Wednesday, May 29, 2013

Sticking It to Themselves Pogo Style.

I root hard for New Jersey's State University to succeed.  The oldest of my siblings, Bill, is a Rutgers University graduate as was one of my father's great friends, David "Sonny" Werblin.  For several years - until their wholly unappetizing non-conference schedule made it impossible to even give away tickets for football games we could not attend - we were Rutgers Football season ticket holders.  Here in New Jersey we are truly fortunate to have as our state's premier public university one of this country's truly exceptional public universities.  I do not pretend to know whether the university's varsity intercollegiate teams shall be able to compete in the Big Ten upon RU's arrival there in 2014, there is no question that on the academic side of things Rutgers shall have little difficulty doing so - in a conference whose members include giants such as the University of Michigan and the University of Indiana. 

Recently, RU has made it harder and harder to root for them.  While it seems as if it was forever ago it was in fact less than sixty days ago that the Mike Rice imbroglio made the Scarlet Knights men's basketball team an above-the-fold headline for the first time since the mid 1970's.  Rice paid with his job for his actions.  As did the man who hired him, Athletic Director Tim Pernetti.  Pernetti's sin was that he failed to act when Rice's egregious conduct first was brought to his attention.  By the time Pernetti woke up to the fact that Rice's continuing employment was untenable, Pernetti's was as well.  In February 2013 Pernetti was announced as a finalist for the Athletic Director of the Year Award.  In April 2013 he was not an Athletic Director any longer.

Subsequent to firing Rice and Pernetti, RU called upon a favorite son to revitalize its hoops program. "Fast" Eddie Jordan answered the call and took the job.  For a few days it appeared as if all was again right on the banks of the old Rar-i-tan....until it was discovered that in spite of RU's repeated references to Jordan as a "Rutgers Alumni" he had not in fact ever graduated from college.  He is in fact several credits shy of earning his degree.  A big deal?  Perhaps not but in the immediate aftermath of the twin killings of Rice and Pernetti, it made it appear as if RU had not completely wiped all of its clown makeup off of its face. 

Apparently, the Jordan snafu was simply the warm-up act for what was to come.  It was only a few short weeks ago that Rutgers concluded its national search for a new Athletic Director by hiring Julie Hermann away from the University of Louisville, where she had served as the #2 person in U of L's Athletic Department.  At the time she was hired little was made of the fact that to assist it in its search, RU had hired a firm that specializes in such things, which firm had initially presented RU with a list of forty-plus names of candidates worthy of a conversation.  There appears to be a disagreement among the various media sources I have read as to whether Ms. Hermann's name was one of those provided by the search firm or whether it was in fact conspicuously absent from that list.  There appears to be little debate however that she became a finalist for the job, apparently, due to the insistence of one member of RU's Board of Governors, Kate Sweeney, to make her so. 

Within the past several days the media outlets here in the State of Concrete Gardens have blown up with stories of Julie Hermann's coaching career at the University of Tennessee that at first blush seems to invite comparison to the career of the recently-deposed men's hoops coach.  In a conference call with the media on Monday afternoon, Ms. Hermann described herself as "intense, not abusive."   Understanding of course that reasonable minds are free to disagree, a number of women who played volleyball for Ms. Hermann at the University of Tennessee respectfully choose to do so

I do not know Tim Pernetti.  I do not know Julie Hermann.  I do not know the allegedly wicked smart scientist Robert Barchi who is presently the President of Rutgers University.  I do know however that for a man who is supposed to be brilliant, President Barchi continues to do things that suggest he is either (a) not very wise; or (b) not very interested.  On his watch the phrase "due diligence" at RU has been reduced from a mantra to a punch line.  The vetting process at Rutgers is as bad as anything seen this side of the process the McCain Presidential Campaign used in 2008 to decide upon a running mate.  

This much remains true:  Pernetti was fired in significant part for what Rice did and what Pernetti failed to do to cure that behavior.  Pernetti's replacement, Hermann, now stands accused of having engaged in precisely the same conduct.  Rice's conduct.  Not Pernetti's.  One wonders why Pernetti - with a history at RU as both a student-athlete and as an administrator - appears to have not been afforded the same benefit of the doubt as his successor appears to have been granted

As of right now, Julie Hermann is scheduled to formally begin her tenure as Rutgers University's Athletic Director on June 17.    Stay tuned. 


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