Rutgers University has settled a lawsuit with former swim coach Petra Martin, paying 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.”