Is it possible for Rutgers to get anything right these days?
Saturday night, the Star-Ledger is reporting, a university official asked Eric LeGrand to be the keynote speaker at RU’s commencement later this month. LeGrand, who was paralyzed playing football for the Scarlet Knights during a 2010 game, was obviously more than eager to accept the unexpected assignment.
Two days later? The offer was inexplicably rescinded. Making matters worse, LeGrand, who’s been a wonderful advocate for his alma mater since the injury, wasn’t given anything but an ambiguous reason for the abrupt about-face.
“I just want an explanation,” LeGrand told the paper via the telephone. “I wish somebody would have given me a call tonight and explained to me why. Then I can understand, but don’t just leave me hanging.”
According to LeGrand, the university president’s chief of staff asked him to replace former Secretary of State — and current College Football Playoff committee member — Condoleezza Rice, who had been scheduled to give the keynote speech before a controversy about her participation prompted her withdrawal.
The move to withdraw the offer to LeGrand was made, reportedly, “for political reasons.” How politics could leave RU so tone-deaf and insensitive is unclear.
What is clear is that the university owes, at bare minimum, a very public and sincere apology not only to LeGrand but to anyone connected to the university for their reprehensible actions. Or, as Steve Politi of the Star-Ledger very deftly put it:
LeGrand deserves better. Rutgers deserves better. No one in years has given back to that university community that Eric LeGrand, the embodiment of that Scarlet R. And this is how they treat him?
Unfortunately, this is far from the first public misstep for the university in just over a year’s time.
In the run-up to the school’s move from the AAC to the Big Ten, RU simply can’t get out of its own way. In April of 2013, athletic director Tim Pernetti was forced to step down under a cloud of controversy involving the men’s basketball coach. Pernetti’s replacement, Julie Hermann, came under fire for allegedly abusing players during her time as a volleyball coach at Tennessee. Hermann further stepped in it by publicly hoping the Star-Ledger would go out of business thus leaving hundreds jobless, adding further embarrassment to her rocky tenure..
In mid-November of last year, Jevon Tyree quit the football team amidst accusations that he had been bullied by defensive coordinator Dave Cohen. An independent investigation found that Cohen, who was fired in mid-December, did not bully his players.
All I can say is, good luck Big Ten. You’re going to need it, apparently.