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NEW BRUNSWICK, NJ—Former Rutgers Assistant Basketball Coach Eric Murdock received $500,000 to split with his attorney after a years-long legal battle with his former employer, according to NJ.com’s Keith Sargeant.
In 2014, Murdock’s explosive allegations about Coach Mike Rice mistreating players garnered national media attention and led to the ouster of multiple university officials including Rice and Athletic Director Tim Pernetti.
University President Bob Barchi, still navigating his first year in office, nearly resigned over the scandal, but weathered the storm.
Barchi later claimed not to have seen the videos of Rice’s abuse which depicted the coach shoving players and chucking basketballs at them, as well shouting homophobic slurs towards them.
Rutgers quietly suspended Rice for a few games in December 2012 without giving much of an explanation, commissioning a report form an independent lawyer.
Months later, the school stood behind Rice at first, and after becoming aware that the video would soon be made public, the Atletics Department invited members of the media to attend a special screening of the footage in an attempt to pre-emptively control the story.
But their efforts failed, with Pernetti’s defense of the school’s decision to quietly suspend Rice for three games cost Pernetti his own job, and caused the controversy to grow larger.
In the ensuing legal battle over his own departure from RU employment, Murdock apparently dropped his claims against Pernetti, Rice, and the past two Presidents of the University: Richard McCormick and Robert Barchi.
Instead, he focused on the claims against Rutgers University, who had already hired special attorneys to investigate Murdock’s claims of player abuse, and the circumstances surrounding his own departure from employment at Rutgers.
According to documents from that independent legal counsel, Connell Foley LLP, the competition for Murdock’s time between his work duties and his family responsibilities may have been at least partly to blame for his departure from Rutgers.
There was also, apparently, a failure, on both Murdock and Pernetti’s part, to adequately communicate with each other about this brewing conflict.
In January 2013, John P. Lacey submitted a report, titled “Report of Special Counsel concerning Investigation of Claims Asserted, and Evidence Presented, by Counsel for E.M. on Monday, November 26, 2012.”
The report later became public after the Mike Rice scandal was exposed by ESPN later that year.
“Following review of the independent investigative report, the concensus was that university policy would not justify dismissal. I have admitted my role in and my regret for that decision,” said Pernetti, the AD who lost his job amid the outrage.
However, the outside counsel’s report actually said: “We believe there is sufficient evidence to find that certain actions of Coach Rice did ‘cross the line’ of permissible conduct and that such actions constituted harassment or intimidation within Rutgers’ Policy.”
It also appeared that–at least in some respects–the major controversy became public not as much out of genuine concern for the players being harassed by their boach, but out of a minor dispute between Rice and Murdock.
It all started in June of 2012.
On June 26 of that year, a conflict in Murdock’s schedule occurred between the two summer basketball camps–one that Rutgers was hosting, and expected its coaches to attend–and another that his son was attending in Bridgewater.
Murdock’s bosses, Coach Rice and Tim Pernetti, expected him to be working at the Rutgers camp that day. However, Murdock’s girlfriend and son wanted him to attend his son’s camp, leading to arguments between Murdock and Rice.
The Rutgers basketball skills camp was to be held on June 25 to June 28. According to the Connell Foley report, Rice had held a meeting on the previous Friday (June 22) to establish the roles of the basketball staff members at that camp.
There, Murdock was named a “commissioner,” a supervisor of the activities of a group of camp attendees.
While Murdock showed up on June 25 without incident, problems cropped up on the 26th when Murdock told Rice that he wanted to go to the Bridgewater camp, but Rice turned down his request. Murdock allegedly failed to tell Rice that it was a family event and that he wanted to show up for his son.
Murdock later asked Rice again, perhaps providing the reason for his wanting to attend the Bridgewater camp.
Rice countered that it would be unfair to exempt Murdock from the duties of the basketball staff in general. Murdock then allegedly drove to Bridgewater without telling Rice, intent on seeing his son.
At the Rutgers camp, Rice discovered that Murdock was gone, and a telephone call to Murdock confirmed that fact.
At this point, Rice told Connell Foley that he asked Murdock to come to a meeting on the following Monday to discuss Murdock’s insubordination.
But Murdock doesn’t have the same recollection of the incident.
According to Murdock, Rice had essentially fired him during the phone call, or at least left Murdock with the impression that he was going to be fired.
Murdock then called the associate head coach, David Cox, who recommended that Murdock come back to the Rutgers camp.
Murdock did so, but arrived late in the day, and Rice told his assistant Josh Loeffler to tell Murdock to immediately leave.
Rice and Loeffler claim that they did this so that there wouldn’t be a conflict in front of the campers, but Murdock, apparently, was left with the impression that Loeffler had fired him.
Subsequent e-mail and text message correspondence from Rice to Murdock merely reiterated the Monday meeting date, without making it clear to Murdock that he was not actually fired.
Even the exact time of the proposed Monday meeting was unclear until Friday, June 29.
Mike Rice called Murdock to set a time for the Monday meeting, which would never happen. However, an impatient Murdock wanted to discuss the basketball camp conflicts before the meeting.
Rice refused and Murdock allegedly had harsh words for his soon-to-be-ex-boss.
Despit being called names, the notorious hothead Rice apparently refused to budge.
Later in the day, Murdock and his girlfriend showed up at the Rutgers basketball offices.
Murdock’s comments were recorded by an assistant coach without Murdock knowing, and it seems that Murdock was under the impression that Rice or Loeffler had fired him. He told assistant coach Cox that Loeffler had fired him, and that he was at the office to pick up his belongings.
His commentary spiraled into an anti-Mike-Rice rant, including colorful descriptions of Rice, such as “greedy fucking pig.”
Murdock, a Somerville resident and former player for seven National Basketball Association (NBA) teams, allegedly asserted that he was more experienced than Rice, on account having been a pro basketball player.
To their credit, however, neither Murdock nor Rice apparently attempted to confront each other. Rice stayed in his office behind a closed door, and Murdock and his girlfriend eventually left.
Pernetti caught wind of what was going on, and called Murdock over the phone, asking what happened.
Murdock said that he had been fired, but Pernetti refuted this claim, noting that he was the only person with the authority to fire Murdock.
Pernetti, along with several people who claim to have been in the room with him, claim that Pernetti clearly said to Murdock that he was not fired.
The Connell Foley report says that Murdock agreed that he had heard Pernetti deny that Murdock was fired.
Pernetti also tried once again to persuade Murdock to attend the meeting already established for Monday, July 2.
On July 2, the meeting time came and went. Murdock didn’t show up or call to establish any new meeting time. Pernetti decided not to negotiate a new contract with Murdock, and Murdock was now out of a job.
In December of that year, Murdock’s attorney requested $950,000 from the university in a move that some considered to be extortion.
Allegedly, someone got the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) involved in investigating Murdock.
But by the following April, Murdock went public with his allegations about Rice’s treatment of the players, which premiered on ESPN’s Outside The Lines.
It marks at least the second six-figure settlement that Rutgers has paid out in the case. As we reported, an ex-player of Rice’s who transferred out of the school sued over the abuse and settled for $300,000.
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