A Scarlet Knights football player has left the team after alleging that a coach verbally abused him and threatened to head-butt him during a spring study hall session. The player says the assistant then treated him unfairly once the season started.
Jevon Tyree, a redshirt freshman from Somerset, was on scholarship and quit the team last week.
The website NJ.com reported Friday that Tyree said defensive coordinator Dave Cohen used two profane terms in the study hall in front of teammates and an academic adviser, who reported the issue,
The university said in a statement Cohen was reprimanded by head coach Kyle Flood the next day and apologized. The school denied any physical threat.
The Scarlet Knights (5-4, 2-3 American Athletic Conference) on Saturday were thrashed by Cincinnati 52-17.
"We have to do a better job of handling that," Flood said. "No one feels sorry for you for that. Things are going to happen, and the situation that we've been dealing with over the last 24 hours is one where we have to do a better job of handling it and not allowing it to be a distraction for us."
This latest problem at the State University of New Jersey comes less than a year after basketball coach Mike Rice was fired for physically and verbally abusing players.
The scandal last year also caused then-athletic director Tim Pernetti to resign under pressure along with a high-ranking university attorney. It also led the school to review the way its coaches treat players and eventually led to the suspension of the men's lacrosse coach Brian Brecht for alleged verbal abuse of players. The university eventually found no criminal or university policy violations and reinstated him.
The disclosure of this incident coincides with NFL investigation into claims by Miami offensive tackle Jonathan Martin that he was harassed in Dolphins' locker room and via text messages by fellow lineman Richie Incognito.
The incident between Tyree and Cohen happened at the height of the Rice controversy at Rutgers.
"The situation between Jevon Tyree and Dave Cohen took place in the spring and was dealt with immediately," Rutgers said in a statement. "Cohen apologized the following day for his participation in the escalation of banter, which resulted in the use of inappropriate language. Kyle Flood reprimanded Cohen and addressed the situation immediately with the entire coaching staff.
"This was an isolated incident," the statement continued. "At no time was there any threat of physical violence, which was verified by an academic counselor, who was present in the room."
Tyree failed to get playing time this season despite numerous injuries in the secondary. His decision to leave the team might have been influenced recently when Flood decided to switch a wide receiver to defensive back because of the lack of depth at the spot. The receiver, Ruhann Peele, played in the next game on defense.
The university said that Mark Tyree, the player's father, contacted new athletic director Julie Hermann six months later to discuss Jevon's role on the team and how coaching decisions were made. During the conversation with Hermann, Tyree's father reintroduced the March situation the university said.
Hermann then talked to Flood, who apprised her of the situation and how it was addressed.
The university said that Flood initiated an additional meeting with Tyree and his parents to address their concerns and his future with the team. The following morning, September 17, Tyree informed Flood of his intention to remain with the program.
Hermann spoke to Tyree's father following the meeting with Flood and confirmed that the matter was resolved to his satisfaction, the university said.
Mark Tyree told nj.com that he has never spoken to Hermann and that his family initiated the additional meetings with Flood.
Hermann told New Jersey Press Media on Saturday that she is sorry that Mark Tyree does not remember talking to her. She added that the issue was resolved before she was hired.
When asked if anyone was lying about the alleged discussion she had with Tyree she said: "It's not Rutgers athletics."
Telephone calls to Tyree's home on Saturday by The Associated Press were unsuccessful because the line was busy.
Tyree voluntarily left the football program Nov. 6, the school said.
Players defended Cohen after the game.
Linebacker Kevin Snyder said the allegations blindsided him.
"I love playing for him," Snyder said of Cohen. "That's the truth being told. Being in this game, you have to realize emotions are high at all times. All they want is the best out of you. They want you to perform the best you possibly can. Since emotions are high, things happen. I don't think there's ever any bullying going on, he's passionate about this game so he's trying to get the best out of all of our players..
Cornerback Anthony Cioffi called Cohen a great guy, adding he would not want to play for anyone else.
Linebacker Steve Longa felt the story was nonsense when it come out.
"I never felt bullied by him. He got on me a bunch of times, but there was no bullying," Longa said. "He's going to push you to be your best."