I am a Rutgers University School of Law alumnus.
I owe Rutgers University a great deal of debt.
It is this debt of gratitude for giving me a shot at pursuing a Juris Doctor and entering the ranks of the legal profession.
It is this debt that has helped me to obtain opportunities with top companies, allowed me to obtain top clients, and afford me the opportunity to appear on radio, television, join esteemed boards, and speak all over the world.
It is this debt which puts me in a unique position to recruit other students at Big Ten schools in the Midwest and in around my hometown of Chicago to go to my law school, one of the top institutions of legal learning in this fine nation of ours.
It is this debt which makes me personally invested in the future of the university, its mission, its values, its brand, its reputation, and its leadership.
It is this debt which initially led me to call for the immediate termination of Mike Rice. Apparently someone finally listened.
However, it is this debt which now leads me to call for either the termination or the forced extended leave of absence for Rutgers Athletic Director Tim Pernetti pending further investigation into his role in handling Mike Rice’s initial suspension.
Things had been soaring along great for Rutgers University, The State University of New Jersey.
First, the historic university acquired University of Medicine and Dentistry of New Jersey in November, consenting to bring together two of the state’s largest institutions and giving the state university the medical schools it has wanted for years.
Now, within a few short months later, Rutgers is exploring a merger of its two top rated law schools in Camden and Newark. Academically the school is growing and becoming a more robust institution.
Rutgers is the 8th oldest university in American and one of nine colonial colleges founded before the American Revolution. It has a rich academic and heritage and continues to grow stronger.
After decades of resistance, the university finally took steps to bring its athletic reputation on par with is academic one by accepting a bid to join the powerful Big Ten Conference after years of speculation.
Things had been soaring, until someone threw bad rice into the ceremony.
Mike Rice, who had a history of anger problems has been outed for throwing basketballs at players’ heads, calling them derogatory names, and pretty much being an integral part of ensuring the whistleblower was not retained by the school.
Eric Murdock, a former NBA veteran and former director of player development, deserves a medal. He was a hired by Mike Rice, and decided his loyalty rested on what was right.
Now Murdock is pursuing legal action for wrongful termination. Not only does his case now receive more substantive weight, the floodgates are now open for students whose hopes of getting a first class education while playing Division I basketball were practically ruined. Other civil filings will ensue.
Athletic Director Tim Pernetti decided a suspension of 3 games and fining Mike Rice $50,000 was appropriate.
Unfortunately it was not, and the university is now paying a heavy penalty legally, public relations wise, financially, and possibly academically. That’s where I draw the line.
Universities are supposed to educate young men and women.
When Mike Rice decided to hurl basketballs and homophobic slurs at his players, the educational experience ceased and humiliation and dehumanization began.
When the educational experience turns on its head, Rutgers needed to have turned on a dime and removed its coach far sooner than it did.
Lack of institutional control is a term which taints institutions. In his statement on Mike Rice’s firing, Pernetti remarked, “Dismissal and corrective action were debated in December and I thought it was in the best interest of everyone to rehabilitate, but I was wrong."
Pernetti was grossly negligent. When he stated, "I am responsible for the decision to attempt a rehabilitation of Coach Rice," he was right, and he should now pay the price for the damage done to the university.
The coat of arms of our Scarlet Knights has been soiled. The bleeding will not stop until Rutgers take a step further to clean up the mess which now has reached an institutional level.
"Moving forward, I will work to regain the trust of the Rutgers community," Pernetti remarked in his statement on Mike Rice’s firing.
Unfortunately, that trust might be permanently broken.
Exavier B. Pope, Esq. is an entertainment and sports attorney, media personality, syndicated writer, Fortune 500 speaker and peak performance strategist, author, philanthropist, a sports business and law blogger for ChicagoNow and a 2005 graduate of Rutgers School of Law-Camden. All opinions expressed are those solely of Mr. Pope.
(c) 2013, Exavier Pope