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Pernetti Firing Angers Rutgers Football Insiders

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Former Rutgers athletic director Mike Pernetti came under fire for not getting rid of football coach Mike Rice, eventually forcing his resignation. Elsa/Getty Images Sport/Getty Images.
Former Rutgers athletic director Mike Pernetti came under fire for not getting rid of football coach Mike Rice, eventually forcing his resignation. Elsa/Getty Images Sport/Getty Images.

For some, the sight of Rutgers athletic director Tim Pernetti resigning was justice for his complicity in basketball coach Mike Rice's abuse of his players. But for the Rutgers football community, Pernetti's ouster was profoundly unjust, an example of an overreacting crowd that needed a scapegoat.

Enabler or scapegoat?

Tim Pernetti oversaw Rutgers athletics for four years before resigning on April 5 after Rice was fired for hurling basketballs and insults at his players. Pernetti was blamed for not firing Rice when he originally found out about the coach's antics. Some watched Pernetti's dismissal with nodding approval, but did he really deserve to get fired?

No one in their right mind would have kept Rice onboard after finding out that he made a habit of throwing things at his players and verbally battering them (although, as always, some crazy folks have short memories in these situations). But Pernetti? His culpability is not as clear.

If Pernetti had complete control of the decision on what to do with Rice when the coach's behavior was revealed last year, then Pernetti deserved to be out. Anyone who watched the video of Rice "coaching" his players and thought that he was fit to coach at all does not know what they are doing. There is also the claim of Eric Murdock, former Rutgers basketball assistant coach who says that he was fired for blowing the whistle on Rice. It is unclear, though, how much blame Pernetti should take in all this.

Pernetti said in his resignation letter that his "first instincts" upon seeing the video "was to fire him immediately," but that "the consensus" among Rutgers officials was to keep Rice. If that is true, did Pernetti deserve to get canned? According to the Rutgers football community, the answer is a resounding 'No.'

Football support

Even before he was fired, Pernetti, a former Rutgers tight end, received support from current and former players and coaches. Head coach Kyle Flood voiced his appreciation for Pernetti hiring him last year, and rising junior running back Savon Huggins said it was "heartbreaking" to see the AD go. Former players such as Ray Rice, Eric LeGrand and Shaun O'Hara also came to Pernetti's defense. O'Hara, a former center at Rutgers and in the NFL, even went as far as to he "would trust Tim" to raise his unborn son.

As a former player and the guy who hired Flood to take over for the departed Greg Schiano in 2012, Pernetti was a big supporter of the Scarlet Knights football program. His orchestration of the school's move from the crumbling Big East to the surging Big Ten was a victory for the future of Rutgers football.

Will the next athletic director be as big on football as Pernetti was?