Sunday, April 7, 2013

Former ass't coach hits Rutgers with lawsuit

Eric Murdock listens during a news conference in East Hanover  N.J., Friday, April 5, 2013. Murdock, a former Rutgers empoyee who made public the video that led to the basketball coach's dismissal and athletic director's resignation, has filed a whistleblower lawsuit against the university. Murdock filed the lawsuit Friday in state court, claiming the university violated the state's employee protection act and his contract. (AP Photo/Rich Schultz)

Rich Schultz/AP

Eric Murdock listens during a press conference Friday as his wrongful termination suit is announced.

To Eric Murdock, it was clear that Rutgers basketball coach Mike Rice had crossed a line by physically and verbally abusing his players.

But when the Scarlet Knights? former director of player development expressed his concerns to university officials, they fired him, according to the wrongful termination lawsuit Murdock filed against Rutgers in New Jersey state court on Friday. The suit claims the university ignored Murdock?s warnings ? and videos that showed the disgraced coach punching, kicking and belittling players ? for six months before Rice was finally suspended for three games and fined $50,000 on Dec. 13.

?Efforts to get Rutgers to address their problems were ignored for months,? Murdock said during a Friday afternoon news conference in East Hanover, N.J. ?Instead, I was removed from my position. That is wrong and why I filed a lawsuit.?

The suit says Murdock, a former Providence and NBA guard who also played pro ball in Italy, ?never experienced a coach whose behavior and treatment of his players and others crossed the line into aforementioned assaultive, abusive and other unlawful conduct.?


The lawsuit, which also names Rice, ex-athletic director Tim Pernetti, Rutgers president Robert Barchi and former president Richard McCormick as defendants, seeks unspecified damages, attorneys? fees and legal costs. It also asks the court to order Rutgers to take steps to prevent future bullying and harassment of members of the university community. The suit also seeks an order requiring Rutgers to discipline anyone who condones or tolerates abuse.

Murdock also asks the court to order an investigation into the incident that has embarrassed New Jersey?s flagship public university as well as terminate the defendants. Pernetti resigned on Friday. Rice was fired on Wednesday, a day after ESPN broadcast video footage showing Rice shoving, punching and kicking his players, as well as calling them homophobic slurs.

The lawsuit, filed by Murdock attorneys Barry Kozyra and Raj Gadhok, says Murdock was fired on July 2 because he voiced concerns about Rice?s behavior. Rice, according to the suit, claimed Murdock was terminated for insubordination because he attended a motivational talk at his son?s basketball camp for approximately 35 minutes against the head coach?s wishes.

University officials refused to meet with Murdock and his attorneys until Nov. 26.


?During the meeting on Nov. 26, 2012, the university and its representatives were provided, through Mr. Murdock and his representatives, with undisputed video evidence of defendant Rice?s unlawful conduct and abuse of many student-athletes over the course of his tenure as the head men?s basketball coach. Shockingly, all of the evidence provided to the university and its representatives on Nov. 26, 2012 had been in their possession throughout defendant Rice?s tenure with the university,? the suit says.

Kozyra said Rutgers officials canceled earlier appointments.

?We?ve had dates that more than once Rutgers canceled,? Kozyra said. ?Ironically, we were supposed to go in earlier the same week that we went in and Rutgers canceled that meeting so they could make the (joining the Big Ten announcement). We were postponed until a few days later.

?We showed them the video,? Kozyra added. ?I think there were a lot of people who were very surprised at what they saw. Rutgers will tell you they took action (at that time). Was the action adequate??

?While Mr. Murdock's employment with the university was wrongfully terminated, defendant Rice, whose assaultive, abusive and unlawful conduct and bullying of and discrimination against student-athletes was publicly recognized by the university, its athletic director and others in December 2012, defendant Rice remained one of the highest-compensated employees of the university and, under information and belief, the state of New Jersey," the lawsuit says.

Kozyra sent a letter to university attorneys on Dec. 27 seeking a $950,000 settlement for wrongful termination. He said Murdock has struggled since his termination: ?It?s been very tough on him. It?s been nine months. His life hasn?t moved on as a result of this. It?s not been easy, that?s for sure.?


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