Rutgers Settles With Martin for $725K, Exonerates Her of Bullying Allegations

Rutgers University has settled a legal dispute with former swim coach Petra Martinpaying her $725,000 and publicly exonerating her of allegations that she had bullied athletes or created a toxic culture within the swim team.

NJ.com reports that Rutgers reached the settlement on Friday, agreeing to pay Martin about three times what her terminated contract would have paid out over the final two and a half years of her contract.

Rutgers fired Martin in November of 2017. An NJ.com report at the time quoted several swimmers and parents who alleged that Martin had “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.” Martin denied the allegations, and the school said it had investigated the complaints and that their investigation “did not reveal any violation of university policy.” Despite those findings, in the same statement, the school said Martin had resigned, saying that the coach and the athletic director “mutually agreed that it was in the best interest of the program for the coach to resign.”

Last summer, Martin told SwimSwam she believed her ousting from the program had to do with implicit gender bias, and that the school hadn’t followed traditional protocols or properly investigated complaints against her before asking for her resignation. Martin and her lawyer said as of August 17 that they hadn’t yet sought a legal remedy against Rutgers, but promised they would pursue legal action if the school wouldn’t pay out what Martin was owed from the remainder of her contract (money the school said it didn’t need to pay because Martin had resigned) and clear Martin’s name of the abuse allegations.

Now, Rutgers athletics director Patrick Hobbs is requred to write Martin a letter of recommendation for future employment as part of the settlement terms. The school will have to release a statement publicly clearing Martin of the allegations, and will pay out nearly three-quarters of a million dollars to Martin, who had two-and-a-half years and $227,000 remaining on her contract when she was terminated, per NJ.com.

Martin’s attorney told SwimSwam today that the goal of the settlement was to allow Martin to return to coaching. We’ve asked for comment from Martin, but have not yet received a response. We’ve also reached out to Rutgers, but have not yet received official comment. A Rutgers athletics spokesperson told us in August that the university does not comment on legal or litigation matters.

Update: Martin passed along this statement: “I am certainly looking forward to the next step and to getting back to college coaching. I’m excited to mentor and support all the future generations of student-athletes that I will have an opportunity to work with. I am also looking forward to help guide, empower and positively influence all the women and men coaches in our swimming and diving community and help grow our sport as a whole on many different levels.”

Rutgers released the following statement:

“Rutgers University today announced the resolution of its dispute with its former women’s swimming and diving Head Coach Petra Martin.        

“Coach Martin and the University parted ways in November 2017.  Media reports subsequently and incorrectly suggested that Coach Martin’s departure was the result of allegations of abuse made by a few former student-athletes and their parents.  To the extent any such allegations were made, they were fully investigated by the University and found to be unsubstantiated.  Coach Martin is a knowledgeable and dedicated coach who has high expectations for her student-athletes, both in the pool and in the classroom.  Coach Martin worked to ensure the team’s continued academic success and consistently improved the team’s athletic performance during her tenure.

“Rutgers appreciates Coach Martin’s work in building the Rutgers swimming and diving program, and her professionalism throughout this difficult process.  Rutgers encourages other universities to give every consideration to Coach Martin’s candidacy as they fill future swimming head coaching positions and wishes Coach Martin the best in her future coaching roles.”

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Gwen
3 years ago

Multiple accusations sited in articles. Days prior to her firing, it was reported by multiple athletes that she spent an entire practice yelling at the athletes. She does not have a good reputation with athletes whose teams swam against Rutgers. All well known in the area. Did Rutgers botch the investigation? Now they have to give a recommendation to someone in question. Imagine there is truth on both sides. Athlete protection. Benefit of doubt goes to the athletes, many of whom are on scholarship and afraid to jeopardize their position and lose their financial ability to stay at Rutgers. Now this coach has enough money and can continue coaching where her style is the accepted culture…back in her home….

