Bungling Rutgers Digs a Deeper Hole by Hiring AD Julie Hermann
Rutgers president Robert W. Barchi needs a life coach. Actually, a PR coach would help too. And maybe a good parent as a consultant who understands when and how to discipline his children.
For months, the school and Barchi have failed. The athletic department is Barchi's child, and he's leading that kid to a life of embarrassment. He's also practicing bad business, and that's why his job could be on the line too.
Once it seems like this Rutgers story will finally just go away, it only gets worse. And it's all the university's doing.
The latest is the New York Times' story on new athletic director Julie Hermann's mishandling of a sex discrimination lawsuit in 2008. That followed a report from The Star-Ledger of Newark that Hermann had a history as a coach of going all Mike Rice on her players. The Star-Ledger reported that when Hermann was the volleyball coach at Tennessee, her team wrote in a letter that she called them "whores, alcoholics and learning disabled."
This all followed the mishandling of the Rice situation, which should have been simple. Someone hands you a tape of a coach hurling basketballs at players' heads, you're probably going to end up firing that coach. Athletic director Tom Pernetti didn't.
When it went public, Rice was fired. Pernetti was forced to resign.
Then Rutgers hired former player Eddie Jordan to be the new coach. That looked like a good move, only it would have been smart to do some fact-checking before authoring Jordan's bio. This Deadspin report, revealing that Jordan never graduated college, just put more egg on the Scarlet Knights' faces.
Then this Hermann mess.
I could give Barchi a pass on everything until Hermann. The Rice deal was botched, but it was made right when the president of Rutgers saw the video. The Jordan blunder? Could have been avoided with some thorough research, but even that was eventually going to blow over. That's if Rutgers got the hiring of the athletic director correct.
What they found was Hermann, an administrator with a questionable past. Her hiring, which happened 40 days after Pernetti was fired, reeks of impatience and a lack of due diligence. According to an Asbury Park Press investigation, Rutgers paid $70,000 to Parker Executive Search for a background check. This is what happens when you let someone else do your homework.
It's understandable that the university wanted to get a new AD in quickly to show the program was moving on, but there was no need to move this fast. The basketball coach was already hired. It's May. If there's a slow season for college athletics, it's this time of year.
Rutgers needed to hire an athletic director with a clean past. Squeaky clean. School officials needed to do their homework. It's not enough to simply depend on the word of an outside search firm.
If anything questionable had come up, like the sex discrimination case at Louisville, that candidate should have been eliminated.
That might not be fair to everyone. Sometimes scandals in athletics are the result of players or administrators blowing something out of proportion that is really nothing. Read ESPN.com's story about Todd Hoffner for a dose of that.
Hoffner, the former Minnesota State Mankato football coach, took an innocent video of his children. An administrator overreacted. His life is ruined now.
What should Rutgers do now?
Even if Hermann has a sob story, even if she deserved to be in a position of power, it wasn't at Rutgers. The Scarlet Knights did not need any skeletons in the closet.
Now, Barchi has put himself in a lose-lose situation. He has donors to think about. Ultimately, athletic departments are judged by wins and losses, but the donors who spend money on the facilities and pay the coaches who get the athletes to win the games care about these issues. And they are embarrassed. Embarrassed donors are rarely generous donors.
Barchi has two choices. He can try to get rid of Hermann for nothing she actually did wrong in her new position, which is sure to create lawsuits. Or Rutgers can stick with her and deal with the bad press and hope nothing else comes out.
The way this story is going, something else will probably come out. Because the media, as they should, is going to keep digging until someone with some sense and foresight starts making the decisions.
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