Rutgers Suspends Men’s Lacrosse Coach Amid Probe of Verbal Abuse

Rutgers University men’s lacrosse coach Brian Brecht was suspended due to allegations of verbal abuse, two weeks after the school fired its men’s basketball coach for inappropriate conduct including the use of gay slurs.

Brecht’s suspension is pending an investigation by the Rutgers University Police Department, the school said yesterday in an e-mailed statement. The release was not specific about the nature of the abuse.

Rutgers basketball coach Mike Rice was fired April 3 after a video surfaced of him verbally abusing players. Athletic director Tim Pernetti resigned two days later.

“There is no place at Rutgers for words or actions that are inconsistent with the values of the university,” Rutgers President Robert L. Barchi said in the statement. “Our student athletes, as all members of the Rutgers community, should know that our university is committed to promoting an atmosphere of respect and dignity.”

Kevin Buchan, a spokesman for Brecht, said in a statement that the coach has an “exemplary professional record.”

“He has nothing to hide and will be 100 percent cooperative with the university investigation,” Buchan’s statement said. “He looks forward to clearing his name and getting back to coaching.”

Committee Formed

News of the suspension came the same day that the New Brunswick, New Jersey-based school announced the 26 members of a committee responsible for selecting a new athletic director. The group includes faculty, administrators, students and alumni.

New Jersey Governor Chris Christie, asked at a news conference in Trenton about the suspension, said it would not be appropriate for him to comment.

“I’m not going to get into the micromanagement of this stuff,” Christie said. “I don’t know enough about it” to comment.

Barchi said the school would continue “looking closely” at all of Rutgers’ intercollegiate athletics programs.

“If we find problems, we will address them,” he said.

Rice was let go after Walt Disney Co.’s ESPN network released a video of him kicking and throwing basketballs at players while hurling epithets, including gay slurs. He had previously been suspended three games without pay and fined $50,000 in December for what the school said at the time was “inappropriate behavior and language.”

Rice’s dismissal was followed by calls for Pernetti and Barchi to step down. Pernetti resigned three days later, saying in a letter that his initial reaction to the video was to fire Rice rather than suspend him. He said university policy would not justify dismissal.

Brecht’s Background

Brecht, now in his second season as Rutgers’ coach, has 17 years of collegiate lacrosse coaching experience, according to his biography on the school’s athletics website. Brecht was head coach at Siena College prior to his arrival at Rutgers.

Brecht’s base salary for this season is $130,000 according to his contract, obtained by Bloomberg News via open records requests. The five-year deal also includes bonuses based on the team’s on-field success and academic performance.

Rutgers is 2-11 this season, and has lost its last 10 games. The Scarlet Knights host Duke University today.

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