NEW YORK (CBSNewYork/AP) — The Rutgers athletic department is under scrutiny once again.
Julie Hermann has not considered resigning as Rutgers’ incoming athletic director following reports that 16 years ago she humiliated and emotionally abused players while coaching Tennessee’s women’s volleyball team.
Speaking to reporters on a conference call, Hermann denied having knowledge of a letter that the 16 Tennessee players submitted to the school. Rutgers officials, however, have talked to her about it in recent days.
The 49-year-old Hermann acknowledged she was an intense coach and may have made a few mistakes handling her team. Hermann says she has matured and believes she is qualified to lead the scandal-marred Rutgers athletic program.
New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie plans to speak with school officials about the report before Hermann begins June 17.
A statement released by Rutgers president Robert Barchi Monday indicates the school is standing by their selection.
“Rutgers was deliberative at every stage of this process. Over the course of the search, Julie’s record established her 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.
“Since the announcement of her selection, some media reports have focused on complaints about aspects of her early career. Looking at Julie’s entire record of accomplishment, which is stellar, we remain confident that we have selected an individual who will work in the best interests of all of our student athletes, our athletics teams, and the university,” the statement read in part.
The Newark Star-Ledger reported that Tennessee players wrote the mentality cruelty they suffered when Hermann was coach was unbearable, adding she called them “whores, alcoholics and learning disabled.”
One former player has spoken out.
“To give that much physically and emotionally and just have it stomped on repeatedly it’s just – everyone has a breaking point,” said former Tennessee volleyball player Kelly Dow.
Hermann was hired May 15 to replace Tim Pernetti, who was let go after basketball coach Mike Rice was fired for abusive behavior.
Hermann believes she can be an effective leader at Rutgers, which in the past two months fired its men’s basketball for physical and verbal abuse, forced out its athletic director for his handling of the problem and had several other key officials resign. And after hiring former Scarlet Knights star Eddie Jordan to become the men’s basketball coach, the university mistakenly called him a graduate when he had never finished his degree.
“All of my life has prepared me to lead this organization,” said Hermann, who would be the first women athletic director at Rutgers and only the third female AD at the 124 schools playing at college football’s top tier.
“Whatever mistakes you make as a young person, you’ve got to learn from them and go and grow,” she added. “It is my intent to go to Rutgers with this vast experience of super highs and super lows and lead what I hope is an outstanding team into the Big Ten.”
Former Gov. Richard Codey is calling for Barchi’s dismissal, telling the Star-Ledger that members of the Rutgers community “deserve better.”
“This is becoming Comedy Central,” he told the paper. “It’s an embarrassment to the students and alumni of a great university and it’s time Mr. Barchi take his show on the road.”
State Sen. Raymond Lesniak also called for Barchi’s resignation, and said the school should reinstate Pernetti as athletic director.
“They made a mistake by making Pernetti a scapegoat in the first place,” Lesniak said, according to MyCentralJersey.com. “Then they compounded it by hiring somebody who had equal if not worst offenses than coach Rice. The courageous and right thing to do would be to ask her to step down and to bring back Pernetti. Let’s get all this moving forward.”
Assembly Speaker Sheila Oliver said she had lost “any semblance of confidence” in the school’s leadership.
“The questionable decision-making at this program so heavily funded by taxpayers continues to astound me,” Oliver said in a statement.
Christie spokesman Michael Drewniak said the governor is aware of the report about Hermann, but wants to get more details before commenting.
“He’s not going to make any judgments at this time,” Drewniak said in an email to The Associated Press on Sunday.
On a very quiet Rutgers campus Monday, students seem exasperated with the school’s administration.
“It’s not acceptable by any stretch of the imagination and I think that they should deal with it severely,” one student told CBS 2’s Steve Langford.
“If she had these problems in the past, why weren’t they accounted for then and how did this drag all the way to Rutgers?” another student said.
The 49-year-old Hermann is scheduled to take over at Rutgers on June 17. She is set to become 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.
A couple of Hermann’s colleagues came to her defense Sunday. Louisville Athletic Director Tom Jurich, who was Hermann’s boss for almost the last 16 years, was surprised by the report.
“For me to say this is a shock, it totally is because of the tremendous job she did for me,” Jurich told the AP. “When she was with me at Northern Arizona, her players adored and loved her. I never heard anything about this at all from the Tennessee players and a lot of them have come through Louisville a number of times. Everybody is always singing her praises.”
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