First Impressions Mean Everything

By Johnny Ginter on April 8, 2013 at 5:00p
The NCAA equivalent of Grumpycat
"Oh. Great. Just... great."

If your mom was anything like my mom, you were probably drilled at length about the necessity of making a good first impression. Eye contact, hands out of pockets, fingers out of noses, make sure your fly is up — pretty generic and simple stuff, but on the other hand if you're a nine-year-old, making a fart sound with your armpit is just about as good as a handshake, so why stand on formalities?

In other words, there are things that need to be taught, because undoing a first impression, good or bad, takes a lot of time and effort.

So let's say that you're Jim Delany. You aren't super well-acquainted with the Rutgers basketball program because there is basically no reason for you to be. It's a mediocre program at a school known for a slightly better than mediocre football team, and they haven't made the NCAA tourney since 1991. About as under-your-radar as it could possibly get.

But then one day in the (relative) offseason you awaken yourself in your Tibetan bungalow, shaking off your opium-induced stupor as you deeply kiss one of your many comely tea maidens. Flustered at your uninhibited nudity, your manservant enters your bedroom and bows nervously as he hands you a copy of the Columbus Dispatch. "Cables from the most recent happenings around the world, my lord," the young man squeaks.

And that's when you see it: "Rutgers Scarlet Knights fire coach Mike Rice in wake of video scandal."

Furious, you crush your porcelain tea cup and hurl the remnants at the wall. "What now, your high sexiness? What shall be thine power move?"

You look the tea maiden dead in the eye. "My sweet, this is exactly what I'm going to do."

Delany also said in a statement that league officials “will continue to monitor the situation as appropriate, (but) it will have no impact on Rutgers' transition to, or membership in, the Big Ten Conference.”

Very predictable, Delany!

Of course, this is what anyone in his position could reasonably be expected to say. After all, the deal that brings Rutgers and Maryland to the Big Ten could potentially mean tens of millions of dollars to the conference that Delany is in charge of, and damage control in this situation is pretty important.

Still, this is a pretty inauspicious start for a deal that didn't seem all that great to begin with. Most people haven't exactly been singing the praises of this arrangement in the first place, and when compared to the generally assumed no-brainer that was bringing Nebraska into the Big Ten, Rutgers and Maryland are looking more like the soggy leftovers that they kind of are.

The larger issue is that this is the type of problem that has yet to play itself out.


The initial reaction to the video of Mike Rice abusing his players both physically and verbally was pretty terrible to begin with. Any representative of any university that's trying to make a good impression after moving to new digs can probably do a lot better than a basketball coach acting like a petulant child, and it doesn't help when there's a handy video that seems readymade for eternal dissection on sports talk shows looking for content before the NFL Draft (what, you think Mike & Mike are gonna talk about baseball or hockey? Ahahahah!).

What's worse for Rutgers and the Big Ten is that the rabbit hole keeps getting deeper. For instance, Rutgers is now the target of gay rights activists, who feel that the university's response wasn't adequate in light of the slurs that Rice said on the tape. The FBI is now considering an extortion angle on the entire incident, and has begun investigating. Saturday Night Live did a parody of the situation, meaning that insomniacs and the tragically bored are now aware of what happened.

That's all pretty bad. The stuff with the Feds most of all, if TV, movies, and my brief appearance on America's Most Wanted have taught me anything. What might actually be worse for Rutgers and the Big Ten's newly minted relationship is that now that Tim Pernetti, the Rutgers athletic director who is now the former Rutgers athletic director, is no longer in the picture, all of a sudden the link between Rutgers administration and Big Ten brass becomes just that more tenuous.

So the problem becomes legitimacy. Rutgers now needs to prove to the Big Ten at large that they're a stable and probably more importantly, profitable member that won't put a bad face on the conference as a whole. And Jim Delany needs to scramble to prove to skeptics that he didn't just bring in a corrupt Jersey stereotype to the pristine Big Ten (except for that thing with the coach. No, the other thing. No, the other other thing. And all that booster stuff).

To be fair, college athletic departments are no strangers to controversy, and I'm not naive enough to pine for those innocent bygone days when coaches wore suits, fans wore fedoras, everybody was a lot more racist, and nothing bad happened in college sports ever. But the problems seem to be accelerating, and I think that inertia is being driven by a combination of better, more objective reporting (I like to play this mental game where I try and figure out how many drifters Bear Bryant could've killed before someone said something) and the gigantic sums of cash that are now being thrown around in college sports.

Mike Rice's firing was a result of the former, but part of the reason he was able to stay as head coach long after he should've been allowed to was because of the latter. If he hasn't already, at some point Jim Delany is going to have to realize that when you dangle that Big Ten carrot in front of a desperate school — especially schools that require a large subsidy to keep their athletic departments afloat like Rutgers and Maryland — those schools are going to do what they can not to screw the deal.

So what now? Rutgers is still in flux, the FBI is currently investigating, and that lady from Mike and Molly decimated Rice with her devastating wit. Jim Delany just shook the hand of the new B1G recruits and found their grip to be wet and clammy. If America's most Midwest American conference outside of the Mid-American Conference can't find a way to keep up appearances, their reputation might take even longer to recover.


