Rutgers University's athletic director is out of a job in the latest twist in the scandal involving the fired basketball coach who was videotaped abusing his players during practice.
ESPN and Reuters both reported that Tim Pernetti was no longer at his post, though it was not immediately clear if he was fired or resigned. The news came as another revelation had the whistleblower who made the video that led to the firing of coach Mike Rice sought $950,000 to settle a dispute over his employment, according to a letter sent by his attorney and reported by MyCentralJersey.com.
The Dec. 27 letter sent on behalf of Eric Murdock – a former NBA player and Rutgers’ men’s basketball director of player development – outlined his claim that the former first-round pick was wrongfully terminated last year for complaining about Rice’s abusive behavior. The letter, first obtained Thursday by New Jersey Press Media, also cites a “damning video” presented to the school on Nov. 26.
"It is unfathomable to think that Rice’s employment with the University (at the cost of the taxpayers of the State) continues, while Mr. Murdock remains unemployed for simply having done the right thing," the letter reads.
Murdock’s video -- which depicted Rice shoving players, hurling basketball at them and using gay slurs -- aired Tuesday on ESPN and led to the coach’s firing on Wednesday.
The state school previously punished Rice in December, suspending him for three games and fining him $50,000, but at that time the video did not go public.
The videotape prompted widespread outrage, including criticism from Gov. Chris Christie and NBA star LeBron James. A national search to replace Rice, who reportedly earned an average of $650,000 annually when he signed a five-year deal in 2010, will now take place after three seasons at the Big East school.
Raj Gadhok, Murdock’s attorney, told MyCentralJersey.com the letter was a response to Rutgers’ request for a settlement demand.
“There’s no extortion,” he told the website Thursday. “It’s not where we gave it to them and said, ‘Hey, give us this or we’re doing this or that.’ Frankly, it was a response to their request for a settlement demand. There’s nothing atypical about it. It’s a settlement discussion to resolve the case.”
Murdock showed footage of incidents involving Rice to Pernetti last year, claiming Rice engaged in such actions as early as 2010. Murdock, in turn, was fired in July and accuses the school of dismissing him because he informed Pernetti of Rice's actions.
Despite Rice’s firing, New Jersey Assemblyman Reed Gusciora told FoxNews.com an investigation into the “decision-making process” behind the initial move not to fire the coach in December is still needed.
“It’s deeply troubling,” Gusciora said Wednesday. “You expect a coach to be tough with his players and somewhat forceful, but to actually throw basketballs at their heads and kick them and call them names and slurs based on sexual orientation — I don’t think that’s representative of a university.”
Gusciora said some of the gay slurs uttered by Rice were particularly offensive given the case of Tyler Clementi, a Rutgers student who committed suicide in 2010 after a roommate used a webcam to spy on him with another man.
“The fact is there are gay players out there,” he said. “We have to be more sensitive.”
Rutgers President Robert Barchi, meanwhile, characterized Rice’s language and actions as “deeply offensive” and said they violated the university’s values.
“Yesterday, I personally reviewed the video evidence, which shows a chronic and pervasive pattern of disturbing behavior,” a statement released on Wednesday read. “I have now reached the conclusion that Coach Rice cannot continue to serve effectively in a position that demands the highest levels of leadership, responsibility and public accountability. He cannot continue to coach at Rutgers University.”