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SBD/May 29, 2013/CollegesPrint All
Rutgers Univ. officials have "unexpectedly had to defend their selection" of new AD Julie Hermann against "accusations of her misconduct dating to a coaching job she held in the 1990s," according to Steve Eder of the N.Y. TIMES. In addition to allegations of abuse while the Univ. of Tennessee women's volleyball coach in the mid '90s, Hermann also was at the "center of a 2008 sex discrimination lawsuit" at the Univ. of Louisville during her time as Exec Senior Associate AD. In that case, an assistant track & field coach said that she "went to Hermann to complain of what she considered sexist behavior and 'discriminatory treatment' by the head coach." Within three weeks of her "taking her concerns to Louisville’s human resources department, the assistant coach, Mary Banker, was fired." The lawsuit, which "holds Hermann largely responsible for the decision to fire Banker, is likely to intensify the roiling dispute at Rutgers over the hiring of Hermann in the wake" of former RU basketball coach Mike Rice's abuse case. Some lawmakers and RU donors yesterday "called on Hermann to step down, and they said the athletic department had become an embarrassment" for the school and President Robert Barchi. RU Senior Dir of Media Relations Greg Trevor said that the school's counsel and search committee co-Chair Richard Edwards were "aware of the sex discrimination lawsuit and had discussed it with Hermann before her hiring." Aside from "discussing the Louisville case with Hermann, it was unclear what steps, if any, Rutgers officials took to investigate it" (N.Y. TIMES, 5/29). RU BOG and Exec Athetic Committee member Candace Straight said that "despite published reports the board had been aware of the lawsuits and determined that neither were a factor in their decision to recommend Hermann." However, an anonymous RU dean who took part in the search said that she was "'mystified' and 'dumbfounded' that a search firm didn’t find red flags about the woman who was chosen for the job" (Newark STAR LEDGER, 5/29).
WAS SEARCH THOROUGH? In New Jersey, Tara Sullivan writes RU and Barchi have "maintained one unassailable truth: that the search process they followed was thorough and transparent." But a source said that that "wasn’t the case, providing details of a sometimes secret and often rushed procedure that left the bulk of the 26-member advisory committee in the dark until the night before they were told they would meet the two finalists." That description "stands in direct contrast" to what Barchi said Monday (Bergen RECORD, 5/29). ESPN.com's Dana O'Neil wrote under the header, "Rutgers Back To Being A Punch Line." The "real problem ... is Rutgers and, more specifically, the people in charge." RU took a "flier on a woman with two lawsuits filed against her and a team that accused her of the same horrific cruelty that got Rice rightfully canned." Then it "hoped no one would notice or, if they did, no one would care" (ESPN.com, 5/28). SI's Lee Jenkins said, “There was one kind of person they could not hire, it was someone that had abuse in that candidate's background. And she obviously has it.” Jenkins: “When we do a feature about a guy, I think we do more research into that person than Rutgers athletic department did into Julie Hermann” ("Rome," CBS Sports Network, 5/28). The N.Y. Daily News’ Bob Raissman said, “To think that the process could go on twice where they wouldn’t be able to find this out -- or if they did find it out and they kept it to themselves -- you got to wonder who’s doing the leg work for them” (“Daily News Live,” SportsNet N.Y., 5/28). ESPN's Michael Wilbon asked, “What kind of vetting process do they got at Rutgers?” ("PTI," ESPN, 5/28). In Columbus, Michael Arace writes under the header, "Rutgers' First Gift To Big Ten? A Black Eye." The RU athletics department is, "at the moment, among the most scandal-ridden" in the country (COLUMBUS DISPATCH, 5/29).
