Rutgers chief: No severance for Rice, but $475K OKd

Posted: April 20, 2013

TRENTON - Hours after telling lawmakers that fired basketball coach Mike Rice was "not entitled to any severance," Rutgers University president Robert L. Barchi said Thursday night that Rice would receive $475,000 to settle the remaining two years of his contract.

Rice was fired April 3 after a video went public showing him verbally and physically abusing players. Rutgers and Rice's representatives began negotiations two days later, a school spokesman said.

"Tonight's agreement is in the best interests of the university, and I am pleased this issue has been resolved," Barchi said in a statement.

Mark R. Killingsworth, a Rutgers economics professor, said in an e-mail Thursday night: "I'm delighted that Rutgers managed to get rid of Mike Rice without having to pay a seven-figure settlement, but his buyout is dwarfed by the athletic program's deficit: $27 million in 2011-12."

Earlier in the day, testifying before the Assembly budget committee, Barchi said that he never agreed to paying any funds to Rice and that he would fight such a move in court if needed.

"This is my position, that he is not entitled to any severance," he said. "I will not budge off of that."

Assembly Speaker Sheila Oliver alluded to that remark Thursday night. "It looks like President Barchi wasn't too hard to budge after all, and I still question why Mr. Rice gets any money from our state university," Oliver (D., Essex) said in an e-mail.

Under his contract, Rice was owed a little more than $1 million for the next two years at 75 percent of his contract amount, plus an additional $100,000 for completing the 2012-13 season.

Barchi had gone to the Statehouse to talk about Rutgers' budget for the fiscal year starting July 1 and the merger of Rutgers with the University of Medicine and Dentistry of New Jersey, the medical education and research institution, which will hike Rutgers' budget by about a third to $3 billion and add more than 6,500 faculty.

He was questioned briefly by Assemblywoman Bonnie Watson Coleman (D., Mercer) on severance packages for former interim general counsel John Wolf and athletic director Tim Pernetti, as well as reports that Rice was entitled to the balance of his contract, about $1 million.

Barchi said he had signed off on severance agreements for Wolf and Pernetti, suggesting both would assist the university in the future. Among those issues apparently is a series of labor negotiations. The university's new general counsel, John J. Farmer Jr., has said he expects that Wolf, who had worked for Rutgers since 1984, would advise in those talks and the UMDNJ merger.

Of Rice, Barchi said: "My personal opinion is that the university was damaged by his conduct. There was conduct that was not acceptable to the university, and I will have that conversation in court if I have to."

Watson Coleman said she was not satisfied with Barchi's answers.

"Funding for higher education is precious and to see it frittered away like this is disappointing and disturbing," Watson Coleman said after the hearing.

Barchi opened with remarks describing Rutgers' plan to absorb most of UMDNJ. The merger, expected to be completed by July 1, will cost about $15 million in the fiscal year ending July 1 and up to $63 million in subsequent years. Rutgers will pay those costs through savings in other parts of its operations and not from tuition, Barchi said.

Barchi's leadership was thrown into turmoil several weeks ago by the video of Rice shoving and berating players, hurling basketballs and antigay epithets at them. University officials, including Pernetti, were shown the videotape in December and decided Rice should be fined and suspended. Barchi has maintained that he did not see the videotape until the day it was aired on ESPN, and then he moved to fire Rice.

A person familiar with the situation told the Associated Press that former 76ers coach Eddie Jordan, an assistant with the Los Angeles Lakers, had reached a tentative agreement to take over as coach.


Contact Chris Mondics at 215-854-5957 or cmondics@phillynews.com.

Inquirer staff writers Matt Katz and Jonathan Lai contributed to this article, which also contains information from the Associated Press.

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