Rutgers University last week fired women's swimming coach Petra Martin amid allegations by team members that her tactics were abusive.
Martin — an All-American swimmer at Maryland hired by Rutgers in 2015 after a five-year coaching stint at Bowling Green State — shamed women about their weight, used abusive language during training sessions and banned the taking of doctor-prescribed medication for anxiety and other issues, according to the accounts of four team members and their parents interviewed during an NJ Advance Media investigation. One swimmer contemplated suicide.
In 2013, Rutgers drew national attention when it fired then men's basketball coach Mike Rice after video surfaced of Rice physically and verbally abusing players during practice. At the time, the university instituted safeguards against future coaching abuse. Martin was hired by former athletic director Julie Hermann, herself the subject of abuse allegations when she coached volleyball at Tennessee. Abuse allegations against Martin had been made as early as December 2016.
"They were supposed to have a foolproof way to protect athletes after Mike Rice," Michael Perrotti, whose daughter's scholarship was revoked, told NJ Advance Media. "This is supposed to be a happy time of my daughter's life and Rutgers has taken that away from her. I hope justice will prevail and the right thing is done because I don't want another young woman hurt, but where does that leave my daughter?"
In the middle of a five-year contract, Martin was paid $96,495 in 2016. In an email, she stated, "I have been advised not to comment, other than to say I am terribly troubled by the accusations ... because they are not true. I have always had the best interests of my athletes at heart, and I wish all of them well moving forward.''
A university statement reads: "Earlier this week, concerns were raised with respect to the women’s swimming program.
"Over the last 48 hours, the Director of Athletics reviewed these concerns with both the team and the coach. Today, the coach and the Director of Athletics mutually agreed that it was in the best interest of the program for the coach to resign.
"Previous allegations related to the coach’s conduct were raised by two members of the swim team, were referred to appropriate university personnel including President [Robert] Barchi, and were investigated by the university. These investigations included interviews, independent observations of practices and analyses of the student athlete environment. These investigations did not reveal any violation of university policy.
"A separate review of the dismissal of a swim team member for repeated violations of the team rules was found to be appropriate. That investigation was related entirely to the swimmer’s behavior in and out of the pool and was completely unrelated to any other investigation.