September 18, 2019 | 57° F

Head swimming and diving coach resigns amid allegations of mental, verbal abuse

Photo by Dimitri Rodriguez |

Amid allegations of verbal and mental abuse, Petra Martin, head coach of the Rutgers swimming and diving team, resigned. Former team members and their families came forward to share their first-hand experiences, but the Athletics Department has not addressed these allegations.

Head swimming and diving coach Petra Martin has resigned amid allegations of psychological abuse, according to a report by NJ Advance Media.

The departure of Martin occurred in the same timeframe as NJ Advance Media reported on its own investigation into the swimming program. 

In a statement to the publication, Director of Athletics Pat Hobbs declined to address the allegations of abuse.

"Earlier (Thursday), we both agreed that it was in the best interests of the program for Petra to step away," Hobbs said.

In its investigation, the publication spoke to an anonymous swimmer, who "alleged that Martin created a culture of psychological abuse. Athletes were 'guilted and scolded' if they didn't complete nutrition logs that served as 'pressure to eat less and to diet.'"

The swimmer also told NJ Advance Media that the pressure to succeed was so great that it pushed her into deep depression and she considered driving into oncoming traffic to commit suicide in December of 2015.

Martin is the second head coach of a varsity sport to be removed from their respective position this year.

In May, The Daily Targum reported that head rowing coach Max Borghard and three of his assistants would be stepping down from their positions. 

Martin was in her third season at the helm of the program and was coming off of the team's most successful season as a member of the Big Ten, as Rutgers recorded its highest finish at the conference championship meet since joining the league in 2014.

A former swimmer, Barbra Brottman, spoke to NJ Advance Media of Martin's treatment of the athletes.

She said that swimmers were "on the verge of blacking out" due to drills that forced them to hold their breath under water as long as possible and that she "... lost the love of (the) sport within a month of having (Martin) as a coach."

Brottman's father also spoke to NJ Advance Media and said that Martin was "verbally and mentally" abusive and body shamed athletes on the team.

The University issued the following statement to the Targum:

"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."

The report by NJ Advance Media also included details on the dismissal of former swimmer Morgan Perrotti, a School of Arts and Sciences senior, who had her scholarship revoked and who is referenced in the last paragraph of the University's statement.

Perrotti's father, Michael Perrotti, told reporters that Martin used "'Mike Rice tactics' to verbally and mentally abuse athletes on the team."

Rice was the former head men's basketball coach who was fired after a 30-minute video was released showing him "using a homophobic slur during practice, throwing basketballs at players and using physical force at point-blank range."

Hobbs met with the team on Wednesday night for more than two hours before meeting with Martin on Thursday, according to NJ Advance Media.

Martin was hired by former Director of Athletics Julie Hermann, who was fired in December of 2015. 

Head diving coach Fred Woodruff has been named interim head coach, according to the University statement.

Editor's Note: This is an ongoing story and will be updated as more information becomes available.

Griffin Whitmer

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