Struggling to emerge from the shadow of Mike Rice — the men's basketball coach fired after video showed him assaulting his players — Rutgers hired Julie Hermann, a new athletic director the school hopes would make things better.
Well, last night, a little less than a month before Hermann is set to assume her new post, The (Newark) Star-Ledger dropped a bombshell of a report. If you read a piece of journalism today, it should be that.
Sixteen years ago, when Hermann was a volleyball coach for the University of Tennessee, her entire team wrote a scathing letter with allegations of the same kind of abuse that got Rice fired.
"We have been publically (sic) humiliated, and ripped apart as both players and people. The Lady Vol image is one of respect, pride and hard work. It is very difficult to respect someone who refers to her players as whores, alcoholics and learning disabled," the players wrote. "We have tried to suppress these feelings and just play the game. However, the mental aspect of a sport is often the most important and in Julie Hermann's gym the only emotion is fear."
Hermann told the paper she did not remember the letter. Her reaction when the reporter read it to her: "Wow."
Hermann was replaced from her job as the volleyball coach, and when the paper reached out to Joan Cronin, the former athletic director at Tennessee, she too said, "I don't remember that letter."
"I knew we had disgruntled players, knew they were unhappy with where they were going," Cronin told the paper. But "I don't remember intense disgruntlement."
However, the paper reached out to all 15 players who were on the team at the time. Eleven of them went on the record saying they remember signing the letter. Some of them added details of the abuse they say they endured under Hermann.
It's worth reading the entire Star-Ledger report, so please click over.
We've reached out to Rutgers for comment, but they did not immediately respond. We'll update this post once they do.
Update at 3:38 p.m. ET. 'Shocking' Allegations:
Anne Kordes, the head volleyball coach at the University of Louisville who has known Hermann for 15 years, including when she was a student athlete, says she finds the allegations "shocking."
"It sounds unbelievable to me," Kordes tells us. "[Hermann] wouldn't stand for any coach to treat a player with disrespect."
She says during Hermann's time at Louisville, where she was most recently the executive senior associate director of athletics, Hermann was nothing but "supportive" and caring of her staff.
Kordes said the allegations made in the Star-Ledger story speak to "her as a person and that's just shocking."
Hermann's record, said Kordes, is proof that should could not possibly be the person described in that story. Kordes said her coaches have been successful and loyal.
"Nobody has left," Kordes said, which speaks volumes about the kind of stand-up person Hermann is.
Update at 9:35 p.m. ET. 'A Critical Appointment':
When Hermann was announced as the university's pick to be the next athletic director earlier this month, Richard Edwards, the co-chair of the search committee and the school's executive vice president for academic affairs, said this was "a critical appointment for the university."
Kate Sweeney, co-chair of the search committee, said the committee was "particularly impressed with Julie Hermann's student-centered approach to athletics."
The press release is here. Hermann, the school said, will be making an annual salary of $450,000, and will be eligible for up to $50,000 in bonuses.