Rutgers' ineptitude on display again

Pointing out gaffes committed by Rutgers regarding anything to do with athletics is rubbernecking for the digital age. You want to look away but you can't. I'm not saying that Rutgers screwed up again, but when Donald Sterling read what happened, he shook his head and said, "Those poor people..."

You gotta hand it to the State University of New Jersey. Throughout the scandals and gaffes of the past four years, the university could point to Eric LeGrand, the defensive tackle paralyzed in a Scarlet Knights game in 2010, as an example of the university's innate goodness.

The university and its community opened their hearts and wallets to LeGrand, a warm, bright young man with a spirit that couldn't be snuffed out by what befell him. He seemed like an ideal substitute to step in as commencement speaker this week, an opening made when former Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice bowed out after months of campus protests.

LeGrand said he received an invitation to replace Rice, only to be told the invitation had been rescinded in favor of former New Jersey Gov. Tom Kean. This afternoon, university president Robert Barchi said: "It was never our intention that Eric would be the only speaker. We have resolved that miscommunication and are delighted to have him participate."

Heavens, no. Nothing to see here. It just took the university half the day to get its story straight. And Rutgers has figured out how to trip over its own feet once again.

When the Big Ten invited Rutgers to join the league -- beginning this year -- the conference thought it was getting a base camp for the East Coast. While that is true, Rutgers is offering the league so much more: ineptitude, mismanagement and a lack of success.

They have a talent for it. A year ago, the nation watched on video as the Rutgers men's basketball coach physically and verbally attack his players. That train wreck not only brought down the coach, Mike Rice, athletic director Tim Pernetti and university counsel John Wolf, but made the university a subject of parody on "Saturday Night Live." If you haven't seen Melissa McCarthy as a foul-tempered, foul-mouthed coach, get thee to the Internet.

Pernetti's replacement, Julie Hermann, had temper issues of her own in her previous career as the women's volleyball coach at Tennessee, according to the women who played for her. She survived that revelation, which came a few weeks after Rutgers hired Rice's replacement, Eddie Jordan, a former Scarlet Knight star, who -- oops -- didn't have his undergraduate degree.

Then Hermann tossed off a comment about how she hoped the Star-Ledger (based in Newark, N.J.) would go out of business, a comment that would surface when the Star-Ledger laid off a big chunk of its newsroom.

And let's remember, this is Rutgers, with its backdrop of mediocrity on the football field. The Scarlet Knights, who played in the first collegiate football game ever in 1869, have played in the same number of major bowls as Kennesaw (Ga.) State, which will field its first team in 2015.

The university decided to spend $102 million in 2008 to expand and modernize its stadium, even as it cut costs elsewhere on campus. When a campaign to raise $30 million from the public failed, the university had to sell that much more in bonds.

Despite all of that, Rutgers could point to LeGrand. With his willingness to make public his fight to walk again, LeGrand became a de facto ambassador for a university that needed to display its good side.

When Rutgers last season made LeGrand the first player in its 144 years of football to have his number (52) retired, coach Kyle Flood told a filled-to-the-top-row High Point Solutions Stadium, "There has been no more inspirational person in our program's history than Eric LeGrand."

The crowd roared in agreement. LeGrand, wearing a T-shirt that said, "Keep Calm and Believe," smiled his megawatt smile.

LeGrand earned his degree in labor studies in January, and the relationship between him and the school had never been better. And now this.

The university put out its release, and it was all a misunderstanding, and Rutgers will move on down the road, searching for the next banana peel.