TRENTON – Gov. Chris Christie said Monday he stands behind embattled Rutgers University President Robert Barchi in the wake of the scandal concerning since-departed basketball coach Mike Rice.
Although Rice and Athletic Director Tim Pernetti are both gone as a result of the video that surfaced showing Rice hurling basketballs and gay slurs at players, Christie today defended the actions of the university president whose primary responsibility is to shepherd the state’s largest public university through the statewide reorganization of higher education.
“I do continue to have faith in him, in the body of his work,’’ he said. He added nothing came to light in the last couple of days to change that opinion.
He said he was on vacation in Jamaica last week, arriving on Tuesday, and at about 1 p.m. that afternoon he received an email with the video that was going to be distributed to ESPN.
“This has never been all that complicated,’’ Christie said. “To me the conduct on that tape is unacceptable for any person who is to be a role model and leader for student athletes. He should have been fired in November, and frankly should have been fired before that.”
“I spoke with Mr. Pernetti once on Tuesday afternoon right after I saw the video,’’ he said.
He said he did not order him to do anything, but as a friend he said he advised him to get rid of the coach, and that after that had no further conversations with the former athletic director.
He said every situation cannot be micromanaged, but that he agreed Barchi should have viewed the tape but that is not his main responsibility as president.
“He should have looked at the videotape, but I do not believe not viewing the tape is a fireable offense,’’ Christie said.
“I knew nothing about this until I saw the video,’’ he said, adding he was never briefed about the original suspension of the coach last year nor did he make inquiries at that time about it.
He also said that Pernetti’s payout, including $1.2 million, is a “reasonable settlement’’ in light of what happened. He said that it was in line with university policy.