Fire Robert Barchi.
Don’t waste time with internal meetings and conference calls. Or hearings and debate. Barchi has to go. The Rutgers president is clearly ill-equipped to run any operation larger than a convenience store, and his recent performance is compelling evidence of that fact.
Barchi somehow avoided the guillotine in the wake of the Mike Rice debacle, claiming that his busy schedule prevented him from watching a half-hour videotape of the former men’s basketball coach’s abusive behavior. Because of that, he turfed the investigation to lawyers and consultants, who decided firing Rice wasn’t the best move. That was Barchi’s first mistake.
This time, no amount of excuses should save the Rutgers president. First, he allows Rice’s replacement to be a man who lied on his resume about his having earned a degree from the school. That should be a little easy to check, shouldn’t it? According to revelations in the Star-Ledger over the weekend, Barchi’s slipshod leadership has produced an even more damning situation for the university. The paper reported that when new AD Julie Hermann was women’s volleyball coach at the University of Tennessee, she was a despotic, scurrilous tyrant who referred to her players as “whores, alcoholics and learning-disabled.” In 1996, the team’s 15 players wrote a letter to Hermann that read, in part, “It has been unanimously decided that this is an irrevocable issue.” When Hermann was confronted by the team, she reportedly said, “I choose not to coach you guys.”
The fact that Barchi would sign off on the hiring of an athletic director with that kind of past, in light of the Rice incident and subsequent fallout—Rice, former AD Tim Pernetti and counsel John Wolf are gone from the school—is unconscionable. If Barchi did not direct his subordinates to conduct a thorough investigation of Hermann, that proves he is even more unqualified to lead Rutgers.
Since late March, Rutgers’ reputation has absorbed several huge hits. And, let’s face it, the school isn’t in any position to absorb negative publicity. First off, many Americans don’t even know Rutgers’ location, since it is the only major state university not named for its home. From an athletic perception, Rutgers must counter a mound of evidence that indicates New Jersey’s top athletes do not want to play there, even though throughout America big-time schools lock down the borders first and then look elsewhere—often to Jersey’s bounty—for prospects.
The Rice fiasco, followed by the revelations that new basketball coach Eddie Jordan lied about having a Rutgers degree, was bad enough. The Hermann situation turns the whole thing into a giant joke. And Barchi is the punch line. Anyone associated with the school that argues for his retention clearly has little idea of how Rutgers is being perceived around the country. What’s next, the revelation that the new head of the physics department doesn’t have a PhD in the discipline but instead stayed at a Holiday Inn Express last night?
If the Hermann allegations are true, the dismissal of Barchi should come quickly. Either he knew about her behavior and chose to ignore it or was unable to run a thorough enough background investigation to locate information the Star-Ledger found 10 days after Hermann’s hiring. Both circumstances smack of poor leadership and borderline incompetence. The Rice situation was awful, but when the person brought in to clean up the mess has a similarly abusive history on her resume, new levels of hilarity are being reached. Barchi’s unbelievably poor judgment has made Rutgers a laughingstock, and for that, he must go.
Right now, New Jersey Governor Chris Christie and the Rutgers board are moving carefully, hoping to gather as much information as possible before acting. Their efforts must be accelerated, the better to find out if Hermann did indeed engage in abhorrent behavior while at Tennessee. If she did, she’s gone, Barchi’s gone, and a group of highly competent people must be assembled to determine the school’s new president. Given the school’s recent track record, it’s questionable a suitable aggregation can be found, but we can hope.
This debacle couldn’t come at a worse time for the Rutgers athletic department, which has been hemorrhaging money and has been hoping that next year’s move into the Big Ten will provide the financial stability necessary to stanch the bleeding. If Hermann is gone, and rival basketball coaches are able to make the argument that it will be hard to believe anything Jordan says, since he lied about his degree to get the job, Rutgers isn’t exactly in the best position to compete in one of the nation’s toughest conferences.
It all goes back to Barchi, who rather than step forward last year and do the work necessary to decide Rice’s fate, fiddled away. After sacrificing three underlings to save his backside, he allowed the hiring of a new AD who—allegedly—was every bit as abusive as Rice. That is spectacular incompetence that should be rewarded.
With swift termination.
• Is Phillies GM Ruben Amaro receiving thank-you notes from NL general managers for installing anemic Michael Young at third base? It wouldn’t be a surprise, and Sunday’s horrific throwing error is yet another reason why acquiring Young was a horrible move. He’s hitting .139 in his last 10 games, has 10 RBI in 49 games this year and is hardly a fine fielder. The Phillies want us to think injuries have torpedoed their season, when moves like the Young acquisition are far more responsible for the disappointing play.
• As for hard-luck pitcher Cole Hamels, he would be best served by reminding Amaro that $144 million for a pitcher means nothing when the outfield is filled with junior-varsity hitters, and the rest of the lineup isn’t too sturdy, either. Hamels isn’t the kind of guy to make demands, but on an aging team with few leaders, it’s time for him to start holding the front office accountable for its poor decisions.
• Here’s a nice little tidbit that has been floating around the coaching community for all you Notre Dame fans: Fighting Irish head coach Brian Kelly is tiring quickly of the recruiting rat race and is looking for an NFL home. The early leader in the clubhouse? The Detroit Lions, who must play much better this year to save coach Jim Schwartz’s job.