Regarding the Men's Basketball Controversy

April 5, 2013

Members of the Rutgers Community:

The past few days have brought pain, anger, and outrage to the Rutgers community.  It is troubling to watch the video footage of our former Scarlet Knights men’s basketball coach repeatedly demonstrating verbally and physically abusive behavior.  People within and beyond Rutgers have understandably demanded to know why the coach was not fired months ago.  The damage to our student athletes, our athletics program, the individuals and communities hurt by the coach’s offensive language, and our university itself will not heal easily. 

As I said during a press conference today, this was a failure of process.  I regret that I did not ask to see the video when it was presented to athletic director Tim Pernetti who immediately told me of its existence, because I am certain this situation would have had a different outcome had I done so.  I apologize to everyone in Rutgers community—our faculty, staff, students, parents, alumni, and the many others who support the great work of this university—for the negative impact that this situation has had on Rutgers.  I apologize to any student athletes on the team who may have been personally harmed; the kind of chronic and pervasively abusive behavior demonstrated on that video is unacceptable and does not represent the high standards of leadership and accountability we strive for within the Rutgers athletic program.  I also apologize to the LGBTQ community and all of us who share their values, for the homophobic slurs shown on that video.  I personally know how hurtful that language can be.

As you may know, several personnel actions have been taken.  Mike Rice was removed as coach earlier this week, and an assistant coach who also acted in an abusive manner on the video has resigned.  John Wolf has resigned his position as interim senior vice president and general counsel.  And today, by mutual agreement that it would be in the best interest of Rutgers, I accepted Tim Pernetti’s resignation as Director of Intercollegiate Athletics.  I did so with appreciation for the many outstanding decisions he has made that have positioned Rutgers Athletics well for its long-term future, most notably his successful efforts to bring Rutgers into the Big Ten.  As Tim acknowledged earlier this week, the decision to rehabilitate rather than to fire Coach Rice was an error in judgment.  When I saw the video Tuesday evening of this week, it was clear to me just how egregious the offenses were and how out of keeping with the Rutgers community’s values they were.

Further steps will be needed in order for Rutgers to move forward in a positive way.  We need to learn from this experience and ensure that abusive behavior and language are never tolerated.  We also need to strike a balance between what the strict application of legal guidance might say and what our moral compass dictates, especially in situations that put our students at risk of harm. 

We at Rutgers have hugely important work ahead of us, including the enormous task of integrating our operations with most units of the University of Medicine and Dentistry of New Jersey, and the vital conversations we have been holding about our future as we prepare a universitywide strategic plan for the next 10 years. As critical as these are, it is fundamentally important to maintain a safe and inclusive climate on every campus and in every venue—one in which every person is respected, diversity is honored and celebrated, and leadership, responsibility, and accountability are demanded of everyone to whom our students are entrusted.


Robert L. Barchi