Rutgers has fired head swimming coach Petra Martin. Several people close to the team reached out to SwimSwam with the news on Thursday, and while Rutgers hasn’t responded to a request for confirmation, they did remove her bio from the website shortly after 8PM Eastern Time on Thursday.
Diving coach Fredrick Woodruff has been named the interim head coach for the swimming & diving programs. Assistant swim coach Jon Maccol, announced in October, and Coordinator of Swimming Operations Steve Dewar remain listed on the team roster. The team also recently announced the hiring of Carmen Young as Volunteer Director of Player Development.
“Earlier today, we both agreed that it was in the best interests of the program for Petra to step away,” athletics director Patrick Hobbs told NJ.com. While Hobbs declined to discuss the reasons for her leaving, there have been several reports of verbal and psychological abuse of members of the team.
Rutgers has had a difficult history with coaches abusing athletes – Rutgers head men’s basketball coach Mike Rice was terminated in 2013 after video emerged of him physically and verbally abusing his athletes, which resulted in the university making new rules to prevent this kind of abuse.
“They were supposed to have a foolproof way to protect athletes after Mike Rice,” Michael Perrotti, father of former Rutgers swimmer Morgan Perrotti, said in an interview. “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?”
“I have been advised not to comment, other than to say I am terribly troubled by the accusations … because they are not true. I have always had the best interests of my athletes at heart, and I wish all of them well moving forward,” Martin said in an email to NJ.com.
Martin, who was born in Czech Republic, was an All-American swimmer at Maryland. Public record shows that Martin was paid $98,495 in 2016 by the university. She was hired as the program’s head coach in 2015 to replace Phil Spiniello. Prior to that, she spent 5 seasons as the head coach at Bowling Green State. During her 2+ year tenure at Rutgers, the team has produced 8 NCAA qualifiers and improved from 11th place at the Big Ten Championships the year before she arrived (2015) up to 10th in 2016 and 9th in 2017.
The team will begin competition at the home-hosted Frank Elm Invitational on Friday, where they welcome in women’s teams from Columbia, Central Connecticut State, James Madison, Liberty, LIU Brooklyn, LIU Post, Navy, Northeastern and Wagner, in addition to men’s and women’s diving teams from UConn, Massachusetts, Virginia and West Virginia.
Update: Rutgers provided a statement after the article was posted:
Earlier this week, concerns were raised with respect to the women’s swimming program.
Over the last 48 hours, the Director of Athletics reviewed these concerns with both the team and the coach. Today, the coach and the Director of Athletics mutually agreed that it was in the best interest of the program for the coach to resign.
Previous 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. 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.
A separate review of the dismissal of a swim team member for repeated violations of the team rules was found to be appropriate. That investigation was related entirely to the swimmer’s behavior in and out of the pool and was completely unrelated to any other investigation.