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Former Rutgers RB Ray Rice defends former AD Tim Pernetti

By Ryan Wilson | CBSSports.com

Ray Rice (center) supports Tim Pernetti (left) despite the Mike Rice scandal. (Getty Images)
Earlier this week, a video surfaced showing Rutgers men's basketball coach Mike Rice verbally and physically abusing players during practice. Athletic director Tim Pernetti initially defended the decision to suspend the coach for three games this past season and fine him $50,000, but once the video went public, Rutgers waited less than 24 hours to fire Rice.

That happened Wednesday. By Thursday, assistant Jimmy Martelli, who was also seen on videos physically and verbally abusing players, resigned. And on Friday, Pernetti was out, too.

But a day before Pernetti's fate was decided, former Rutgers star Ray Rice, now a running back with the Baltimore Ravens, defended the former athletic director.

“Let me tell you about my last conversation with Tim Pernetti,” Rice told the Newark Star-Ledger's Steve Politi. “It was at Rutgers' pro day. You know what it was about? It was about Ray Rice getting his degree.

“That was what he wanted. He was telling me that to be a true pillar at Rutgers, I needed to graduate. He wanted me to register for some online courses so I can get that done. I mean, I just won a Super Bowl and that's what he wanted!”

Rice wasn't alone in his support.

Eric LeGrand, the former Rutgers football player paralyzed during a game in 2010, offered this: "When you're in a situation like I have been for the past 2 1/2 years, you truly see the character of people. Tim Pernetti has shown me and Rutgers how great of a person he really is, and how much he really cares.”

And 1986 graduate Eric Schlett said: “Making Tim the sacrificial lamb to quell the feelings of those that do not know and/or appreciate the great work that has been accomplished by him to date would truly be a greater injustice.”

All noble characteristics and certainly something a student-athlete should want in an athletic director. But there's also no denying that Pernetti looked the other way while Rice, the man he hired, threw basketballs at kids' heads and kicked them while also screaming homophobic slurs.

“Could (Pernetti) have done more? I think so,” Ray Rice said told the Star-Ledger. “But this is one decision. This is a man who has done so much for Rutgers. The right guy is gone! Now we need to start the healing process.”

A process, by the way, that will not include Pernetti.

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