SBD/June 3, 2013/Colleges

Rutgers Postpones Hermann Meetings As Job Status Remains Uncertain

Hermann could be owed a $2.25M settlement if she is fired without cause
Rutgers Univ. officials “postponed a series of meetings” between incoming AD Julie Hermann and school athletic administrators and coaches that she “was scheduled to be part of” later this week on campus, according to Tom Luicci of the Newark STAR-LEDGER. Sources said that the meetings were “to coincide with a visit” by Big Ten Commissioner Jim Delany “as part of Rutgers’ welcome to their soon-to-be conference home.” Delany is “still expected to visit Rutgers” (Newark STAR-LEDGER, 6/1). USA TODAY’s Keith Sargeant cited a source as saying that Hermann’s job status on Friday “remained fluid” as top Rutgers officials “explored ways to get out of its relationship" with her. The source said that school officials were “concerned with the perception of giving Hermann a $2.25 million settlement if she is fired without cause.” The university “already has paid more than $2.3 million in settlements, search firms and crisis management assistance” since the scandal around former men’s basketball coach Mike Rice began April 2. The source added that school officials “investigated ways to terminate the Memorandum of Understanding contract Hermann signed May 14” (USATODAY.com, 6/2). In N.Y., Christian Red cited a source as saying that there are “no guarantees Hermann is safe in her new post, despite a vote of confidence last week” from Rutgers President Robert Barchi (N.Y. DAILY NEWS, 6/2). In Newark, Renshaw & Johnson reported New Jersey Senate President Stephen Sweeney “met with” Barchi on Friday “briefly behind closed doors.” Sweeney said they discussed "the current state of affairs" at the state university, "particularly with the school's athletic department." The meeting “lasted about 20 minutes.” Sweeney was “the first [to] call for the ouster” of Rice and former AD Tim Pernetti, “but has been more circumspect about Hermann” (Newark STAR-LEDGER, 6/1).

DEVIL'S ADVOCATE: RU Senior VP & General Counsel John Farmer Jr. in a guest column wrote of Hermann, "Look at her record. There is no pervasive pattern of abusive coaching, or insensitive language, or any form of misconduct; there is, instead, a record of pioneering achievement that more than qualifies Hermann to serve as the athletic director of a Big Ten program. ... Hermann has earned this opportunity. She starts June 17. Period" (Newark STAR-LEDGER, 6/2). In N.Y., Lenn Robbins writes Farmer's column "didn't address several pressing questions." Robbins: "Until Hermann and/or Farmer respond to concerns raised by legislators, members of the university’s search committee and alumni, there is no reason to give her or Rutgers, as Farmer wrote, the benefit of the doubt. Period" (N.Y. POST, 6/3). The Newark Star-Ledger's Craig Wolff said "right now it's a confusing picture" as to the status of Hermann. Wolff:  “There are lot of mixed signals as to whether a meeting or a bunch of meetings that she was going to have as she starts and gets prepared for her new job, whether those meetings are in fact going happen.” He added, “It speaks in some ways to sort of the culture of sports on a college campus where it's almost two separate worlds between the athletic department and the rest of the university” ("OTL," ESPN, 6/2).

SHORT SHRIFT?
The N.Y. POST's Robbins cites sources as saying that Hermann and Wisconsin Deputy AD Sean Frazier, the two finalists for the RU AD job, "went through a rushed and superficial process by the university's search committee that had little to do with being an athletic director." The sources added that the two "went before the 27-person search committee that split into two groups of 10 to 11" over two days. Each candidate "individually went before a group of 10 to 11 for 45 minutes on May 13 and another group on May 14." The sources said that the 10 to 11 committee members "had approximately 45 minutes to ask questions, less than four minutes per committee member." A source said that the "focus of the questions had nothing to do with the role of the athletic director at Rutgers," adding that the questions were "social-issue oriented." The "pace and focus of the search committee was so hurried and superficial, several committee members were frustrated and disheartened" (N.Y. POST, 6/3). Robbins wrote the questioning of Hermann and Frazier was "glaringly dissimilar on at least one highly sensitive issue." A source said that Hermann was "given a free pass on questions regarding the NCAA’s new Lesbian Gay Bisexual Transgender-Questioning (LGBT-Q) guide," while Frazier was "skewered by questioning so hostile from one member of the Rutgers search committee it necessitated a letter of apology to Frazier" from RU associate professor and search committee member Jeffrey Longhofer. Meanwhile, a source said that the Univ. of Louisville had "canceled a good-bye party for Hermann" (N.Y. POST, 6/2).

