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Report: Rutgers Fires Swimming & Diving Coach For Allegations Of Bullying

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Keith Sargeant of NJ Advance Media broke the news

Swimming: USA Swimming Phillips 66 National Championships Aaron Doster-USA TODAY Sports

On Thursday evening, Keith Sargeant of NJ Advance Media broke a story detailing bullying allegations against Rutgers Swimming & Diving coach Petra Martin.

From Sargeant’s report:

Martin, according to interviews with multiple former swimmers and parents of athletes who were on the team, shamed athletes over their weight, used abusive language during training sessions and demanded they stop using medication prescribed by their doctors for anxiety and other issues.

On Thursday, Rutgers fired Martin.

"Earlier today, we both agreed that it was in the best interests of the program for Petra to step away,'' athletics director Patrick Hobbs said. He declined to address the specific circumstances around her ouster, which happened after an hours-long meeting with the team Wednesday night.

Rutgers President Robert Barchi wasn't made available for an interview, but the university issued a statement that said "concerns were raised'' within the swimming program earlier this week.

"Over the last 48 hours, (Hobbs) reviewed these concerns with both the team and the coach and today (Martin) and (Hobbs) mutually agreed that it was in the best interest of the program for the coach to resign," the statement read.

One swimmer, whose name is being withheld by NJ Advance Media, alleged verbal abuse that led her to depression and contemplating suicide. A parent of a former swimmer claimed "Mike Rice tactics" were used, a reference to the former Rutgers men's basketball coach who was fired in April of 2013 for verbal and physical abuse that included throwing basketballs at players. The parent also stated that he notified the university back in December 2016:

A parent of another former swimmer, Michael Perrotti, said Martin used "Mike Rice tactics" to verbally and mentally abuse athletes on the team and that attempts to report the abuse to university leadership fell on deaf ears. Perrotti said he alerted the university of allegations in December 2016 after his daughter, Morgan, had her scholarship revoked.

"They were supposed to have a foolproof way to protect athletes after Mike Rice," Perrotti 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?"

Former Rutgers athletic director Julie Herman hired Martin back in May 2015, which we covered here. Sargeant’s report includes allegations from Perrotti that the university did not take action when originally notified of abuse claims. The university responded in Sargeant’s report with the following:

In its university-prepared statement, Rutgers officials said they held two separate investigations into allegations of abuse within the swimming program.

"Allegations related to the coach's conduct were raised by two members of the swim team, were referred to appropriate university personnel including President Barchi, and were investigated by the university,'' the statement read. "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.

The report is extensive and can be read in full here. More to come as this story develops.