Click here for my original reaction to the Mike Rice/Tim Pernetti scandal, posted on April 5.
As much as I wanted to write a response to the news of Tim Pernetti’s severance package when I first read about it last night, I was too livid to even think straight (click here for a short article). It’s not often that I find myself at a total loss for words. But ten hours and a fitful night of sleep later, I’m still struggling.
My first reaction, the one that I shared with my wife as I learned of Pernetti’s deal, mostly echoed my initial reaction on Friday: What….the….FUCK!?!
Some highlights from the above link:
“Pernetti is to be paid his base salary of $453,000 per year through June 2014 and a one-time payment of $679,500 in the next month. He gets the money even if he takes another job.
He also gets his $12,000 per year car allowance through June 2014 and health insurance and pension payments through October 2015….
Rutgers agreed to represent Pernetti in any lawsuits related to his job as athletic director.
The university agreed not to say anything bad about Pernetti to the media or prospective employers”.
But here’s the part that disturbs me even more. It actually has nothing to do with Pernetti. The emphasis is my own.
“[Rutgers Basketball Coach Mike] Rice was fired last week not for cause, meaning that under his contract he is in line to be paid just over $1 million, or 75 percent of his remaining salary, plus a $100,000 bonus for staying on the job through the 2012-13 season.”
Which begs the question: What counts as “cause” to fire a Division I coach? My gut reaction is to scoff and say, “Losing”. Unfortunately, I don’t get to be so jaded in this case. Rice had a losing record in his three years at Rutgers, and that record even declined slightly between his first and second seasons. Granted, Rice’s team did improve this year, but lingering around at .500 is generally considered a career-killer.
Obviously, the University doesn’t think that getting caught on tape mistreating student-athletes is grounds for dismissing a coach. So, is this simply a PR move? Would Rice and Pernetti’s jobs still be secure if the story hadn’t been featured on Outside the Lines? And if that’s the case, how is paying nearly 2.5 million dollars to the two guilty parties going to help Rutgers save face?
From where I sit, this is essentially rewarding Rice for abusing his team and Pernetti for trying to sweep it under the rug. By not only agreeing to not publicly disparage Pernetti and to represent him in any subsequent lawsuits, Rutgers is essentially saying that they think the AD was in the right. And, by extension, they are absolving Rice of some grievous sins.
I’m sure if you followed the stench back its source, you’d eventually come to a pot of money brought in by Pernetti’s various revenue-generating moves. Most famous among these is the University joining the Big 10. You’d probably also find a cash box labeled Rutgers Basketball. And somewhere, huddled around them both, you’d probably find a cluster of men and women in business suits who are more concerned with protecting that income and saving their own asses than they are with protecting the welfare of their student-athletes.
In the end, I hardly know what to say. But I can tell you this. Sixteen years is a long time for a bad taste to be washed out of my mouth, but if my daughter was searching for a college today I know where I would tell her NOT to apply.