Incoming Rutgers athletic director says she won't withdraw

Julie Hermann was hired after a player-abuse scandal.
Julie Hermann was hired after a player-abuse scandal. (AP)
Posted: May 29, 2013

Incoming Rutgers University athletic director Julie Hermann, hired in the wake of a player-abuse scandal and then accused of similar actions herself, has said she will not withdraw.

"I never considered withdrawing, because I feel very qualified to lead Rutgers into the future and into the transition into the Big Ten," Hermann said Monday during a conference call with reporters.

She and university president Robert L. Barchi issued dual statements Monday, addressing a report that Hermann had cruelly badgered and belittled players she coached at the University of Tennessee, calling them "whores, alcoholics, and learning disabled."

In a prepared statement issued by Rutgers, Hermann said, "For sure, I was an intense coach, but there is a vast difference between high intensity and abusive behavior."

She called the allegations against her "heartbreaking" and said she had worked "to demonstrate that women deserve places of leadership in university athletics and to ensure that student athletes are treated with respect and dignity."

Barchi, also in a prepared statement, said an exhaustive search established Hermann "as a proven leader in athletics administration with a strong commitment to academic success as well as athletic excellence, and a strong commitment to the well-being of student athletes."

He gave no hint the decision to hire Hermann would be reconsidered. "We look forward to her joining Rutgers," he said, "and leading the university through the coming transition into the Big Ten."

The university was "deliberative at every stage" of the vetting process, Barchi said - one that involved "multiple stakeholders from across the university, and leaders in the sports community around the country" - and he noted that Hermann "swiftly stood out as a leading candidate" among 63 others considered for the job.

In the last two days, state lawmakers have criticized Hermann's hiring, and Gov. Christie has said he would speak with school officials about the report.

Barring a resignation, only the university board of governors can withdraw Hermann's appointment. The governor appoints six of the board's 11 voting members.

In hiring Hermann, the university was replacing Tim Pernetti, forced out because of the way he handled basketball coach Mike Rice. A video showed Rice throwing basketballs at players and using antigay slurs. Christie called the coach an "animal."

Rice was fired, and several other key officials resigned.

Hermann is scheduled to take over June 17, becoming the first woman to run the Scarlet Knights' athletic program and one of three female athletic directors at the 124 schools playing at college football's top tier.

When Hermann's hiring was announced May 15, Barchi called her "a remarkable leader." It was announced her base salary would be $450,000 a year, with $85,000 in incentives and deferred compensation.

At an introductory news conference, she said, "No one on the coaching staff doesn't believe that we need to be an open book, that we will no longer have any practice, anywhere at any time, that anybody couldn't walk into and be pleased about what's going on in that environment. It is a new day. It is already fixed."

But according to a published report, Hermann's former volleyball players at Tennessee complained that she called them "whores, alcoholics, and learning disabled."

In 1996, all 15 team members submitted a letter that said, "It has been unanimously decided that this is an irreconcilable issue."

In her statement Monday, Hermann said, "I was never notified of the reported letter outlining the concerns of some former athletes. However, I am truly sorry that some were disappointed during my tenure as coach."

According to a report in the Newark Star-Ledger, the players described Hermann as a coach "who would ridicule and laugh at them over their weight and their performances, sometimes forcing players to do 100 sideline push-ups during games, who punished them after losses by making them wear their workout clothes inside out in public, or not allowing them to shower or eat, and who pitted them against one another, cutting down particular players with the whole team watching, and through gossip."

Some of the women said Hermann had driven them into depression and counseling.

In a brief interview with reporters Monday, Hermann said, "Am I an intense coach? Absolutely an intense coach, as many coaches are. But there is a big canyon between being superintense and abuse, and this was not an abusive environment for these women. Was it challenging? It was incredibly challenging. Was I aware that there were players that were unhappy? I was aware of that at the end of the season, and I was unhappy."

In her prepared statement Monday, Hermann also addressed a lawsuit by a former assistant coach who alleged her pregnancy led to her job termination. "That issue was addressed many years ago and was known to Rutgers," she said.

"Over the years, I have tried to learn from each mistake, including the lessons I learned as a young coach," she said. "I have become a stronger leader, administrator, and educator as a result."


Contact Sandy Bauers

at 215-854-5147, sbauers@phillynews.com, or follow on Twitter @sbauers.

This article contains information from the Associated Press.

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