One of the uglier chapters of Rutgers' history is one step closer to finishing after the final Skadden report stemming from the Mike Rice firing was issued on Monday.
Rutgers commissioned the independent study following the scandal involving the suspension and eventual firing of coach Rice this past season. The school suspended Rice in December of 2012 and fined him $50,000 for violation of athletic department policy. In the end, Rutgers fired Rice for his actions, but not until April and after a video surfaced online showing the country proof of his transgressions.
The video showed Rice verbally abusing his team and throwing basketballs at players' heads.
The Skadden report recommends that Rutgers rope in the athletic department, which was operating too autonomously in the school. It calls for reporting relationships between the athletic department's chief financial officer and the senior vice president of finance and administration as well as increased communication between the athletic department and other departments in the school.
As On the Banks points out, after reading the report, the call for more communication is one of the more obvious solutions. Tim Pernetti, the head of the athletics department, originally called for Rice to be fired if the video proved authentic. However, his view changed and he felt that Rice could not be fired without cause, despite the attorneys involved never making this point.
Between November 26, 2012, and December 10, 2012, Pernetti and Purcaro had a series of discussions with Wolf, and, at times, outside counsel. From these consultations, Pernetti and Purcaro came to view the best available options as (i) negotiating a forced resignation, with Coach Rice seeking payment on the remaining portion of his contract; or (ii) disciplining Coach Rice but retaining him as coach. Based on discussions with counsel, Pernetti and Purcaro came to view a firing "for cause" as untenable and fraught with legal risk. For their part, however, Wolf and outside counsel never advised that Coach Rice could not be fired for cause.
Pernetti decided Rice's actions warranted a 10-game suspension, complete separation from the program during the suspension, mandatory anger management training and an addendum to his contract stating Rice would be fired for cause if similar incidents occurred in the future. After negotiations with Rice and his agent, he was suspended for three games without pay, fined $50,000, forced to attend mandatory anger management, a daily practice monitor was installed and Rice had a zero-tolerance probation period during the suspension.
According to the Skadden report, Rutger's HR department had very little involvement in the disciplinary measures negotiated between Pernetti and Rice.
Vivian Fernandez, the Vice President for Faculty and Staff Resources, was consulted by Wolf with regard to health insurance benefits when Pernetti was considering suspending Coach Rice, and again after the final decision was made to fire Coach Rice so that she could process the paperwork. This was the extent of the involvement of the central University HR organization in the discipline imposed on Coach Rice.
The report also recommends that Rutgers form an Enterprise Risk Management Committee to help with compliance issues and increased communication between departments. This is something that would bring Rutgers up to the level of other schools within the Big Ten Conference.
Rice was fired on April 3, 2013, and Pernetti was quick to follow. Rutgers president Robert Barachi fired Pernetti two days later.