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Rutgers Athletic Director Resigns After Coach Is Fired

Rutgers University's athletic director has resigned in the wake of a player abuse scandal that led to the firing of the school's men's basketball coach. Audie Cornish talks to Joel Rose.

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Transcript

ROBERT SIEGEL, HOST:

From NPR News, this is ALL THINGS CONSIDERED. I'm Robert Siegel.

AUDIE CORNISH, HOST:

And I'm Audie Cornish. Two more officials at Rutgers University are out. That's in the wake of revelations that the head basketball coach physically and verbally abused players. Today, Athletic Director Tim Pernetti and General Counsel John Wolf handed in their resignations. On Wednesday, Pernetti fired coach Mike Rice after a video aired showing Rice shoving players and throwing balls at them, and yelling homophobic slurs.

Joining us now to talk about all this is NPR's Joel Rose. And Joel, to start, why these resignations? Why today?

JOEL ROSE, BYLINE: Well, it all goes back to those video clips that first aired Tuesday on ESPN. The athletic director, Tim Pernetti, saw that video last fall before it went public. In his resignation letter, Pernetti says his first instincts were to fire Rice immediately. But that is not what he did. Pernetti says he went along with Rutgers' policy instead. Rice was suspended and fined, but he did get to keep his job - at least until this week, when the video went public. Now Rice is out, Pernetti is out, and so is the university's general counsel, John Wolf, who was also involved in the decision not to fire Rice immediately, last year.

CORNISH: Now, the resignations were announced by the Rutgers president now - and there have been calls for him to resign ,too. Any chance that could happen?

ROSE: That's just not clear, at this point. You know, Robert Barchi has the support of the university's Board of Governors - in public - and also of Gov. Chris Christie. That's important because Rutgers is the state university of New Jersey. There have been a lot of calls - a lot of questions, rather, about exactly what Barchi - exactly when Barchi saw the video of Rice abusing the players in practice. At a news conference today, Barchi emphasized that he did not see the video last fall; that he actually saw it for the first time this week on Tuesday and after that, he immediately said that Rice had to go.

CORNISH: Joel, Rutgers was in the news a few years ago, for another incident; that was in the case of a student named Tyler Clementi. He committed suicide, and it turned out that he had been subjected to harassment for being gay. Has this come up in conversation around what's going on with the team?

ROSE: Well, there's no direct connection between Tyler Clementi's suicide and Coach Mike Rice, obviously. But I think the Clementi incident does sort of help put into context the reaction to Rice's behavior, at Rutgers. Clementi's suicide, back in 2010, prompted a lot of self-examination at Rutgers about whether the school is doing everything it can to make the LGBTQ community feel welcome on campus.

And so when it came out that the head basketball coach had been using homophobic slurs in practice and keeping his job, I think that that looked very, very bad for Rutgers. And I think it helps explain why Mike Rice and also, Tim Pernetti, are now looking for work.

CORNISH: That's NPR's Joel Rose. Joel, thank you.

ROSE: You're welcome. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

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