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Rutgers will commission independent review in wake of Rice incident

| Monday, April 8, 2013, 7:18 p.m.
Rutgers president Robert Barchi looks out on a line of questioners at a town hall meeting Monday, April 8, 2013, in Newark, N.J., Barchi announced Monday that Rutgers officials are reviewing practice videos of all sports to see if any coach engaged in behavior like the type that cost men's basketball coach Mike Rice his job, and the university is planning to hire a consultant to do an independent review of how the university hired Rice.

TRENTON, N.J. — Rutgers officials are scrutinizing practice videos of all sports to see if any coach engaged in behavior like the type that cost men's basketball coach Mike Rice his job, the university president announced Monday.

The inquiry into Rice and how university officials responded is also going deeper as the school announced that it plans to hire a consultant to conduct an independent review.

University President Robert Barchi, speaking Monday during a town hall meeting on the school's Newark campus, said he wants any instances of bullying or homophobic language to be reported immediately.

He also reiterated that he wished he had viewed the video where Rice — whom Gov. Chris Christie on Monday called an “animal” — shoved players and called them gay slurs when it first surfaced in November, saying he would have fired Rice then.

Rice was fired last week only after the video became public. Athletic director Tim Pernetti, an assistant basketball coach and the university's top lawyer also resigned last week, while some Rutgers faculty members and others called for Barchi to step down, too.

On Monday, Christie defended Barchi's performance while blasting Rice's behavior. He also criticized the reaction of those who knew about it and did not fire the coach months ago when the video was given to university officials and viewed by — at least — Pernetti, university interim counsel John Wolf and Chairman Mark Hershhorn of the university board of governors' athletics committee.

“They were wrong not to come to the conclusion that coach Rice needed to be fired immediately,” Christie said at a news conference.

In a statement released by his lawyer late Monday, Hershhorn said he did call for Rice's firing on the day in early December that he watched the video. He said he told Pernetti that if the video was authenticated, Rice needed to be terminated immediately. Contrary to his recommendation, Hershhorn said, the university chose to discipline Rice instead of let him go.

The Rutgers administration would not comment on Hershhorn's account of events.

While the governor had issued statements previously, it was the first time Christie took questions about the scandal at the state's flagship public university.

The Republican governor added that had he been aware of the issues earlier he would have used his “power of persuasion” to try to get Rice fired then.

He said he viewed the video not only as a governor but as the father of a college athlete. His son, Andrew, plays baseball at Princeton.

“You're talking about kids being miserably treated by the guy who determined whether they keep their scholarship or not,” Christie said. “What parent would let this animal back into their living room to try to recruit their son after this video?”

Christie said it was a mistake for Barchi, who took office in September, not to watch the video last year when he first was told about it. But he said that leaders of large organizations must delegate some matters and that the mistake was not a firing offense.

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