NEW BRUNSWICK, NJ - Rutgers President Robert Barchi is calling for an outside investigation in the wake of a published report detailing allegations of widespread physical and mental abuse inside the university's softball program.
Head coach Kristen Butler's training drills are so rigorous that players often end up throwing up or in tears, according to NJ Advance Media's article - which cited several current and former players as well as parents of former players.
In one instance, former outfielder Erin Collins said the team was forced to run one 100-yard sprint for each of the $6 they exceeded their travel budget during a stop at a Cracker Barrel in early March. After the fifth sprint, Collins said she began to get dizzy. She said she eventually blacked out.
Players and parents said told NJ Advance Media that the culture of the team was so toxic under Butler and her husband/volunteer assistant coach Marcus Smith that 10 players left the team within a year of their arrival.
According to the article, former players and their parents said senior athletic officials, including athletic director Patrick Hobbs and deputy director of athletics Sarah Baumgartner, failed to adequately address the alleged abuse even after several players and parents complained.
Collins and seven anonymous Rutgers players made the same accusations in a 23-page legal notice prepared by Milwaukee-based attorney Martin Greenberg on behalf of Collins. The legal notice, sent to Hobbs and Baumgartner on July 16, also accused the coaches of shaming athletes deemed overweight. Collins, who has since transferred to the University of Tennessee, is seeking damages from Rutgers for lost tuition after she decided to transfer.
Barchi's comments released Thursday afternoon didn't allude to the coaches, nor did they contain the word "softball."
"Rutgers is committed to a culture where nothing is more important than the health and safety of our students," according to the press release. "That commitment is shared by the Athletics Department. Whenever concerns about student safety are presented, the university investigates those concerns in accordance with the best practices of the NCAA and our own protocols.
"We continuously review our programs to ensure the protection of our student-athletes, both in response to allegations and to ensure compliance with NCAA standards. While I am confident that Athletics has followed appropriate procedures here, out of an abundance of caution I have nevertheless called for an outside investigation into the reported allegations."
According to the statement, Barchi also spoke to Pat Hobbs about the article's allegations that when NJ Advance Media contacted the athletic director about the story, he said, "You guys are f------ scum."
"While I understand the frustration he was experiencing at not being given time to thoroughly respond to an expansive list questions, I have made it clear that there is never a time when such language is acceptable," Barchi said in the statement.
In the same statement, Hobbs said he "reacted inappropriately." He went on to say that the "concerns were reviewed" and a Level III violation for allowing individual student athletes to practice a total of two hours more than allowable over the course of a two-month period was reported to the NCAA."
Hobbs also said that Smith has been "separated from the team."
Hobbs, Baumgartner and Butler denied all the allegations mentioned in the article. Butler told NJ Advance Media that none of team's condition sessions were abusive and that she never punished the team with conditioning.