CREAM OF THE CROP? N.Y. Daily News columnist Mike Lupica said Rutgers “made it sound as if” Hermann “just blew away the competition, and what I’ve been wondering is how many other of the top candidates were involved in two lawsuits in their resume?” Lupica: “This process has been a sham and a fraud from the start and I can’t believe that somebody on the board doesn’t stand up and say, ‘We’re putting this whole thing on hold and we’re going to start the process all over again.’” ESPN’s Israel Gutierrez said the hiring of Hermann “seemed like an old sleight of hand trick,” but there are “just little things here and there that she is just lying about” (“The Sports Reporters,” ESPN, 6/2).

THE ROAD BACK: In New Jersey, Jerry Carino wrote under the header, "Has The Rutgers University Image Been Tarnished By Scandals?" The school is "paying elite crisis management firm Hill + Knowlton Strategies $150,000 for help" (MYCENTRALJERSEY.com, 6/2). In Newark, Steve Politi writes, "A few smart answers from Hermann at the beginning would have contained the flames, if not put them out entirely, and you didn't have to pay $150,000 to a crisis management company to understand that. You just had to be forthcoming and you had to be good at dealing with the media" (Newark STAR-LEDGER, 6/3). Also in Newark, Heyboer & Luicci wrote there are "growing questions about the impact" the controversy "will all have on the life blood of college sports -- fundraising." Former Rutgers AD Robert Mulcahy said, "I think the biggest challenge for the new athletic director is to heal the community and regain respect. You can't fundraise until you get that back." But some "big-time donors, upset over how Pernetti was treated, may not be easily convinced." Rutgers Univ. Foundation President Carol Herring said, "It is really too hard to tell if this is going to have an effect" (Newark STAR-LEDGER, 6/2). In DC, Sally Quinn wrote of the situation, "We are clearly facing a crisis of morals, ethics and values. ... Have we lost all concept of standards? Does anybody care?" Quinn: "If Hermann is going to uphold Rutgers' core values, it calls into question what exactly the university has as core values" (WASHINGTON POST, 6/1).

WHICH WAY IS UP? ESPNW's Mechelle Voepel wrote under the header, "Rutgers AD Hermann Faces Tough Road." Voepel wrote, "I was familiar with Hermann's work at Louisville before she took the Rutgers position and respected her. I was not aware of the allegations that have since come out, and they didn't fit with my perception of her. I've had to re-evaluate my view but must acknowledge it is still tempered by the positive impression I'd already formed" (ESPNW.com, 6/1). N.Y. Daily News' Bob Raissman said the "adverse publicity is getting so huge" there is "going to be a tipping point where even her supporters are going to have to say, 'We've got to cut bait’” ("Daily News Live," SNY, 5/31).

WATER UNDER THE BRIDGE: Jodee Scott, who played volleyball at the Univ. of Tennessee under Hermann in '95 and '96, in a guest column wrote, "I did not enjoy playing for Julie Hermann, but do not wish her any ill will. No one on that team does." Scott, who along with other former teammates had written a letter expressing their concerns with Hermann while she was their coach at UT, wrote, "I want to be very clear in my support for everything that my teammates have said. The letter existed and was read out loud to Julie Hermann in a meeting with the entire team present. I was there. It happened." However, that "was 16 years ago and that does not mean she won't be a great Athletic Director at Rutgers" (Newark STAR-LEDGER, 6/2).
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