Oh Emily
Reply to  Gwen
3 years ago

Dear “Gwen,” Thank you very much for spreading a complete load of lies about the final days leading up to Petra’s dismissal. Unless you were there, like I was, its better that you keep rumors to yourself. As for how Rutgers botched this, clearly it was by letting Petra go in the first place. They knew at the time of her firing that all the claims against her were false because they investigated them several times. The only way they botched it was by not telling the families who were slandering her to go fly a kite. After her firing, as these articles and other comments have rightly pointed out, there were several more investigations by both RU staff and… Read more »

Oh Emily
Reply to  Gwen
3 years ago

Dear “Gwen,” Thank you very much for spreading a complete load of lies about the final days leading up to Petra’s dismissal. Unless you were there, like I was, its better that you keep rumors to yourself. As for how Rutgers botched this, clearly it was by letting Petra go in the first place. They knew at the time of her firing that all the claims against her were false because they investigated them several times. The only way they botched it was by not telling the families who were slandering her to go fly a kite. After her firing, as these articles and other comments have rightly pointed out, there were several more investigations by both RU staff and… Read more »

RU family
Reply to  Gwen
3 years ago

It’s rare in life when you can put a dollar figure to how mistaken a person is, but in this case we can: $200,000. That’s the amount Coach Petra was paid in emotional damages for exactly the kind of malicious rumors and allegations you feel compelled to keep posting. $200,000. No university parts with that easily.

Here’s what we know, as people who have been close to this team:

1). Allegations such as yours were investigated and dismissed several times prior to Coach Petra’s dismissal.
2). Several more investigations took place after her dismissal as to these allegations and the culture on the team.
3). All of these investigations, totaling somewhere around a half-dozen, resulted in Rutgers’ statement… Read more »

John Bradley
3 years ago

The larger issue is process and protocol. Regardless of the strength of the claims against her if the process to investigate those claims and the protocols used to remove her from her position were not clearly established in existing workplace law and or not followed correctly the University should be found to be at fault. This is HR 101, and it looks like the University needs to take a hard look at their evaluative process.

SwimCoachDad
3 years ago

I had a weight limit as an attachment to my scholarship in college that said I wouldn’t be on the travel team if I weighed more than a certain amount. I never considered that body shaming and I didn’t consider weighing in on the deck body shaming. If I was too heavy, I didn’t swim well and I didn’t contribute toward the team’s success that way. There was a reason they wanted me to keep my weight down and it didn’t have anything to do with my appearance but rather directly related to my ability to perform as a member of the team. The standards and tolerances have changed since then but the reality is still the same; if you… Read more »

Mark Rauterkus
3 years ago

Would be great to have the name of the attorney in the article so others can seek his or her as legal assistants in similar cases. Winning!

Apso
Reply to  Mark Rauterkus
3 years ago

Tom Newkirk was the attorney cited in the previous article from a few months ago.
https://swimswam.com/petra-martin-alleges-rutgers-termination-based-on-gender-bias/

SwimmerdadRU
3 years ago

I lived through this with my swimmer. 3 years of hell with Petra. You have no idea how many girls called there parents crying and how she showed favorires. Body shaming

RU family
Reply to  SwimmerdadRU
3 years ago

This is a subtle point, but you do realize that the university paid out close to $200,000 in emotional damages to Petra based on the unsubstantiated claims you and your little group lodged against her. I’m sure the university and team are “grateful” for your nonsense. And I’m sure it’s not going to be the football team that will suffer any money lost over this.

SwimmerdadRU
3 years ago

This is what happens when it’s cheaper to pay than fight it. Ask the swimmers if they are happier now than before.

FLA putz
Reply to  SwimmerdadRU
3 years ago

Why do millennial parents keep trying to turn elite swimming into country club, participation trophy, Camp Kumbaya?

