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Monday, May 27, 2013

More on Julie Hermann

Julie Hermann last coached in 1997.

She left under bad circumstances at worst, questionable circumstances at best.

She coached at a time when being pretty harsh to the student-athletes was much more acceptable than it is today.

She came well-recommended to Rutgers after 16 years of athletic administration.  So much so that they named her their athletic director, after years of having served as the second-in-command at the Louisville athletic department.

Rutgers has an image problem.

Basketball coach, assistant, are shown on film as abusive.  Former member of department turns them in.    As it turns out, he might have tried to extort money from the department in exchange for not making the video viral.  Former athletic director adjudicated the problem in the fall, suspending the coach for several games.  As it turned out, it wasn't enough, at least in the court of public opinion and with the Rutgers administrations.  When the video went viral, Rutgers first fired the coach, then fired the athletic director.  Hired a venerated alum as the coach, only to learn that he didn't have a degree.  Then hired Hermann as athletic director, perhaps missing the alleged problems she had at the end of her tenure as Tennessee's women's volleyball coach or learning of them and then thinking that they weren't such a big deal because the alleged incidents took place over fifteen years ago.

Got all that?

The whole situation compels answers to a few questions:

1.  What did the Rutgers administration know about Hermann when they hired her?
2.  Did they know about Hermann's departure from Tennessee?
3.  If so, how did they parse it?
4.  If not, did they miss it?
5.  If so, how did that happen?
6.  Did Hermann tell them about it (assuming that somehow Rutgers didn't learn of it)?
7.  If so, what was discussed?
8.  If not, why not?
9.  If not, what does that say about Hermann?  That she was hiding something?  That she didn't think it was a big deal?  That she thought it was so long ago that if it mattered Rutgers would have found it?

And, after all that, the Rutgers' community must determine what should matter and why.  The reason, of course, is that they have to make a judgment whether Hermann's body of work over the past 15 years -- after coaching -- totally trumps what might have happened in 1997 and earlier (and, for purposes of argument, let's assume that the bad stuff happened).  If the bad stuff didn't happen, then Hermann's home free.  But if it did, how relevant is it?  On the one hand, if it happened, then Hermann perhaps was guilty of the same behavior that fired basketball coach Mike Rice was guilty of.  And then what message is Rutgers sending?  On the other hand, that conduct -- if it happened -- took place a long time ago, so doesn't Hermann's more recent body of work -- as the #2 athletic director at a big school -- mean a whole lot more and eclipse the alleged behavior that has been the source of all of the hue and cry?  Should it?  Shouldn't it?  At what point do you get a second chance?  At what point does the more recent body of work matter more?

So, that's where Rutgers finds itself.  A bunch of bad news and sorry stories emanating from the athletic department, and then at least one blunder (Eddie Jordan's lack of a degree) after it, if not two (depending on what happened during the hiring of Hermann and what happened when she was the volleyball coach).  The public is unhappy.  The people involved are well paid.  The public doesn't like coaches who are meanies.  The public doesn't like inconsistent behavior.  It also likes redemption.  It also gets tired of controversies.  It does expect background checks before hiring to be complete.

Much should happen in this matter in the next week.  Predictably,  Hermann's friends and supporters have rallied behind her.  The New Jersey press is on the matter, hard, because it's doing what the press should do -- question without playing favorites.  What remains to be seen is where Governor Christie and the Rutgers administration is and where they will come out.

Stay tuned.


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