FILE - In this Feb. 16, 2019, file photo, Rutgers head coach Kristen Butler, right, argues a call with the home plate umpire during an NCAA softball game against Texas A&M in College Station, Texas. Rutgers coach Butler and her husband Marcus Smith, a volunteer assistant, have been accused of fostering a climate of fear, intimidation and abuse on the team. The university president said Thursday, Oct. 31, 2019, he wants an independent investigation of allegations. (AP Photo/ Michael Wyke, File)

Rutgers softball coaches accused of intimidation, abuse

October 31, 2019 - 4:32 pm

Two Rutgers softball coaches, a husband and wife, have been accused of fostering a climate of fear, intimidation and abuse on the team.

The university president said Thursday he wants an independent investigation of allegations made against softball head coach Kristen Butler and her husband Marcus Smith, a volunteer assistant. Smith has since left the program.

President Robert Barchi said in a statement that "nothing is more important than the health and safety of our students."

NJ Advance Media reported Butler denied all the allegations. The news organization was the first to report the story Wednesday.

Barchi also chided athletic director Patrick Hobbs for cursing at an NJ Advance Media reporter during a telephone interview about the report. Barchi adds that Hobbs has apologized to the reporter directly. Hobbs acknowledged in a statement that he "reacted inappropriately."

The university president said the school "continuously" reviews its programs to ensure athletes are protected. He added he is confident the athletic department followed "appropriate procedures," but that "out of an abundance of caution I have nevertheless called for an outside investigation."

NJ Advance Media had provided Rutgers with written questions for Butler and Hobbs and gave the school 24 hours to respond.

Hobbs called one of the reporters working on the story and launched into a profanity-laced tirade. Hobbs sent the reporter a text message an hour later to "apologize for my words."

Barchi said he understood Hobbs' "frustration" at not being given time to "thoroughly respond to an expansive list of questions." Still, Barchi said, there is "never a time when such language is acceptable,"

The athletic director said in a statement the questions "centered on concerns that were raised from parents and a number of former players regarding some of the practice drills and team activities for the softball team following the recruitment of a top-flight Division I softball coach."

Hobbs said the allegations were reviewed and action was taken. He added the university filed a report to the NCAA of a violation for allowing individual athletes to practice a total of two hours more than allowable over the course of two months.

Hobbs acknowledged his role as a "leader" at Rutgers and "someone who should serve as a role model to our young men and women.

"It was wrong for me to use the language that I did," Hobbs said in his statement. "I apologized to the reporter, but I owe an apology to the Rutgers community as well."

"It won't happen again," he added "The well-being of our student-athletes is always my first priority, and we will continue to be vigilant in addressing any concerns across all of our programs."

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