That portrayal of Hermann, however, was a surprise to one former colleague.
"For me to say this is a shock, it totally is because of the tremendous job she did for me," Louisville athletic director Tom Jurich, who was Hermann's boss for nearly 16 years, said Sunday. "When she was with me at Northern Arizona, her players adored and loved her.
Hermann was hired at Rutgers on May 15 to replace Tim Pernetti, who was let go after basketball coach Mike Rice was fired for abusive behavior.
Hermann, 49, is scheduled to take over at Rutgers on June 17. She would be the first woman to run the Scarlet Knights' athletic program and one of three female ADs at the 124 schools playing at college football's top tier.
It was uncertain whether the report would force Rutgers to reconsider the appointment. It could give impetus to those who want university president Robert Barchi to step down after yet another black eye for the state's largest university.
The university had not issued a comment by 4 p.m. Sunday.
Hermann was not immediately available for comment, but she told the Star-Ledger she did not recall the Tennessee letter. The newspaper said when it was read to her by phone, she replied, "Wow."
Rutgers board members Candace Straight and Joseph J. Roberts Jr. did not return telephone calls seeking comment.
In the letter submitted by all 15 team members in 1996, the Tennessee volleyball players said Hermann called them "whores, alcoholics, and learning disabled" and they wrote: "It has been unanimously decided that this is an irreconcilable issue." The players told the Star-Ledger that Hermann absorbed the words and said: "I choose not to coach you guys."