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Tale of tape: Rutgers prez must go

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OTL: Rutgers Fallout (4:32)

Rutgers University president Dr. Robert Barchi has come under fire for his handling of the Mike Rice scandal, which erupted after video of the head coach physically and verbally abusing his players was made public. (4:32)

So now people see how a university president would not take a half hour out of his schedule last year to view footage of one of his employees abusing more than one of his students. Robert Barchi was so overmatched in his televised news conference Friday, even resorting to inappropriate humor, you could actually imagine him underestimating the enormity of the Mike Rice case.

Barchi called the failure to fire Rice in December, with the tapes of the coach's abusive conduct in Rutgers' hands, "a failure of process." No, it was a failure of administrators who allowed a sad little bully to assault and degrade multiple students on their campus.

The process didn't let down those students; the men running that process did. Barchi and senior university officials and Tim Pernetti, who resigned as athletic director Friday morning, will carry their staggering mistakes in this scandal to their graves, even if they try to downsize their roles in the decision to let Rice coach the same kids he abused after a lousy three-game suspension and fine.

This is what Pernetti wrote in his resignation letter to Barchi: "As you know, my first instincts when I saw the videotape of Coach Rice's behavior was to fire him immediately. However, Rutgers decided to follow a process involving university lawyers, human resources professionals, and outside counsel."

This is what Pernetti said when he finally fired Rice on Wednesday: "I am responsible for the decision to attempt a rehabilitation of Coach Rice."

Pernetti and Barchi and every other official in this case can talk and talk about lawyers and outside counsel, but lawyers work for you, not the other way around. John Wolf, general counsel at Rutgers, found that out the hard way this week when he joined the growing ranks of those who have lost their jobs.

Only now this turbulent story swirls about Barchi, a doctor and neuroscientist who started as Rutgers' 20th president in September. The board of governors chair at the campus news conference, Ralph Izzo, stood by his man before the cameras and microphones, but we've seen that movie before.

Barchi offered no satisfactory answers to the scandal's most pressing questions, especially this one: How is it possible that you knew of the Rice video for more than four months -- video that included homophobic slurs -- before you found time to watch it Tuesday at 10 p.m.?

Oh, and this one too: How is it possible that you are still employed by a state university?

Barchi conceded that if he did the common sense thing, the moral thing, and immediately dropped everything to review evidence of abuse of the very students he's charged to protect, "I am certain that this situation would have had a very different outcome ... "

Yes, everyone is fairly certain of that. And fairly certain Barchi's claim that Rice's conduct was "much more abusive than I had understood it to be" -- a direct shot at Pernetti and the board members who had already viewed the tape -- doesn't mean a thing to the students who had basketballs fired at their heads.

The president suggested his departed AD could've stopped this, could've insisted the university do more than just suspend and fine the coach and shove him into counseling sessions. "It was his prerogative to make a forceful case with me if he felt differently," Barchi said.

Only nobody ever presented a forceful enough argument to terminate Rice, a losing coach in every conceivable way. That's why dozens of Rutgers faculty members called for the ouster of Pernetti and Barchi. On their way into the Big Ten, some thought the leaders of the university were more concerned about protecting their brand than they were about protecting their kids.

"To me and others, the cover-up matters," William C. Dowling, university distinguished professor of English and American literature at Rutgers and a longtime critic of big-time college sports, said by phone Thursday night. "This is a minor league version of Penn State."

And one that has damaged the credibility of a university deserving so much better.

"The first thing that's going to come up at academic meetings and conferences for Rutgers professors is going to be, 'Oh, you teach at that school where that coach went nuts and beat on his players,'" Murray Sperber, a professor emeritus at Indiana and author of four books on the ills of big-time college sports, said by phone Thursday night. "Rutgers has very distinguished programs and faculty, but try telling that to people now."

Barchi didn't help himself, or his school, in his appearance before the reporters gathered on the Rutgers campus. He went for a few laughs at a most unfunny time, grabbing his neck when asked if more heads would roll and saying of his status, "I consider resigning every single day when I wake up."

The president offered a dog-ate-my-homework reason for why he couldn't get to the video until 10 p.m. Tuesday (he blamed one of his Apple devices at one point), and said he had so much trouble finding his way around campus during his first semester in office that the police were sent out for him.

As the routine played out on TV, a viewer might've expected Barchi to suddenly blurt out, "Live from New Brunswick, it's Friday afternoon." But this was no time for comedy, not after the horror show that was footage of Mike Rice, unplugged.

When Barchi finally watched it with Pernetti, he told his doomed AD, "He has to be fired."

When people watch a tape of Robert Barchi's news conference, they'll likely say the same thing.