Report cites lax Rutgers athletics oversight

Robert L. Barchi: Report "will help us reassess our administrative structures and policies."
Robert L. Barchi: Report "will help us reassess our administrative structures and policies."
Posted: July 24, 2013

An independent inquiry commissioned by Rutgers University into the scandal that led to basketball coach Mike Rice's ouster has found school leadership exercised "insufficient oversight" over an insular and overly autonomous athletic department.

The report, released Monday, calls for various changes, some of which had been recommended in a 2008 review into another Rutgers athletic department scandal, which culminated in the firing of athletic director Robert Mulcahy.

Among the changes called for in both reports is a interdepartmental risk management committee that "would provide a much-needed forum for senior leaders to consider university issues such as safety, operations, reputation, assets, and the legal interests" of Rutgers, according to the new document.

The report says at least nine of the 14 schools in the Big Ten Conference have a risk management committee or system.

The reports also recommended better intra-university communications, a "more robust orientation" of board of governors members, a clearer reporting process among the board, the administration and athletics.

Former federal judge Stephen C. Robinson, one of the leaders of the review, said Rutgers president Robert L. Barchi probably did not get as much information he would have liked during the Rice affair, in which the former coach was exposed as verbally and physically abusive to his players, including on tape.

Gerald C. Harvey, chair of the board of governors, in a statement, welcomed the report and said, "I am committed to working with President Barchi to develop a plan for implementation," including improved risk management.

Barchi said the report "will help us reassess our administrative structures and policies."

University spokesman Greg Trevor said following up on the report would be a "top priority" in the next year, but could not say if or when the recommended risk management committee would be formed.

State Senate President Stephen Sweeney blasted the report as "a whitewash in that the lawyers hired by the board offer solutions going forward but fail to assign blame where blame belongs: to those who witnessed the tape and neglected to make the full board or public aware of this scandal."

Rice was captured abusing players on a video put together by fired athletics staff member Eric Murdock. Before the video, Murdock had written to administrators, including then-athletic director Tim Pernetti, about Rice's conduct in July 2012, according to the report. He obtained taped material from the university to make his video.

Administrators undertook an investigation. In December, Pernetti showed the video to Mark Hershhorn, chair of the board of governors' intercollegiate athletics committee. Hershhorn questioned its authenticity but said that if it was authentic, Rice should be fired, the report states.

Rice was suspended that month. In March, the video was aired by news media. Rice was fired in April.

Sweeney said Hershhorn, who also sits on Rutgers' board of trustees, should been have held accountable for not bringing the tape to the attention of the full board of governors, and called his role "a prime example of the inefficient and inadequate role of the governing structure."

Sweeney has advocated doing away with the board of trustees, a 59-member group of alumni.

In response to Sweeney's statement, Trevor said, "The report is thorough, based on exhaustive interviews with 37 current and former Rutgers employees and members of the Rutgers governing boards by a former U.S. District Court judge and a former U.S. attorney."

The review team, he said, "offered valuable recommendations for improvements to policies and procedures at Rutgers."

Contact Rita Giordano at 856-779-3893, or on Twitter @ritagiordano.

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