The video evidence of Mike Rice's behavior, though specifically edited to make him look bad, is beyond damning. Pernetti's released statement sums up the situation well. Smacked with a three-week suspension and $50,000 fine, Rice's punishment and improved behavior was not enough to right the wrongs committed in practices during his first two years as coach.
Instead of allowing Rice's actions, seen by the world, to forever taint the basketball program, Pernetti changed his stance and fired the first major hire of his tenure.
"I am responsible for the decision to attempt a rehabilitation of coach Rice," Pernetti said in a Wednesday morning statement. "Dismissal and corrective action were debated in December and I thought it was in the best interest of everyone to rehabilitate, but I was wrong. Moving forward, I will work to regain the trust of the Rutgers community."
The video does not lie. Though former staff member Eric Murdock and his legal team have their own agenda in the Rice scandal, his actions in any context cross a line that brought extreme embarrassment to Rutgers University.
When critiquing Pernetti's role in the scandal, it comes down to his immediate reactions. Immediately after viewing the video package, Pernetti did what anyone in his position should do. He scheduled a meeting with Rice and began an investigation to find the truth.
In addition to an internal investigation, Rutgers commissioned an independent group to do its own investigations. Led by John Lacey of the greatly respected Connell Foley LLP, an investigation began in the last week of November and ended in Rice's announced suspension on Dec. 13.
The independent investigation led by Lacey provided Rutgers with the most accurate possible assessment. Representatives from the investigation told Pernetti, after the announced suspension, that three games and $50,000 was a fair decision.
"I don't think we could've spent any more time investigating the matter than we did," Pernetti said Tuesday. "What I did ask the investigators to do was the investigate but not make a recommendation on sanctions. I made that decision on my own. Once we had come to a conclusion I met with the investigators and asked them for input on the penalty. And they felt very much that it was in line with what was discovered over the course of the investigation."
Pernetti was wrong in not firing Rice immediately after the investigation. He admitted this Wednesday morning and deserves credit to owning up for what he called "wrong."
Intent does not outweigh action but there is no question that Pernetti followed his heart and did what he felt was best for Rutgers. A former Rutgers athlete himself and proud graduate, Pernetti simply would not do something to intentionally hurt the university. Anyone that knows him could tell you that.
There is a saying that if you can't do something smart, do something right. Pernetti may not have made the smart decision in delaying Rice's dismissal, but he ended things the right way by admitting his mistake and asking for the forgiveness of the Rutgers community.