PISCATAWAY, N.J. – Saying she has already rolled up her sleeves and is ready to work, Julie Hermann took over as Rutgers’ athletic director with the promise that her No. 1 job is to create an atmosphere for Scarlet Knights students to excel on and off the field.
The embattled Hermann showed up for work before most of her employees on Monday morning and started the task of leading an embarrassed athletic department back to respectability, winning back boosters and alumni and leading the university into the Big Ten Conference in 2014.
Hermann did not answer either emails or telephone calls left by the Associated Press seeking comment.
Hermann, however, released an open letter to the student-athletes late Monday afternoon on the university’s athletic website. She promised to create a best-in-class student-athlete care system committed to developing programs to support both your athletic and your academic pursuits. The system will ensure that the student-athletes always can voice any issues or concerns they might have.
Athletic department spokesman Jason Baum said Hermann would not talk to the media until next week.
Hermann, 49, was hired May 15 and then spent weeks under the microscope after it was alleged by volleyball players who she coached at Tennessee in 1996 that they were verbally and emotionally abused by her. She denied the allegations.
The allegations were particularly troublesome because Rutgers’ recent problems started after a videotape was aired in early April showing men’s basketball coach Mike Rice verbally and physically abusing his players during his three-year tenure. The verbal assault included anti-gay slurs.
Rice was fired within days by university president Robert Barchi, and popular athletic director Tim Pernetti was forced to resign two days after that for his handling of the incident.
The hirings of former Rutgers star and Los Angeles Lakers assistant coach Eddie Jordan to replace Rice, and then Hermann as the university’s first female athletic director, were supposed to end the controversy.
They didn’t. In fact, things worsened. The university was embarrassed when it put out Jordan’s biography with the fact that he graduated when he didn’t. And Hermann’s past was more troubling.
Longtime women’s basketball coach C. Vivian Stringer said Monday that she was impressed with her new boss.
“We love her,” she said.