DAMAGE DONE: In N.Y., Lenn Robbins writes, "Regardless of who is lying and who is telling the truth (if anyone), the clouds of doubt that have settled over the Garden State likely aren’t going to dissipate any time soon." An AD "must be a fundraiser, which begs the question: Who in their right minds would give a $2 bill to Rutgers after the goings on that have played out the past six months?" (N.Y. POST, 5/29). In Louisville, Tim Sullivan writes rather than "admit a mistake, it appears, Rutgers has chosen to compound it" (Louisville COURIER-JOURNAL, 5/29). Yahoo Sports' Jeff Passan said, “Why Julie Hermann is still employed, why Robert Barchi is still employed, why the house has not been entirely cleaned at Rutgers at this point mystifies me” (“Rome,” CBS Sports Network, 5/28). ESPN’s Tony Kornheiser said Hermann and Barchi both "should be fired immediately" ("PTI," ESPN, 5/28). In Providence, Jim Donaldson asked, "Can't Rutgers do ANYTHING right?" RU should be "redfaced with embarrassment" (PROVIDENCEJOURNAL.com, 5/28).
Univ. of Colorado AD Mike Bohn was "blindsided by Chancellor Phil DiStefano when he was called to DiStefano's office Thursday for an impromptu meeting in which he was informed the school was firing him," according to sources cited by Kyle Ringo of the Boulder DAILY CAMERA. DiStefano "handed Bohn a letter notifying him of the decision." It said, in part, that Bohn had "materially failed" in his duties. However, the school yesterday issued a press release saying that it had "accepted Bohn's resignation and mentioned nothing about firing him." While the school has "given no specific reason for the breakup with Bohn, the well-documented struggles of the football program, continued athletic department financial problems, little progress in fundraising and conflicting leadership styles with his bosses are believed to be the core issues that led to Bohn being forced out." Both sides are "finalizing details of a separation agreement that will pay Bohn more than $900,000 for the final three years of his contract, which runs into 2017." Sources said that there were "no violations of university policies, NCAA rules violations or unethical conduct of any kind that led to Bohn's departure." DiStefano last night named CU Associate AD/Student Services and Senior Woman Administrator Ceal Barry interim AD, making her the "first woman to serve" in the role in CU history. Barry is "expected to be a candidate" to become the full-time AD "if she has interest in the job." The CU football program "reached its lowest point in the modern era last season being led by a man Bohn hired," but he "enjoyed many successes during his tenure." His "biggest success was leading the school in its conference switch" from the Big-12 to the Pac-12 in '10. CU will "form a search committee to hunt for Bohn's successor" (DAILYCAMERA.com, 5/28).
COLORADO HOT SPRINGS: In Denver, Anthony Cotton in a front-page piece reports there were "indications of simmering tensions between Bohn and university officials." Bohn in April '12 said that the athletic department would "announce a major, 'transformational' upgrade to its facilities in the fall." That was before CU said that it would "conduct feasibility studies to look at the possibility of improvements to facilities such as Folsom Field." It was not "until February that the school officially committed" to a $170M proposal for the work (DENVER POST, 5/29). YAHOO SPORTS' Graham Watson wrote, "The 'resignation' comes at a strange time given the fact that Bohn was just awarded a five-year contract extension in 2011." He also was "allowed to hire his third football coach" in Mike MacIntyre and "announced facility upgrades that were key" in luring MacIntyre. However, raising money for those facility upgrades "may have been the problem" (SPORTS.YAHOO.com, 5/28). In Denver, Mark Kiszla writes, "In a business where a scoreboard is a stark declaration of success or failure, it seemed to me Bohn was always too concerned about what people thought of him." Bohn "constantly tried to sell the notion CU was on the verge of something big, and never quite delivered." It is "way past time for CU to find an athletic director who can actually afford the skyrocketing cost of living successfully in the Pac-12" (DENVER POST, 5/29).
