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Rutgers President Bob Barchi has made me a believer

It’s been a rocky few years under Bob Barchi’s leadership. But somehow, Rutgers is actually better off for it.

Rutgers University President Robert L. Barchi And Board Of Governors Chair Ralph Izzo Press Conference Photo by Andy Marlin/Getty Images

When the news surfaced yesterday about the NCAA serving Rutgers with a Notice of Allegations, I’m pretty sure most of your shoulders drooped, that heavy weight sank in your stomach, you braced for the onslaught of harassment, and you began muttering something incoherent as you shook your head in disbelief.

But hopefully you read Aaron Breitman’s post here in which he explained that, all things considered, this isn’t that bad.

And it isn’t. Rutgers reported itself in many cases. And much of what the “allegations” cover have already been addressed by the University. Not the least of which was the removal of Thing 1 and Thing 2 from their jobs.

And that brings us to today and my missive on the growth of Rutgers as an institution.

In the interest of full disclosure, I was not a big fan of University President Robert Barchi. When he came on board in 2012, I was willing to see how things went; after all, his credentials were excellent as an academic. Then the propellers starting spinning and the fecal matter was flying.

Mike Rice. I need say nothing more. But I will direct you to Dave White’s post on his firing, and one of the early salvos against Barchi in that debacle.

Tim Pernetti fired Rice. President Robert Barchi is putting distance between himself and Pernetti saying he didn't see the Rice tape until yesterday. The media has risen up against Pernetti, who has apologized.....

Tim Pernetti should have fired Rice in December. Instead, he tried to "rehabilitate" Rice. That quote will not fly, despite apologies, in the media.

Robert Barchi saw the tape in December. No, Barchi saw it yesterday. [Note: April 2, the following year]

Mistakes were made. Over and over again.

Barchi “putting distance between himself and Pernetti”. The academic didn’t have time to see a video that was damning to his athletic program and his university. #SMH

Mistakes, and more mistakes as the death by a thousand cuts continued.

There was the hiring of Julie Hermann. Who? Almost from the get-go, there were questions, and questionable comments, and questionable actions. And the bigger question began to percolate: do Barchi and Hermann ever talk to each other and do they have any idea what the other one is thinking? We wondered, because it didn’t seem like Barchi had any interest in athletics and he wasn’t giving Julie much leeway to do much (which, in hindsight, was probably a good thing). Remember the comments to the Court Club about not doing anything to upgrade the RAC? Uhhh, man, that got ugly quickly, didn’t it?

And then there was Eric LeGrand speaking at Rutgers....or was he? And who was supposed to invite him? Julie Hermann? President Barchi? Uhhh, that got even uglier even quicker.

The University Senate goes after athletics. And we were wondering if Barchi was communicating enough/well enough with students and faculty. A student group actually formed called Where RU Barchi? Didn’t seem very warm and fuzzy on campus.

Robert Barchi appeared to be above the fray, disinterested in athletics and, for that matter, dealing with people and common issues. But, as we’ve seen in the last year, Barchi may be more accurately described as an iceberg; there’s a lot to him that we don’t see.

Under Barchi’s charge, Rutgers merged with UMDNJ in the largest such academic merger in history. The University developed a strategic plan, a physical master plan, fired Flood and Hermann, hired Hobbs (I think those last two things took a total of twenty minutes), and said, let’s be a grown up university. And with Barchi at the helm and the medical school merger going off successfully, Pat Hobbs was able to bring RWJBarnabas Health on board as a partner with athletics.

One of the things that you probably missed as you were pulling your hair out over, well, all the negative stuff I just recounted, was the creation three years ago - again under Barchi - of the Office of Enterprise Risk Management, Ethics, and Compliance. It’s how real institutions move forward and do it with greater success and reduced risk. It covers a lot of ground and it is a critical piece in preserving the University’s reputation. And that office, along with more compliance support in athletics, is part of RU’s defense with the NCAA.

Robert Barchi has grown on me. For starters, he is doing good things for my university, my Alma Mater. He has apparently seen the light of why a successful athletics program can make a huge difference in the perception of the University as well as motivate people - and businesses - to support the University. Can you say symbiosis?

As Aaron wrote, “Breathe, exhale, and repeat.” Yes, we’ll need to deal with the clickbait sensationalism of ESPN which will ignore UNC but take a shot at Rutgers.

But, this too shall pass. And, I can’t believe I’m saying this, Bob Barchi will make sure it gets done right.