NEW BRUNSWICK, NJ—On November 14, Rutgers embattled athletic director Julie Hermann was scheduled to speak directly to students at a “Town Hall” event held as part of a student government meeting.
But Hermann called off the appearance and the following day, a new player abuse scandal befell her department. Devon Tyree, a former football player for the university, accused defensive coordinator David Cohen of abuse.
Hermann is no stranger to controversy. She stepped into a volatile environment created after a player abuse scandal was covered up and exposed in the men’s basketball program.
Then, she found herself the target of immense scrutiny, after allegations from her past came to light.
Reporters went with the story that Hermann verbally abused players when she coached the women’s volleyball team in the University of Tennessee more than fifteen years ago.
In May, the Newark Star-Ledger published an article that revealed a letter that players from the 1996 University of Tennessee volleyball team wrote, accusing Hermann of verbally and emotionally abusing them.
But Rutgers President Barchi stood by the embattled AD, despite calls for her hiring to be called off. Hermann took office on June 17 and has had trouble connecting with the larger Rutgers community.
A Twitter account launched for the athletic director hasn’t been used since July 1 and has only tweeted six times despite having more than 1,000 followers.
Her much-hyped “Town Hall Meeting” was supposed to serve a similar function to her boss’ first appearance at student government, which we reported on.
Hermann’s Town Hall was advertised as a platform for Hermann to lay out “her short term and long term vision for Rutgers Division I Athletics,” and to “unpack” the school’s transition into the Big Ten athletic conference.
Though she cancelled the Town Hall, New Brunswick Today was present at a discussion where Hermann spoke freely about the attacks on her and how life has been for her as Rutgers new athletic director.
“The media is one sided,” Hermann said. “They will just take one side of the story. Once crazy story A is up, no one wants to hear the counter acting story.”
According to Hermann, she and her bosses had never seen or heard of that letter or the signatures of the women who signed it. She also stated that the seven or eight women who made the comments never played for the team.
“It was really important for me to handle things with class and grace which are my guiding principles of how I get through things,” Hermann said. “For me the main thing was making certain that I didn’t look like what the other people did and punch back.”
The letter accused her of calling her players “whores, alcoholics, and learning disabled,” and she told students that was what she felt most strongly about.
“I never said those words,” Hermann said. “No one should ever call a woman the ‘W-word.’ It’s so offensive to any woman. I’m not a name caller.”
Hermann told students she considers herself a “public servant,” not a public figure stating that she always tries to represent her university and what she does because she feels privileged doing what she does.
Herman said she views Rutgers as “one of the last sleeping giants,” expressing confidence that the university has “enormous” potential.
“The beauty of Rutgers is that there are no restraints,” Hermann said. “Why can’t we compete for titles in the Big Ten? I want to be Top 25 in five years in every sport.”
Charlie is the founder and editor of New Brunswick Today, and the winner of the Awbrey Award for Community-Oriented Local Journalism. He is a proud Rutgers University journalism graduate, a community organizer, and a former independent candidate for mayor of New Brunswick.