Saturday, April 6, 2013

Blood on the Banks

Shortly before Christmas 2012, Rutgers University Athletic Director Tim Pernetti suspended Mike Rice, the head coach of the Scarlet Knights Men's Basketball Team for three games banged him for $75,000 in lost salary/fines, made him spend three weeks in which he was permitted ZERO contact with the program.  At the time Rice was suspended, Pernetti announced that the stated reason for the discipline was Rice's behavior.  Details were not forthcoming.  After Rutgers ended yet another sub-.500 season with a loss to Notre Dame in the Big East Tournament last month, a loss that dropped Rice's career mark at RU to 44-51 (including 16-38 in the Big East), Pernetti declared that Rice would "of course" return for the 2013-14 season, his fourth on the Banks of the Old Rar-i-tan.  

He shall not.  

Tim Pernetti fired Mike Rice early Wednesday morning.  It turned out to be one of his final official acts as his Alma mater's Athletic Director.  Pernetti had fired Rice in the face of a firestorm created by ESPN's release of a two-plus minute video mash-up of Rice's "highlights" from practices during his first two seasons at RU.  It was a firestorm that Pernetti himself proved to be incapable of outrunning.  

Let us set aside for a moment that the person who furnished the video to ESPN - Eric Murdock (it turns out that hell hath no fury equal to a deposed former employee scorned with several media outlets reporting on Tuesday and Wednesday that Murdock released the video to ESPN only after Rutgers rejected his offer to trade the video and his silence for a cool $1 Million) - comes off in this entire incident as occupying a Ring in Hell only one or two levels cooler than that reserved for Messrs. Rice, Pernetti or the utterly clueless and spineless University president Robert Barchi.   Murdock finally filed his long-threatened wrongful termination lawsuit against Rutgers on Friday, thus adding a touch of formality to his ham-handed money grab.

It is almost unfathomable to me that a bright, college-educated (he is an RU alum) gent such as Tim Pernetti - upon viewing last December the same video that the entire world (or the 91.7% with a Wi-Fi connection) viewed on Tuesday - did not recognize then what he finally came to recognize on Wednesday morning:  Mike Rice could no longer earn a paycheck at Rutgers.  Unfortunately for Pernetti, that awakening came too late to save his own job.  Whether he jumped or was pushed, yesterday Pernetti's tenure as Athletic Director reached its own inevitable end.    

I do not know Mike Rice.  I cannot envision a set of circumstances in which he and I shall ever occupy the same space - although after seeing the video of his antics I hope if we do it is not in some place that breeds tension such as at DMV or the post office.  Upon being terminated on Wednesday he placed responsibility for his stunning fall from grace squarely where it belonged - squarely upon his own shoulders:

Had those words been uttered in December at a press conference announcing that upon the university's review of the video evidence, Coach Rice had been fired, then perhaps they would feel less like a contrivance than they do to me presently.  Do not misunderstand.  I give him credit for standing up in front of the press corps gathered outside the front door of his home on Wednesday morning and manning up.  However, given that the apology followed hard on the heels of the activation of his career dissipation light and not vice versa, I cannot help but wonder how much of it was offered as a down payment for a day yet to come.  A day in the future at which Mike Rice stands next to an Athletic Director as another university and is introduced as that institution's head basketball coach.  

Oscar Wilde once observed that, "No man is rich enough to buy back his past."    I suppose that shall leave Mike Rice but one alternative:  being fast enough to outrun his.   

I would be lying if I were to say that I shall be rooting for him to succeed.  


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