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Rutgers suspends lacrosse coach during review

NEW BRUNSWICK, N.J. (AP) — Rutgers University has suspended its head men’s lacrosse coach as it investigates allegations of verbal abuse.

The university announced the suspension on Friday, saying that Brian Brecht will continue to be paid.

The school did not give details of allegations.

Rutgers, under the direction of President Robert Barchi and Interim Athletic Director Carl Kirschner, has been reviewing videos of practices in all sports since men’s basketball coach Mike Rice was fired this month after a video was made public that showed him abusing players.

The Rutgers lacrosse team competes in the Big East Conference, and is struggling this season. The Scarlet Knights are 2-11 overall, and 0-5 in the league. Brecht’s team has lost 10 consecutive games headed into Saturday’s home game vs. Duke.

Brecht, in his second season as coach at Rutgers, spent seven years as coach at Siena College, and was a three-time conference coach of the year in the Metro Atlantic Athletic Conference. He is a New York native who played at Springfield College in Massachusetts, and was hired by former Athletic Director Tim Pernetti on June 16, 2011, after posting 57 victories with the Saints in his final five years there. Pernetti resigned two days after Rice was fired.

The entire athletics program at Rutgers has been under scrutiny since the Rice video aired on ESPN. The video shows numerous clips of Rice at practice firing basketballs at players, hitting them in the back, legs, feet and shoulders. It also shows him grabbing players by their jerseys and yanking them around the court. Rice can also be heard yelling obscenities and using anti-gay slurs.

Rice was Pernetti’s first major hire in 2010 after getting the AD’s job a year before. When Pernetti first viewed the video in November — and after consulting with an outside, independent investigator — Pernetti suspended Rice for three games, fined him $75,000 and ordered to attend anger management classes. Barchi signed off on the penalty.

The video was made by Eric Murdock, the former NBA player who was hired by Rice to be director of player development. The two had a falling out over Murdock’s appearances at a camp, and Pernetti said Murdock’s contract was not renewed. Murdock, who said he was fired, then compiled the video, splicing together the practice lowlights of Rice’s first three years as coach.

Brecht’s suspension, though, appears to be specifically related to language, and nothing physical. But an investigation is ongoing.

“While I cannot comment on an ongoing investigation, let me reiterate that there is no place at Rutgers for words or actions that are inconsistent with the values of the university. 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,” Barchi wrote in a Friday statement. “As I stressed earlier, we will be looking closely at all intercollegiate athletics at Rutgers going forward.

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

The university also said Friday that it has formed a search committee for a new athletic director to replace Pernetti. Next week — likely on Tuesday — the school is expected to announce the hiring of former Rutgers point guard Eddie Jordan as the successor to Rice.

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