Friday, April 18, 2014
The Associated Press
PISCATAWAY, N.J. - Saying she has already rolled up her sleeves and is eager to get moving, 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 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.
"Another of my goals is to make the most of our extraordinary opportunity to join the prestigious Big Ten Conference," Hermann wrote.
Hermann plans to meet with as many people as she can to learn about Rutgers' sports and to listen and understand the challenges and opportunities faced by all involved.
Hermann, 49, was hired May 15 and then spent weeks under the microscope after it was alleged by volleyball players that she had 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.
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 hiring of Hermann as the university's first female athletic director, was supposed to help quell the controversy.
But things worsened as Hermann's past came into the media glare.
Some politicians and alumni called for her to be replaced and many outspoken boosters voiced their support for Pernetti and said they would stop contributing to the athletic program.
In recent weeks, Hermann, the former top athletic assistant at Louisville, met with the boosters and seemed to win over some.
The new athletic director was on campus more than a week ago and made a good impression meeting with players, coaches and administrators.
Long-time women's basketball coach C. Vivian Stringer said Monday that she was impressed with her new boss.
"We love her," said Stringer, whose contract is one of the pressing things that Hermann needs to discuss.
Stringer had an appointment with an eye doctor and had to rush off.