Jersey strong governor has soft spot

As governor, Chris Christie was not about to let New Jersey be defined by the jokes forever told at its expense, the jokes about exits and accents and crime families run amok. If you were laughing at his state, or even at his weight, Christie would either stare you down or disarm you. Or both.

That's why he pulled a doughnut from his pocket on David Letterman's show and wolfed it down mid-interview. If Letterman wanted to entertain America by using the governor's girth as his punch line, Christie would show the host he could still steal the scene.

No, Christie doesn't back down from much. In the immediate wake of Superstorm Sandy, he wasn't afraid of Republican reaction to his warm embrace of President Obama, just as he wasn't afraid to book Tuesday's reunion with Obama at the rebuilt Jersey Shore.

Christie wasn't afraid to confront coastal-area residents fixing to ride out Sandy ("Don't be stupid. Get out."), even if his words amounted to a tempered version of the same order before Irene ("Get the hell off the beach in Asbury Park and get out. You're done. It's 4:30 and you've maximized your tan."). The governor wasn't afraid to get in Snooki's face on the boardwalk, or to tell the Nets to have a nice NBA life in Brooklyn ("Good riddance, see you later.").

But apparently the same outsized figure who has come to personify Jersey strength and stubbornness and resilience is indeed afraid of Rutgers president Robert Barchi, who somehow remains employed atop a state university that deserves much better.

Barchi should've been gone the minute it was clear he didn't drop everything to watch a video showing one of his most visible employees, Mike Rice, abusing multiple Rutgers students multiple times. In the hours after ESPN aired that video, too many people focused on Rice (already a dead coach walking) and athletic director Tim Pernetti (another ex-jock), and not enough on Barchi, whose chief responsibility as the school's chief executive is to protect and nurture the sons and daughters who fill his classrooms, his dorms and his gyms.

To read Ian O'Connor's full column, click here.