Roiled by a coaching scandal,
new university president Robert
Barchi grapples with a long list of
monumental tasks—including the
merger with UMDNJ.
BY LESLIE GARISTO PFAFF
n an unseasonably cold morning in late March, Robert
Barchi, president of Rutgers University since September 2012, was musing about the challenges he faced in
the months ahead. They included the upcoming controversial merger with the University of Medicine and Dentistry of
New Jersey (UMDNJ); a merger of Rutgers’s two law schools
in Camden and Newark; the ongoing work on a long-term
strategic plan for the university; Barchi’s goal of refurbishing
the Rutgers brand; and the urgency of finding new revenue
streams in an era of dwindling government support for higher
education. One thing not on his mind was basketball.
Less than two weeks’ later, that would change in a big way.
On April 2, the sports network ESPN aired a now infamous video
that showed Mike Rice, Rutgers’s men’s basketball coach, hurling
basketballs at his players’ heads and yelling homophobic slurs during a series of practices that spanned the previous two years. The
video went viral, along with reports that the school’s athletic director, Tim Pernetti, had viewed it five months earlier and, with
Barchi’s approval, had fined Rice $50,000 and suspended him for
three games without notifying faculty and students about the actions captured on the video. Within a day, amid outrage from state
officials, the Rutgers community and the general public, the university announced Rice’s dismissal.
The move did little to quell what had become a nationwide
uproar and a serious distraction from the business at hand for
Barchi and the university. In addition to calls for Pernetti’s
dismissal, some suggested that Barchi should go as well. On
the same day that Rice was fired, a letter from members of the