Rutgers University's efforts to deal with a scandal involving an abusive men's basketball coach have brought into focus a larger problem: the over-the-top compensation packages offered to public university coaches.
The university fired coach Mike Rice on April 3. Two days later, Athletic Director Tim Pernetti resigned.
Rather than calling for more resignations - as Senate President Stephen Sweeney and some members of the Rutgers faculty are doing - those concerned with the university's future should allow the school to move on. The university's damaged image will be repaired slowly by its actions going forward and by ensuring that behavior such as Rice's will never again be tolerated.
But a larger issue came up this week, when it was revealed that Rice and Pernetti will each be leaving Rutgers with severance packages worth more than a million dollars.
Rice was fired after video surfaced showing him physically abusing and verbally berating student athletes - throwing basketballs at them, shoving and kicking them, using foul language and anti-gay slurs. Pernetti had seen the video in November and chose to fine and suspend Rice rather than fire him.
Pernetti's negotiated settlement grants him more than $1.2 million, an automobile stipend of $12,000 this year and next year, and pension and health benefits through October 2015.
Rice, whose contract ran until April 2015, will receive 75 percent of his base salary, which amounts to $1.1 million. He'll also get $100,000 as a bonus for completing the 2012-13 season.
These staggering payments are a result of the ridiculous compensation packages that make university coaches the highest paid public employees in the state.
Rice's salary was $650,000 this year. It was set to increase to $700,000 next season and $750,000 the following year.
Is it really so surprising that someone paid like that would think himself above the rules of common decency?
Gov. Chris Christie defended Pernetti's settlement package this week, saying it "is a small amount of money in comparison to the damage done to the reputation of Rutgers University, which has gone on for the last week and would continue to go on if this matter were litigated and dragged through the courts."
What's harder to defend are the over-the-top salaries routinely paid to public college coaches - part of the disproportionate importance put on college sports, which leads, too often, to the kind of excesses evident in the Rice's behavior.