Then this morning someone told me I needed to check the comments from my appearance yesterday on Tony Kornheiser’s radio show (which you can listen to here on the blog if you so desire).
It seems I’ve upset some Rutgers people by saying bad things about the school’s football coach and athletic director. The irony is, if you listen, I started my response to Tony’s question about a long simmering controversy at Rutgers about the importance of—and the money spent on—athletics by saying, “look, Rutgers is a very good school.” Tony instantly challenged that because he believes the only institution of higher learning in the United States that is any good is Binghamton, his alma mater.
I then said that there had been an ongoing battle between the academic side at Rutgers and the jock side over how much should be invested in trying to have a good football team. One angry poster conceded that was true but said the battle was, “completely un-necessary.” Perhaps true but there’s no doubting its existence.
I then said that Greg Schiano was a good coach and a bad guy. That set Rutgers people off and they demanded I ‘back up,’ those comments. Okay, here goes.
- Schiano is not (as you point out) the only coach who runs up scores. But he constantly insists he’s NOT running up the score. A few years ago, up 42-0 in the SECOND quarter against Norfolk State (Norfolk State?) he used all three of his time outs to score again before halftime. He then insisted the move was justified because you never knew if a team might rally in the second half. Please.
- The first time Schiano took a team to play at Navy he was sent—as is customary—a pre-game itinerary. Navy’s is a little different than most schools because the Brigade of Midshipmen marches on before the game, which means the teams (BOTH teams) need to leave the field a few minutes earlier than normal. Coaches are always alerted to this and know it is part of playing a game at Navy. Schiano not only objected, he kept his team on the field while the brigade began its march-on. Then he insisted after the game he hadn’t been informed about the march-on. Sorry Rutgers folks, that just wasn’t the case.
- Schiano (like a lot of coaches) is an absolute control freak. Did any of you watch the bowl game? Even the ESPN sideline reporter was frustrated by the fact that he couldn’t get anything resembling a semi-honest answer—or any answer at all—about Rutgers players who came out of the game hurt. What was Schiano doing, hiding an injury from next week’s opponent? Oh wait, the next game isn’t until September. Again, he’s certainly not unique in doing this but it gets old with all these guys.
As for Athletic Director Tim Pernetti, as it happens, I have had direct, unpleasant dealings with him dating back several years. Without going into too much detail—we’ve all got better things to do—this is what happened: Pernetti was program director (or something) at CBS College Sports and they picked up the rights to The Patriot League basketball package, which I had done since its inception as the color commentator. Pernetti had cut a deal with the league that the network would pay the production costs for the Army-Navy game (usually it is the other way around) but HE wanted control of the so-called ‘talent,’ for that game.
If there’s one game in that package I always want to do and believe I should do it is Army-Navy. I got a call from Billy Stone, who worked then as now for CBS College and is a friend of Pernetti’s. “If you want to do Army-Navy you’re going to have to send Tim an e-mail and ask him to let you do it,” he said.
“I’m telling you, this is the way Tim is. He likes to feel in control of things.”
I was tempted to say the heck with it (or something worse) but I decided to play the silly game. I wrote Tim a note, pointed out my connection to the two schools (in case he didn’t know) and said it was important to me to do that game. I always asked Carolyn Femovich, the league’s executive director, to let Tim know that the league wanted me to do the game. Tim wrote back and said he would be happy to have me do the game.
Okay, fine. A ridiculous ritual but I swallowed my pride and dealt with it. That was in August. A week before the game I received an e-mail from Pernetti. It said that Steve Lappas would be doing color on the game and he would like to “invite,” me to “play a role in the telecast.”
I wrote back and said, “no thanks.”
His response was to write back and ask me, “what the problem was.” I said that when we had agreed in August I would do the game it certainly wasn’t as a sideline guy or something like that. I happen to like Steve Lappas a lot but having him do color on Army-Navy instead of me would be like having me do color on Villanova-U-Mass over him. I told him I was going to let Carolyn know she’d need a color guy for the rest of the package (Army-Navy was the opener) since if I didn’t do that game I would pass on the rest. My feeling was that I had played Pernetti's power game in the summer and now he was still trying to stick it to me--I honestly don't know why other than his power thing--and two could play at that game.
The league’s athletic directors and coaches weren’t happy when they heard this news. I’ve known most of them a long time and I believe they think I know and understand their league quite well—better than Steve Lappas. They made it clear to Carolyn that she needed to get this fixed. She called Pernetti and told him I had to do the game.
So, I got another call from Pernetti. “I just wanted to close the loop on this Army-Navy thing,” he said.
“Close the loop?” I said.
“I’ve decided to put Steve Lappas on another game.”
HE had decided. Rather than call him on it, I just said, fine, I’d be happy to do the game. Then he said, “I just want you to know I don’t appreciate the way you handled this.”
I won’t repeat my entire answer here but I told him if he didn’t like the way I’d handled him big-timing me in the summer; lying and then trying to bully his way through the whole thing, I really was okay with it.
Since then, Tim and I haven’t been close. I do believe he’s a bad guy and his relationship with Schiano got him the AD’s job. If you were to ask people who worked with him at CBS College I think you’d find there were few tears shed when he left.
So, Rutgers fans, we can agree to disagree on how I feel about Schiano and Pernetti but I didn’t make those statements without having reason to make them. I do NOT think the 11,000 seat expansion was needed—sellouts are better than empty seats. I DO think Rutgers is a very good school no matter what Tony says and there are few people I admire more in sports than Rutgers alum David Stern.
So, as I said, let’s all disagree and try—in the holiday spirit—to get along. For the record, one of my favorite college basketball teams as a kid was the Rutgers team that finished third in the 1967 NIT with a coach named Bill Foster and guards named Bobby Lloyd and Jim Valvano. I have nothing but respect for the school. I just don’t especially like the football coach—who has done an excellent job—or the athletic director.