Associated Press, Published April 07 2013
FBI looking into possible extortion at RutgersThe FBI is investigating whether a former Rutgers men’s basketball employee tried to extort the university before he made videos that showed ex-coach Mike Rice shoving and kicking players and berating them with gay slurs.
Meanwhile, Robert Morris University is expected to report in coming days what it has learned in its own inquiry on the three years Rice spent as head coach there.
A person familiar with the FBI’s probe told The Associated Press on Sunday that investigators are interested in Eric Murdock, who left his job as the men’s basketball program’s player development director last year and later provided the video to university officials and ESPN.
The person spoke on condition of anonymity because the inquiry has not been announced. The investigation was first reported last week by ESPN and The New York Times.
A spokeswoman for the FBI’s Newark office said the agency would not say whether there is an investigation. Murdock’s lawyer did not return a call to the AP on Sunday. A Rutgers spokesman referred questions to the FBI.
A December letter from Murdock’s lawyer to a lawyer representing Rutgers requested $950,000 to settle employment issues and said that if the university did not agree by Jan. 4, Murdock was prepared to file a lawsuit. The letter was obtained last week by the AP and other media outlets.
No settlement has been made. The video became public last week, and Murdock on Friday filed a lawsuit against the university, contending he was fired because he was a whistleblower trying to bring to light Rice’s behavior.
The video’s release last week set off a chain reaction that led to Rice’s firing and the resignations of athletic director Tim Pernetti, the university’s top in-house lawyer and an assistant basketball coach. Some critics want the university’s president, Robert Barchi, to resign.
Barchi will hold a town hall meeting today at the school’s Newark campus, where he is expected to face some students and faculty who say they lost confidence in him even before the controversy over Rice’s firing. They have said his plan to reorganize the state’s higher education system shortchanges the Rutgers campuses in Camden and Newark.
At a news conference last week, Barchi said the firing and resignations likely never would have happened unless Murdock provided the video to ESPN. Barchi said he did not see the video himself until after it had been made public.
Murdock, a New Jersey native who played for seven NBA teams from 1991 to 2000, was on the initial staff Rice assembled when he became the Rutgers coach in 2010. He left the team last year, though there are conflicting stories about the circumstances.