouting gay insults at players, came less than three years after a Rutgers freshman committed suicide in connection with a gay bullying incident.

"This is a personal issue for me," Dr. Barchi said, "and one that I have a great deal of difficulty in hearing myself characterized as insensitive or homophobic, and I'm not going to go into the reasons why."

Dr. Barchi said he had asked athletics-department officials to review practice tapes of every Rutgers sports team and to report back to him about any abuse or use of homophobic language.