One of the "greatest concerns" among SEC coaches and administrators at the conference's spring meetings this week is the "future of college football attendance," according to Tony Barnhart of CBSSPORTS.com. While the SEC led all conferences in average attendance last season, "that figure has actually gone down for four consecutive seasons." The SEC has created the Working Group on Fan Experience and "charged it with coming up with recommendations to deal with a new reality in college football: Because of technology, the in-stadium experience is lagging behind what fans can get at home." SEC consultant and former Mississippi State AD Larry Templeton said, "At Mississippi State we determined that 60 percent of our fans drive 90 miles or further to attend our games. ... But we can't just assume that they will always make that commitment." The working group has "already identified" a number of issues, including stadium WiFi. Cell phone service and WiFi are "spotty at best in most large stadiums," and fixing it "is going to cost a lot of money" -- about $2M per stadium. Student attendance also has "dropped or, if the students do come, they show up late and leave early." Georgia has "cut back its student allotment for tickets from 18,000 to 16,000 per game." Fans also said that they are "growing tired of paying premium ticket prices for cupcake opponents." Some fans will "put those tickets on the secondary ticket market or just stay at home for what they know will be a blowout." The SEC is going to "invest some real money into high-level market research to discover what fundamental changes have to occur that will allow the conference to at least hold on to the attendance it currently enjoys" (CBSSPORTS.com, 5/27). YAHOO SPORTS' Frank Schwab wrote college football has an "advantage in the attendance battle." There is "more to a college football game experience than, say, the relatively sterile experience of being at a NFL game." The "traditions, the bands and cheerleaders, the unique venues and the college towns will always make going to a game in person different than staying at home" (SPORTS.YAHOO.com, 5/28).
SLIVE'S TAKE: SEC Commissioner Mike Slive said of potential attendance problems, "The time to deal with an issue is when you don't have it and try to think ahead. ... We took a baby step last year when we started showing the same replays inside our stadiums that fans were seeing at home. Right now, our stadiums are filled to 96, 97 or 98 [percent] capacity. This is the time to stay ahead of the curve." Meanwhile, Slive said of initial reaction to the SEC Network, "Very positive. Wherever I go, people come up to me and talk about the network. How can they access the network? What's going to be on the network? The other question is what is the content going to be? Over the next 15 months, we will develop the content." Slive also said of hiring radio host Paul Finebaum for the net, "Some people like Paul and some people don't. But everybody will tell you that he is interesting, regardless of the angle or the point of view you come from." He added of the new College Football Playoff, "I am very happy with it. The new (six-bowl) structure gives more than just two opportunities for our teams. ... Everybody's agreed we want the four best teams (in the playoffs). The academic schedule has not been disturbed. The fans wanted a playoff and we found the right model" (CBSSPORTS.com, 5/27).
FINDING A HOME: Slive yesterday said that SEC ADs voted "unanimously to explore a primary site for the men’s basketball tournament" rather than rotating the tournament on a yearly basis. Slive said that the league’s "success in making Atlanta the host of the football title game and Hoover, Ala., the host of the baseball tournament has spurred interest in anchoring the basketball tourney." YAHOO SPORTS' Pat Forde reported the "presumptive leader to become the SEC’s primary site is Nashville," which hosted this year’s tournament and is scheduled to host in '15, ’16 and ’19. Since '00, the tourney has been in "Atlanta seven times, Nashville four times, New Orleans twice and Tampa once." But as crowds have "dipped to sizes too small to require use of the Georgia Dome, Atlanta has not been in the rotation as often recently." It may "never be what Madison Square Garden was to the Big East, but Bridgestone Arena has been a popular venue" (SPORTS.YAHOO.com, 5/28).
PLAYING 9-BALL: In Florida, David Jones writes the SEC is "bouncing around the needs to produce good TV with the needs to protect conference strengths and protect big nonconference rival games." The SEC Network makes its "debut in 2014, which means even more thirst for events to draw audiences." But the conference is "debating adding a ninth league game to the schedule, which turns arguably the toughest conference in the nation into a potential nightmare for its own members." But it is "great for the potential in advertising dollars and viewer numbers." Slive "doesn’t expect any decision this week" (FLORIDA TODAY, 5/29).