Philadelphia, PA – This one has to fall under the heading of, "what were they thinking ... if they were thinking at all?"
Rutgers is back in the headlines folks, and once again it is for all the wrong reasons. The school has been trying to stay under the radar since the entire Mike Rice fiasco took place, with the subsequent mangling of the investigation into his abusive behavior also adding fuel to that fire. Now comes word that the incoming athletic director, Julie Hermann, has a checkered past of her own. Turns out that Hermann, the head volleyball coach at the University of Tennessee for six years in the 1990s, did not leave that position on a positive note. In fact, Hermann had been called on the carpet for her abusive behavior towards her players as all 15 of them submitted a letter to the AD which described how their coach ruled through humiliation, fear and emotional abuse.
There might not be any video evidence such as the footage in the Rice case, but the Lady Vols claimed Hermann's tactics were unbearable, going so far as to call the players "whores, alcoholics and learning disabled." When Hermann was confronted by her players, her response was that she no longer wanted to coach them and then simply departed.
Surely an episode like that would be a life experience that one could never forget, yet Hermann has seemingly blocked it out of her consciousness. When asked about this revelation from her past Hermann said, "I never heard any of this, never name-calling them or anything like that whatsoever."
This isn't a case of an individual having one too many items in the express lane at the supermarket, or forgetting to sort her glass and paper for recycling pickup. Those are the types of infractions many of us fall guilty of, but even Rutgers could not afford to let someone with such insignificant discretions slip through the cracks this time around.
Honestly, did the administration think the spotlight had dimmed and they could cut corners after being front-page news not that long ago? Perhaps the higher- ups were convinced that they had finally found their way out to the other side, that their movements and decisions would not be nearly as scrutinized. Heck, the school got away with labeling new men's basketball head coach Eddie Jordan a graduate of the university, even though he never wore a mortarboard as a Scarlet Knight.
The Jordan faux has received very little play in the press, but when you compare that slip of the lip against the videoed exploits of Rice, it's like jaywalking on an empty street at 3 in the morning in a seaside resort town during the month of January.
Rutgers is lucky that New Jersey Governor Chris Christie was making the rounds in the Garden State this past weekend, inspecting the ranks, because, as is often the case, he is the real news maker in that state. Although, during a stop in Asbury Park Christie did speak on the subject of Hermann with NBC reporter Brian Thompson and is just as perplexed as the rest of us.
"Listen, I'm as curious as anybody and given my position, I get to ask questions more quickly than others," Christie said of his intention to speak to Rutgers officials. "So I'll be asking questions and we'll see what happens."
Christie, while being perhaps one of the most outspoken politicians in recent years, obviously has to measure his response at this point before getting all of the facts, but former governor Richard Codey doesn't have to worry about repercussions, which is why he says he is in favor of seeing Rutgers president Richard Barchi resign.
"This is becoming Comedy Central," Codey was quoted in The Star-Ledger. "It's an embarrassment to the students and alumni of a great university and it's time Mr. Barchi takes his show on the road."
This isn't just an issue now for the athletics department at the State University of New Jersey, it is far more reaching than that for sure. Alumni and deep-pocket donors will obviously have the final word on how this all plays out.
Forget about whether or not the fan support will be there for coach Jordan and a splintering men's basketball program that has seen more than its fair share of defections and loss of recruits, the administration has a serious public relations issue on their hands yet again.
Former AD Tim Pernetti was forced to fall on his sword following the debacle with coach Rice, yet president Barchi somehow remained above the fray even as outsiders called for his ouster as well. But never fear, Barchi probably won't be able to skirt his way out of this one no matter how much he tries because the school simply cannot afford to continue being the epicenter for bad press.
Due diligence is always a popular phrase when teams/businesses go searching for the next great talent, something the school failed to exercise in this case. Perhaps an ethics professor at Rutgers can give the administration a crash course on the subject in order to prevent an episode such as this from happening yet again.