Admin
Reply to  FLA putz
3 years ago

I don’t know if you know this but…the vast majority individuals swimming in college now are not millennials…

FLA putz
Reply to  Braden Keith
3 years ago

Fair enough. Change the name, but the sentiment remains.

dmswim
Reply to  Braden Keith
3 years ago

Thank you for your defense of millennials.

Elite Swimmer Mom
Reply to  FLA putz
3 years ago

Rutgers an elite swimming team???? Hahahahahaha! Get real!!!

dmswim
Reply to  Elite Swimmer Mom
3 years ago

In the Swimulator rankings, they are currently ranked 27th without counting diving. Considering how many college swimming and diving programs there are in the country (Div. I, II, and III), that’s relatively highly ranked. As a mother, I’m disappointed you feel the need to put down a hard working group of young women by laughing at them. I don’t know what “elite” team your child is a member of, but I’m sure you wouldn’t appreciate their team being laughed at. Stay classy.

RU family
Reply to  SwimmerdadRU
3 years ago

Puhleeze, this is nothing but a complete victory for Coach Petra. 3/4 of a million in cash, public statement by the university clearing her name, offer of a personal recommendation from the AD for future jobs. AND, when you throw in the cost of 13 months of retaining NY and NJ lawyers, multiple investigations by said lawyers, probable mediation costs along the way……and all by a school under exceptional criticism for their past payouts to athletic staff (now at somewhere between $11-12 million in the past few years)….this was no small expenditure for the university.

Swimmershaverights
Reply to  SwimmerdadRU
3 years ago

The swimmers are 101% happier now!!!

FLA putz
Reply to  Swimmershaverights
3 years ago

Yknow, it’s that extra 1% you added that makes all the difference.

Kumbaya.

DutchWomen
3 years ago

Athletic Directors…take note. Not every student-athlete that comes through your door has legimate claims against their coach. Hopefully this goes a long way in slowing the tide of entitled student-athletes thinking they can get whatever they want just because they don’t like a coach or think the coach is “too tough” and what have you. Good for Petra!

Breaststrokesthebeststroke
Reply to  DutchWomen
3 years ago

I’m not sure if you read the original article and comments from last year but if I remember correctly there were certainly some concerning accusations from multiple athletes from MULTIPLE institutions making similar statements. I don’t think this was just one student athlete with illegitimate claims and complaints about a “too tough” coach. Unless anyone in this comment thread was one of Petra’s former swimmers, I’m not so sure we can definitely say who the “good guy” was here.

Apso
Reply to  Breaststrokesthebeststroke
3 years ago

Perhaps you didn’t read the original article about the settlement from NJ.com, which I’ve included for you below. The important paragraph for you to pay attention to is as follows:

“In a statement on Friday, Rutgers said: “Media reports … incorrectly suggested that Coach Martin’s departure was the result of allegations of abuse made by a few former student-athletes and their parents. To the extent any such allegations were made, they were fully investigated by the University and found to be unsubstantiated.”

Claims that were investigated MULTIPLE times, and found to be unsubstantiated MULTIPLE times.

As for anonymous claims made within the comment section of a swimming news/blog site, do we really need to have a 101 discussion about… Read more »

Christmas D0lphin
Reply to  Breaststrokesthebeststroke
3 years ago

Accusations are not evidence.

Eric Knight
Reply to  Breaststrokesthebeststroke
3 years ago

I am one of Petra’s former swimmers and I never once felt she was a bully or verbally abusive.

Good for Petra. I’m very happy she now has closure. She deserves it.

Ol' Longhorn
3 years ago

Good for her. One of the worst run athletic departments in the country the last ten or so years.

dmswim
Reply to  Ol' Longhorn
3 years ago

It’s been longer than 10 years…

About Jared Anderson

Jared Anderson

Jared Anderson swam for nearly twenty years. Then, Jared Anderson stopped swimming and started writing about swimming. He's not sick of swimming yet. Swimming might be sick of him, though. Jared was a YMCA and high school swimmer in northern Minnesota, and spent his college years swimming breaststroke and occasionally pretending …

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