Rutgers University Athletic Director Tim Pernetti is the latest victim from the Tuesday release of disturbing video footage of a school basketball practice in which coach Mike Rice was shown shoving, grabbing, throwing basketballs, and yelling gay slurs at his players.
Rutgers released Pernetti's resignation letter on Friday.
"I write in confirmation of our conversation earlier today during which we agreed that it was in the best interests of Rutgers University that I step down from my position as Director of Intercollegiate Athletics," Pernetti wrote to Rutgers President Robert Barchi. "I do so reluctantly because I always have and always will love Rutgers. ... My continued tenure as Athletic Director is no longer sustainable for the University which I attended and where a piece of me will always remain."
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Last November, Pernetti reportedly received a copy of the video that showed Rice's abusive behavior, but decided not to fire him. Instead, Rice was suspended for three games in December, fined $50,000, and ordered to attend anger management classes.
In his resignation letter, Pernetti sheds new light on the process.
"My first instincts when I saw the videotape of Coach Rice's behavior was to fire him immediately," he wrote to Barchi. "However, Rutgers decided to follow a process involving university lawyers, human resources professionals, and outside counsel. Following review of the independent investigative report, the consensus was that university policy would not justify dismissal. I have admitted my role in, and regret for, that decision, and wish that I had the opportunity to go back and override it for the sake of everyone involved."
ESPN aired the footage Tuesday, causing public outcry. Many pointed the finger at Pernetti and criticized him for not firing Rice immediately.
"I am responsible for the decision to attempt a rehabilitation of Coach Rice," Pernetti said in a statement earlier this week that defended his actions. "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."
Pernetti fired Rice Wednesday
, but public pressure still mounted for a harsher university response. Stephen Sweeney, president of the New Jersey Senate, called for Pernetti to step down or be fired for mishandling the scandal.
"This incident will continue to hang over Rutgers like a dark cloud for weeks, months, and perhaps years to come," the Democratic lawmaker said in a statement Thursday. "It seems pretty clear that things were not handled well from the start."
The Rutgers community pushed back, campaigning for Pernetti to stay. As of Friday morning, nearly 3,000 people had joined a Facebook group supporting the athletic director. Former Rutgers football players including Baltimore Ravens running back Ray Rice and Eric LeGrand, who was paralyzed during a game in 2010, were also campaigning for Pernetti to remain in place.
Assistant basketball coach Jimmy Martelli also resigned Thursday.
A group of professors are also demanding the immediate resignation of Rutgers University President Robert Barchi
, charging that he "covered up" the incident back in November.
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Pernetti, 42, is a New Jersey native and a Rutgers graduate who played tight end for the Scarlet Knights from 1989-93.
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