Dr. Barchi should be the next to go
4/5/2013 5:33:00 PM
Whether you agree or disagree over Rutgers Athletic Director Tim Pernetti's role in the Mike Rice debacle, you have to respect the fact that Pernetti "fell on the sword" Friday and took responsibility for his actions by resigning. The same can not be said for first-year RU President Dr. Robert Barchi who was less than impressive the same day on the big stage of a media-packed news conference that officially announced Pernetti's resignation. Dr. Barchi looked like a small-time politician trying to wriggle off the hook when the question of why he didn't look at the explosive video of Rice's physical and verbal abuse at Scarlet Knight basketball practices before signing off on Pernetti's plan to discipline Rice instead of firing him back in December was repeatedly asked by the media. His basic answer that, if he had to do it again, he would have looked at the video was a tepid response. His additional comments regarding the fact that sometimes you have to rely on the advice of your managerial team just doesn't cut it. When the men's basketball coach at THE State University of New Jersey, making more than $600,000, is abusing student athletes over at least a two-year period...when that coach is making repeated homophobic slurs at a major liberal college that just suffered thru the controversy over the suicide of gay student Tyler Clementi...then, as university president, you HAVE to make it your point to take over the decision-making process. But we're dealing with a "leader" who used Friday's news conference dealing with the sudden resignation of a "loyal son" as a chance to crack a few ill-timed and unfunny jokes about giving him a break because he's so new that he still can't find his way from the president's home in Piscataway to Old Queens in New Brunswick and that, in dealing with the tough issues of the time, he thinks about resigning every morning because he only serves at the pleasure of the Rutgers Board of Governors. But, then again, the way BOG Chairman Ralph Izzo sees it, Barchi wasn't brought to Rutgers to deal with these messy athletics problems. He's here to plot the University's academic course over the next ten years and to complete the successful merger with UMDNJ. However, based on Barchi's performance so far in the Rice/Pernetti saga, one has to wonder how successful he will be in those ventures. Then again, maybe he shouldn't get the chance.
Barchi isn't out of the words yet, even with Friday's glowing post-news conference comments, by written release, from Republican Governor Christie. I expect important segments of the Rutgers community---namely the faculty, students and alumni---along with the Democratic-majority of the state legislature in a re-election year for all of them (including Christie) will keep this dialogue going. Already Assembly Speaker Sheila Oliver is asking for further investigation into why Barchi signed off on the Rice suspension/fine without seeing the damaging video, asking for more transparency from the new president. Then, there's the sticky issue of the whistleblower lawsuit filed on Friday in Newark by former RU basketball director of player development Eric Murdock of Bridgewater at the same time the news conference was going on. Murdock, who released the video to ESPN, is looking for a signficant financial settlement for what he says is the violation of his contract and employees' rights. Only time will tell how this plays out.
The scoreboard looks like this right now---Tim Pernetti, who has served Rutgers as a football player, devoted alum, broadcaster and the athletic director who engineered the move into the prestigious Big Ten, has taken the hit while Dr. Robert Barchi, who, in all honesty, has done much less for the University, continues on with a free pass from Izzo and Christie and a wary eye from a number of people, including me, who wonder if he's got the "right stuff" to be the symbolic leader of higher education in the State of New Jersey. Maybe he won't get the chance if the heat continues to build on campus, in Trenton, in the courts. Just check out Saturday's newspapers and websites---the Home News Tribune, the New York Daily News, the New York Post and ESPN.com are joining me in calling for Barchi to be fired. Stay tuned.