Did Rutgers Address Its ‘Bully Coach’ Scandal Correctly?

Full confession: we don’t follow college sports. But of course we haven’t been able to avoid the story of Rutgers coach Mike Rice, who lost his job after starring in a video that should have been labeled “Wow, I’m a jackass”:

When officials in the school’s sports department first saw the video last year, they suspended and fined the coach. But as soon as it hit ESPN, the public registered its discontent and the school found itself in full crisis mode. Rutgers decided to fire Rice, but that was hardly the end of the story: yesterday we learned that the school owed him a cool $100K in severance pay due to the fact that it allowed him to complete the season rather than letting him go in December when the tapes surfaced. Administrators were understandably irritated by this news, and this morning we read that the school has also dismissed athletic director Tim Pernetti, the guy who made the initial decision to keep Rice on.

Pernetti’s resignation letter states that his “first instincts” upon seeing the tape were to fire Rice immediately but that further review found “university policy would not justify dismissal”. Today the school’s president claims that he never saw the tape, which is about as believable as any word that comes out of Lance Armstrong‘s mouth. Pernetti’s starting to look like a bit of a convenient scapegoat, no?

Like we said, we don’t really follow college sports. But we are old enough to remember Duke’s Mike Krzyzewski being a little belligerent on the court. Of course, he never pushed his own players or threw basketballs at their groins…

So yes, Rice’s actions were over the line, and we can understand the public pressure to fire Pernetti. But did the school really make the best of a bad situation? What can we learn from their bungled response?

(Oh, and we said this already, but what the hell is up with those new, overly earnest Northwest Airlines ads? Bad move, guys.)

@PatrickCoffee patrick.coffee@adweek.com Patrick Coffee is a senior editor for Adweek.
Publish date: April 5, 2013 https://dev.adweek.com/digital/did-rutgers-address-its-bully-coach-scandal-correctly/ © 2020 Adweek, LLC. - All Rights Reserved and NOT FOR REPRINT