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College basketball: FBI eyes possible extortion at Rutgers

Published April 7, 2013 6:08 pm

This is an archived article that was published on sltrib.com in 2013, and information in the article may be outdated. It is provided only for personal research purposes and may not be reprinted.

The FBI is investigating whether a former Rutgers 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.

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.

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.

Murdock has said Rice fired him after he skipped a session of Rice's summer basketball camp, but has said he was targeted because he had spoken with others about Rice's conduct at practice. The university found in a report that Murdock was not actually fired and that he could have continued working at the school.

After Murdock left, he spoke with university officials about his allegations against Rice. He also used an open public records request to obtain hundreds of hours of videos of basketball practice. It's not clear who shot the original footage, but it was edited into the half-hour video later given to the university that touched off a scandal last week.