More Lessons From Rutgers

Tim ZernettiThe other shoe has dropped. This morning Tim Pernetti, the now former Athletic Director presented his resignation letter to Robert Barchi, the president of Rutgers University.

That was the whistle that started the “Blame Game.” According to a news article, Pernetti said that he wanted to fire Mike Rice back in November 2012 when he first saw the video, but consensus among school officials at the time said no.

Barchi said that he was “aware” of the video back then but only “saw” it last week. And if he had seen it back then he would have immediately stepped in and fired the coach. Of course he would. Instead, Barchi said, he followed Tim’s recommendation to fine and discipline Rice, the coach.

But Pernetti then said that Rutgers decided to follow the recommendations of university lawyers, human resources professionals and outside counsel in whose capable hands the consensus was that university policy concluded that Rice had not done anything that justified dismissal. And he (Pernetti) went along with it like a good soldier. When all else fails, blame the lawyers. I think I’m gonna puke.

Here’s a synopsis. Tim Pernetti’s resignation letter actually says: “Dear Future Employer, Some bad shit happened on my watch, but I’m not responsible for any of it. What I can do for your program is increase revenue. I demonstrated that at Rutgers.” He’ll get hired in a heartbeat. If not, he can run for Congress. They’re always looking for people with his moral principles.

Rutgers president, the board of governors and everyone else involved is practicing the art of plausible deniability. Instead of coming clean and telling the whole truth, they are trying to do damage control; they continue to withhold, deny, and point fingers.

Here are the lessons:

Lesson 1: It’s the same as Lesson 2 in my earlier post, “Lessons From Rutgers.” When the cat is out of the bag, become transparent and come completely clean. Rutgers has clearly not done that.

Lesson 2: Great leadership requires accepting full and total responsibility for your organization’s actions. That commands and receives respect, trust and loyalty. From that place you can begin the process of redeeming your Brand and the restoring your organization’s honor. And it hurts.

Lesson 3: Damage control without full disclosure is a band-aid on a wound that requires surgery. The Rutgers story may be suppressed, for now. But I predict that it is not over.

And finally, kudos to ESPN who aired the videos that enabled those fine, highly principled folks at Rutgers to stand up and show us their real Values.

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