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NCAA Tournament Important to Recruiting — But Not Likely to Rutgers

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There’s nothing like the NCAA basketball tournament that makes people stand up and notice a college. You don’t think some impressionable kid—male or female—wasn’t looking at the final four schools (Louisville, Michigan, Syracuse or Wichita State on the men’s side, or Louisville, UConn, Notre Dame and Cal on the women’s side) and saying “I want to go there!”

No such luck, however, for Rutgers and its basketball program.

Anyone want to go to a school that now has a history of homophobia as well as physical abuse of students?

Oh, and besides that, the team doesn’t win basketball games.

The scandal involving now ex-coach Mike Rice is an embarrassment and a cautionary tale. If officials aren’t aware of what’s going on in the gyms and locker rooms, they had better take notice.

Then they wouldn’t look so bad when it gets to the finger-pointing.

Bad enough that there was so much hesitation to pass judgment and take action on Rice.

If you saw the video of the coach hurling balls at players and verbally abusing the team, you’d have to wonder why it took so long.

Even after the video was aired on ESPN, it took some time before Rice was fired. And then, Athletic Director Tim Pernetti resigned.

But Pernetti implied he was being made a scapegoat. He told The New York Times that, after he saw the videos last fall, he wanted to fire Rice “but that Rutgers decided to follow a process involving university lawyers, human resources professionals, and outside counsel.”

I think that’s called protocol. Or, in the parlance of the street, “CYA.”

The Times then cites Rutgers President Robert Barchi, who placed the blame back on Pernetti, who actually recommended a suspension for Rice in the fall and not his firing.

His “CYA” was authorizing a 50-page report. Hey, it’s academia.

But it’s the contradiction between Barchi and Pernetti that’s worrisome. It doesn’t exactly inspire confidence in the stewardship of New Jersey’s public institution of higher education.

Rutgers was just recovering from a blow in 2010 after the suicide death of Tyler Clementi, a young gay student who was outed on the Internet.

Now the Rice incident sets back not just the basketball program, but the entire college. One major alumni donor has already halted a large gift to the college.

If colleges choose to make athletics their meal ticket, they better make sure they know what’s going on. Someone has to take responsibility.

You can’t play dumb in the end.

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