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Rutgers scandal grows, even as AD Pernetti resigns

Saturday - 4/6/2013, 4:06pm  ET

FILE - In this Jan. 31, 2012 file photo, Rutgers athletic director Tim Pernetti answers a question in Piscataway, N.J. Pernetti has resigned as Rutgers athletic director, Friday, April 5, 2013, two days after the basketball coach he hired was dismissed for abusive behavior during practices _ actions that prompted nationwide outrage once a video went public. (AP Photo/Mel Evans, File)

TOM CANAVAN
AP Sports Writer

NEW BRUNSWICK, N.J. (AP) -- The burgeoning basketball scandal has cost Rutgers more than a popular, young athletic director, an interim general counsel, two coaches and a lot of embarrassment.

The state university of New Jersey is in danger of losing some of its biggest donors in tough economic times.

The school's woes only mounted on a day that started with AD Tim Pernetti resigning over his failure to fire coach Mike Rice in December after reviewing video of the coach hitting, kicking and taunting players with anti-gay slurs at practice.

First-year Rutgers President Robert Barchi came under intense questioning at a news conference Friday over what he knew about the video months ago, but he got a nod of support from New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie and the school's board of governors.

Eric Murdock, the former NBA player and Rice's director of basketball development, filed a whistleblower lawsuit against the university for unspecified damages for wrongful termination.

His video of Rice's actions at practice was shown Tuesday on ESPN, prompting outrage nationwide and on campus, where the coach's conduct was especially sensitive because of the 2010 suicide of a student who killed himself after his roommate used a webcam to record him kissing another man.

The day ended with some of Rutgers' biggest backers threatening to stop writing checks because they were upset Pernetti, a rising star who had guided the Scarlet Knights' move to the Big Ten Conference, was forced out for not firing Rice when he first became aware of the video.

Tom Mendiburu, whose High Point Solutions paid $6 million for the naming rights to the university's football stadium, tweeted that he was concerned, saying he made the deal because of Pernetti.

"We've invested so much into (hash)RU and now I'm not even sure who we turn to. Very sad day and I'm sorry Pernetti had to go through this," he tweeted.

Mendiburu said a lot of people are asking him what he is going to do -- and he wasn't sure.

The Star-Ledger of Newark reported that Daniel Wheeler, a founding member of the Society of Queens College, was upset that Rutgers ignored prominent donors' pleas to keep Pernetti. Membership in the society, which bears the name under which Rutgers was chartered in 1766, requires a minimum of $1 million donated to the school.

"I won't say numbers, but I've given over seven figures, and like a lot of people who have done the same, I support Tim Pernetti," Wheeler told the newspaper.

The Ledger also reported late Friday night that, according to a settlement agreement obtained by the newspaper, Pernetti will be paid more than $1.2 million in return for his resignation.

Pernetti, who admitted he made a mistake in not firing Rice immediately in December after getting a copy of the video, didn't leave without a little finger-pointing.

In handing in his resignation, the former Rutgers tight end said that he wanted to fire Rice on the spot but did not because the consensus among school officials at the time was that his actions didn't warrant dismissal.

Instead he suspended Rice for three games, fined him $75,000 and ordered him to take anger management classes.

Barchi approved the punishment without asking to see the video, which he knew existed. He relied on his athletic director's recommendation. That was a mistake, he said.

"This was a failure of process. I regret that I did not ask to see this video when Tim first told me of its existence," Barchi said. "I want to apologize to the entire Rutgers community for the negative impact that this situation has had on Rutgers.

"I also apologize to the LGBT community and all of us who share their values for the homophobic slurs shown on that video. I personally know how hurtful that language can be."

Barchi said he watched the video for the first time with Pernetti on Tuesday night and told him to fire the coach who was his first major hire.

Pernetti did the next day.

"I was deeply disturbed by the behavior that the video revealed, which was much more abusive and pervasive than I had understood it to be," Barchi said. "As Tim acknowledged on Wednesday, his decision to rehabilitate, rather than fire, coach Rice was wrong."

Barchi said the school hopes to appoint an interim athletic director in a few days, while admitting he doesn't know whether that person will come from inside or outside the university.

Pernetti said in his resignation letter that he hoped his tenure at Rutgers would not be judged by one incident.

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