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Findings of independent investigation regarding allegations against Rutgers Softball released

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Changes were recommended based on inappropriate conduct discovered but disciplinary actions were not.

Rutgers v Army Photo by Charles Norfleet/Getty Images

On Tuesday, June 2, the findings of a seven month independent investigation into allegations of abuse within the softball program were reported by Keith Sargeant and Matthew Stanmyre of NJ Advance Media. While the report acknowledged “some evidence of inappropriate conduct”, the reporters stated the investigation did not recommend disciplinary action of any Rutgers coaches or administrators.

Sargeant and Stanmyre both reported on the initial allegations from seven softball players last October that ultimately led to Rutgers President Robert Barchi to order the outside investigation. The law firm hired to conduct the investigation, Lowenstein Sandler LLP and the investigation was led by former New Jersey State Comptroller Matthew Boxer.

Six areas of recommendations were made by Boxer and his investigative team from Lowenstein Sandler involved improvement in the following areas: communicating expectations; conditioning and the athletic trainer; family issues; athlete complaints; cancellations of athletic scholarships; and sport specific meetings. You can read the six recommendations in full here, as well as the complete 71 page report from Boxer and Lowenstein Sandler.

A key finding from the investigation was that Rutgers softball head coach Kristen Butler “used conditioning as a form of punishment, against the preferred methods of Hobbs.”, per the report. From the article:

“Thus, coach Butler employed conditioning in a way that is not a best practice and is contrary to available guidance and recent NCAA recommendations, but the prevalence of this practice cautions against viewing Butler’s acts as wanton or malicious,’’ the report said.

Editor’s note: The initial report from Sargeant and Stanmyre in October included allegations that Rutgers athletics director Patrick Hobbs and deputy director of athletics Sarah Baumgartner “failed to adequately address the alleged abuse even after numerous players and parents complained”. The investigative report did not conclude that was the case and cited that they properly responded. The original posting of this article mistakenly cited it was in the investigation report, but that was an error which has now been corrected.

In a press release that Sargeant and Stanmyre included in their article, President Barchi stated that “the report noted the significant improvements from 2019 to 2020. It also contains a number of recommendations, some of which are already underway. I am confident the safety and well-being of our student-athletes is the first priority of our athletics administration, coaching staffs and sports medicine personnel.”

Regarding Butler, Barchi stated “Coach Butler had a difficult first year but has made the changes necessary to achieve excellence while committing to the best practices that are expected of any great intercollegiate softball program.”

Other findings included that nine players told investigators from Lowenstein Sandler that former volunteer assistant and Butler’s husband, Marcus Smith, made an inappropriate comment, stating the bus “smelled like period blood.” A trainer was interviewed who wasn’t present during that alleged comment, but gave an account that was similar in content from a separate occasion. Smith, who was previously removed from the program before this report, denied the allegations to investigators.

Sargeant and Stanmyre also reported that the independent investigation will cost Rutgers approximately $400,000 per Dory Devlin, the university’s senior director of media relations.

Butler’s second season in charge of Rutgers softball ended abruptly with the cancellation of spring sports due to COVID-19.

Editor’s note: The initial report from Sargeant and Stanmyre in October included allegations that Rutgers athletics director Patrick Hobbs and deputy director of athletics Sarah Baumgartner “failed to adequately address the alleged abuse even after numerous players and parents complained”. The investigative report did not conclude that was the case and cited that they properly responded. The original posting of this article mistakenly cited it was in the investigation report, but that was an error which has now been corrected.