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Saturday, December 20, 2014

Eric LeGrand: Rutgers asked me to be commencement speaker, backed out

Eric LeGrand

Leave it to Rutgers to pull off yet another PR blunder for the ages. This time their failure involves one of the great symbols for the school: Eric LeGrand.

LeGrand, of course, is a former Rutgers football player who was paralyzed after making a tackle in a 2010 game. He has gone on to serve as an inspirational figure and motivational speaker.

After Condoleezza Rice backed out as the school’s commencement speaker amid controversy, LeGrand told NJ.com he was hoping the school would ask him to replace her. They did, and he was amped to deliver such a speech. But that was until Rutgers pulled a bait and switch and backed out.

LeGrand told NJ.com he received a phone call on Saturday from Greg Jackson, the chief of staff for Rutgers President Robert Barchi, asking him to serve as the school’s commencement speaker on May 18. This would have additional significance for LeGrand, who took classes to complete his degree in labor relations. He was stoked, accepted, and set up a call on Monday to nail down the plan.

But that all changed when LeGrand received a phone call Monday from athletic director Julie Hermann telling him the school chose someone else for the speech.

“She told me, ‘I was pushing for you, but President Barchi decided to go in another direction for political reasons. But he wants you to come to the ceremony. He wants to personally give you your degree,’ ” LeGrand told NJ.com. “I just didn’t know how to feel. I was hurt. They offered me this on Saturday and then they take it back on Monday. I was like, ‘Why?’ ”

Well, that certainly stinks. You get a guy’s hopes all up and then pull the rug out from under him like that? LeGrand will get over it, but he probably just lost some fondness for his school that he may never be able to regain. And if anything, this really shows us how disorganized Rutgers is. How can you offer such a significant position to someone and then take it away? Don’t you have things better organized than that?



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