In the wake of an NJ Advance Media report in which softball players at Rutgers University alleged abuse by head coach Kristen Butler and her husband, Marcus Smith, the university has appointed law firm Lowenstein Sandler to investigate.
NJ.com reports that the appointment of the law firm comes days after university president Robert Barchi called for an independent investigation into the abuse allegations, wherein softball players claim they were forced to endure dangerously intense conditioning sessions and campaigns of abuse both physical and emotional. Barchi, however, also said that he was “confident” that Rutgers had met its duty to respond to the allegations “in accordance with the best practices of the NCAA and our own protocols.”
Under Butler, players and parents reported a culture so toxic that 10 players left the program in her first year leading it. Smith, a volunteer coach with the program, was alleged to have violated player privacy by confiscating phones and viewing their screens without permission, and having made several inappropriate comments. Butler has denied the accusations.
The investigation will be led by Matthew Boxer, who has previously served as New Jersey’s state comptroller. Boxer has previously overseen investigations of Rutgers, including a 2011 audit that found the school to have regularly restricted the number of companies bidding for contracts.
The law firm will reportedly be paid a flat rate for its investigative work, including a sliding-scale retainer that begins at $95,000 for the first month and decreasing $10,000 per subsequent month. The investigation, according to university senior director of media relations Dory Devlin, will “be completed as expeditiously as possible.”