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Athletics throwing the book at Rutgers' reputation

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“We trust (Julie) Hermann will be able to integrate the school into a more competitive conference — and allow Rutgers to get back into the business of academics.”

That's us from just a couple of weeks ago, when we used this space to hope that maybe, maybe the hiring of a new athletic director could put the Scarlet Knights' scandals in the rearview. Is it too late for us to get a mulligan?

Judging by the results of a poll we ran on our website late last month, business owners are really, really tired of reading stories about Rutgers' descent from storied, respectable state university to clown college. Apologies, but we need to write one more, and this time, it's about the university president.

Robert Barchi has been lauded every step of the way as the visionary, take-charge type of leader who can create, follow and execute a plan to lead Rutgers into the promised land — one where a medical school has been seamlessly integrated and the many pieces on the state's higher education board have been lined up to get the business and educational interests to finally play nicely together.

He may still be that visionary leader. But he has a dangerous tendency to look past that which he does not understand.

Barchi has made it clear that sports are not a priority for him, and there's a community at Rutgers that certainly supports that attitude. But his brief tenure at the top has raised more red flags in athletics than any Scarlet Knights pep rally ever has. From the Mike Rice scandal, to the subsequent handling of Tim Pernetti, to the Eddie Jordan announcement — is he or is he not a graduate? — to this, turning control of the athletics department, which made national news over abuse of student athletes, over to a woman who's been accused of the same sort of opprobrious behavior. Now, the school is standing behind its athletic director and its horribly flawed process for screening job candidates.

We still believe a big-picture guy like Barchi is a requirement to fulfilling New Jersey's higher education mission. But somebody show him what a football looks like, or something, because if he doesn't start paying attention to his athletics department, he may never get the chance.

Write to the Editorial Department at editorial@njbiz.com

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