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Hovenaut's picture

Man Johnny, if they ever need a tv movie out of this Rutgers mess, you have scripted a must have scene.

Just edit out that whole uninhibited nudity thing of course.

Johnny Ginter's picture


Hovenaut's picture

I see.

I trust it'll be tasteful, I'm sure Delany should perform just as ably as he's known to be.

AngelHeartsBuckeyes's picture

I hate the SEC for a lot of things. Mostly (and it's a long list) it is because they have managed to make everyone have to worry about how their conference is perceived. Who cares? Conferences don't win Championships (that slight suction-type feeling you just felt was the vortex of collective gasps south of the Mason Dixon).  
It's a shame that RUTGERS has to suffer for the actions of RUTGERS basketball coach and RUTGERS athletic director. I feel bad for RUTGERS students, RUTGERS alumni, and RUTGERS fans. RUTGERS reputation is really going to suffer.
The only reputation the B1G is suffering from is both the easiest and most complicated to cure: Just win. Winning is an amazing medicine. It also happens to be an even better immune system builder--just ask the SEC.

Buckeye born and bred. Buckeye til I'm dead.

cplunk's picture

Seriously. Three of 14 teams have won titles (no, I don't count Auburn), and somehow "the SEC" is awesome. Really, Georgia? Really, South Carolina?  Truly, Arkansas? 
I hate the conference bs. I respect Bama, LSU, and Urban's Florida. Notice I named specific teams. Teams.

NJ_BUCKEYE's picture

I graduated from Rutgers and I hate the Rutgers' basketball program, because they are smack in the middle of a talent rich part of the country and manage to suck year in and year out.  They did have a knack for beating UCONN at the most inopportune times in UCONN's season, but other than that they stink.  I have seen the video, and its bad and he was fired like he should have been back in November or whenever it was that he was suspended for 3 days and fined 13% of his salary prior to taxes (50 K), but I am not that upset at the school.  It is not clear how much the president knew back in November, but the president of Rutgers is rather new, and so he may very well get axed too.  The only thing I am a little angry about is the financial result of not firing the coach back then, because it would have been a firing with cause.  He was punished for the events in the video, and thus he will receive the rest of his contract, as will the athletic director.  I DO NOT feel like my reputation or the reputation of my university has taken some sort of massive hit.  In fact the simple idea that NCAA sports could do such a thing to a reputation at a school shows a greater problem that runs through all of our society.  The big ten wanted the Rutgers' media market, and their outstanding academic reputation, and neither of those are affected by this event.  They will still be considered one of the top 20 public universities in the country, regardless of how a basketball coach acted.  There is no doubt Mike Rice did not represent Rutgers the way he should have and that is the only thing that I am disappointed about.  If the video wasn't played for millions of people to see then those "homophobic slurs" wouldn't be out for everyone to hear, so I am more embarrassed for Mike Rice in that respect.  There is no doubt Rutgers is a diverse community so I am sure some students will be more upset about those comments than I am.

Buckeye in Illini country's picture

As far as I know, he wasn't punished back in November; he was suspended for 3 games to begin next season and docked $50,000 a week ago.  Then the AD changed the punishment to firing after the upheaval.

Columbus to Pasadena: 35 hours.  "We're on a road trip through the desert looking for strippers and cocaine... and Rose Bowl wins!"

Boxley's picture

Very well stated. I concur, not only will this not effect Rutgers overall academic and sports reputation, it will have ZERO impact on the BIG as a whole. Let's revisit this in two months and see how "hot" a topic it is then. move along, nothing to see here.......

"...the man who really counts in the world is the doer, not the mere critic-the man who actually does the work, even if roughly and imperfectly, not the man who only talks or writes about how it ought to be done." President T. Roosevelt

Riggins's picture

Pernetti's resignation letter indicated he wanted to fire Rice on the spot, but was overruled by HR and his bosses.  If true, Rutgers will regret the day they let Pernetti fall on the sword in order to cover the president's ass.

Jonnferrell's picture

Hahahahahaha--love that story.  I felt myself feeling very sad that the poor tea maidens had to endure Delany.  Thanks for the laugh and commentary.

"I miss Brady Hoke."

buckeyedude's picture

Thought I was reading a Ramzy article, at first(that's a compliment).
Compared to the Sandusky Scandal, this is pretty benign. Still, he had to go.



MN Buckeye's picture

Still trying to picture Delaney NOT in an opium-induced stupor.  Or any type of stupor.

Ethos's picture

i'm more concerned about picturing him naked *shudder*

"I spent 90 percent of my money on women and drink. The rest I wasted." - George Best

cinserious's picture

I'm real tempted to change my profile pic to Jim Delaney's and change my qoute to:
 ["What now, your high sexiness? What shall be thine power move?"]
Dammit, I wanna...

One day I will valiantly become a political prisoner of 11W jail.

Dougger's picture

are we sure that's not Carson Daly in that picture?
Also Johnny how many drifters does Bear Bryant kill in your imaginary game before people start caring? I'm getting double digits..

I like football