Report: New Rutgers AD was abusive
The misery continues at Rutgers.
On the heels of men's basketball coach Mike Rice getting fired in early April after videos surfaced of him physically and verbally abusing players — and then-AD Tim Pernetti following him out the door in the scandal's wake — comes a report that newly minted athletic director Julie Hermann left the University of Tennessee 16 years ago under an ugly and controversial cloud.
According to a story on NJ.com, Hermann — hailed as a healer by Rutgers — left as head volleyball coach at Tennessee after her players wrote a letter alleging Hermann ran her program with an abusive, menacing style.
According to the article, "The players say everyone, including the athletic director, had been brought together [at what became an exit meeting] by a letter all 15 players on the team had submitted. In it, the players said, their coach had ruled through humiliation, fear and emotional abuse."
"The mental cruelty that we as a team have suffered is unbearable,'' the website quoted the letter as saying.
The article went on to say that Hermann had called her players "whores, alcoholics and learning disabled."
Reportedly, after Hermann was confronted at the meeting, her only reply was, "I choose not to coach you guys" — before she left for good.
The 49-year-old Hermann, set to take over the Rutgers program June 17, told The (NJ) Star-Ledger she didn't remember the letter. The newspaper said when it was read to her by phone, she replied, ''Wow.''
Hermann, the first woman to head Rutgers' athletic program and one of three female ADs at the 124 schools that make up college football's top tier, has promised a restart for the program following the ouster of its men's basketball coach and the resignation of other officials.
''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,'' Hermann said at her introductory news conference.
At that news conference, she was questioned about a 1997 jury verdict that awarded $150,000 to a former Tennessee assistant coach who said Hermann fired her because she became pregnant.
NJ.com reported that Hermann “felt a baby would interfere with job performance. Hermann says the assistant was fired because she was underperforming, and it had nothing to do with pregnancy.''
According to the NJ.com article, the Hermann appointment also "quickly spawned a Facebook conversation among at least 17 of Hermann's former Tennessee players, now spread across the country, with young families and careers, bonded by what many of them say is trauma and an anger they still have not shed."
One of those former players, Allison Stricklin Harvey, told the website she quit the Lady Vols because of Hermann, then returned when Hermann left.
"I like to think she has evolved," Stricklin Harvey was quoted as saying.
But, she told the website, when she saw reports of Hermann's hiring, "It just put a pit in my stomach."
After a series of interviews with many of the former Tennessee players about Hermann, The Star-Ledger said:
''Their accounts depict a coach who thought nothing of demeaning them, 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.
''Several women said playing for Hermann had driven them into depression and counseling, and that her conduct had sullied the experience of playing Division I volleyball.''
The Star-Ledger asked Hermann about the players' lingering grievances.
''I never heard any of this, never name-calling them or anything like that whatsoever,'' she told the newspaper. ''None of this is familiar to me.''
NJ.com quoted a statement released by Rutgers on Friday night that said: "We have looked at the totality of Julie's record in athletics administration and we look forward to her continued success as she leads Rutgers' transition into the Big Ten."
Reportedly, Hermann will be paid $450,000 a year by the state school. Rutgers will join the Big Ten in 2014.
Rutgers' problems started in December when Rice was suspended three games and fined $75,000 by the school after a video of his conduct at practices was given to Pernetti by Eric Murdock, a former assistant coach. The video showed numerous clips of Rice firing basketballs at players, hitting them in the back, legs, feet and shoulders. It also showed him grabbing players by their jerseys and yanking them around the court. Rice can also be heard yelling obscenities and using anti-gay slurs.
The controversy went public in April when ESPN aired the videos and Rutgers President Robert Barchi admitted he didn't view the video in the fall. Rice was fired and Pernetti, assistant coach Jimmy Martelli and interim senior vice president and university counsel John Wolf resigned.
In addition, new basketball coach Eddie Jordan's academic credentials have come into question. Rutgers had announced that Jordan was a graduate of the school, but Deadspin.com subsequently posted a story with documentation that Jordan never completed his undergraduate education.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.