One month after Rutgers determined it didn't want to pay the $1.8 million buyout it would cost to fire Fred Hill, the basketball coach foolishly may have given the school cause to give him the axe without shelling out any cash.
Hill attended a Rutgers baseball game against Pittsburgh last Thursday to support his father, the Scarlet Knights baseball coach. Normally this wouldn't have been noteworthy except that after Pittsburgh's Joe Jordano protested a controversial late-inning call, Hill actually stepped onto the field and yelled obscenities at the opposing coach.
Undoubtedly equal parts embarrassed and elated, Rutgers athletic director Tim Pernetti has spent the past few days "investigating" the incident, which is code for determining whether it would be significant enough to terminate Hill with cause. The answer apparently is yes because all reports indicate Hill will be fired by the end of the week.
There is a chance the two sides will successfully negotiate a reduced buyout to avoid the embarrassment of a prolonged legal battle, but an ESPN.com report suggests this may wind up in court. The standard clause in Hill's contract reads that the school may terminate him with cause for "serious or persistent ... willful misconduct, act of moral turpitude, or any other conduct ... that brings shame or disgrace to Rutgers."
Either way, this would represent an abrupt end to Hill's four-year Rutgers tenure, which has been plagued by underachievement and disappointment. Hill appeared to have the program headed for an upswing when he landed a top-20 recruiting class in 2008 that included the program's first McDonald's All-American signee, Mike Rosario, but the momentum did not translate onto the court.
Rutgers finished 5-13 in the Big East last season and is 47-77 during Hill's tenure. Rosario is reportedly seeking to transfer, while top incoming recruit Gilvydas Biruta wants out of his binding national letter of intent.
In the short term, the new coach's top priorities will be to attempt to keep both of those guys in the fold. In the long term, it will be to try to rebuild a program that has one of the louder home courts in the nation when the Scarlet Knights are winning, but lacks the pedigree of its Big East rivals.