Rutgers: Julie Hermann will keep job

Updated: May 30, 2013, 12:34 AM ET
By Brett McMurphy | ESPN

Rutgers president Robert Barchi delivered a vote of confidence for his pending athletic director hire despite allegations of abuse, saying in a statement that the school looks forward to Julie Hermann running the athletic department.

"We remain confident that we have selected an individual who will work in the best interests of all of our student athletes, our athletics teams, and the university," Barchi said Monday in a statement.

In a phone interview with ESPN earlier Monday, Hermann said Barchi assured her she would not lose her job.

"It's been communicated to me (by Barchi) that I'm the athletic director and will lead Rutgers into the Big Ten," Hermann said.

According to Hermann, Barchi spoke with the Board of Governors on her behalf, and the board has reached out to her with a great deal of support.

In his statement, Barchi added she was the best of the 63 candidates interviewed for the job of succeeding Tim Pernetti. Hermann, 49, was hired on May 15 and is scheduled to officially to start at Rutgers on June 17.

Barchi's assurances came after the Newark Star-Ledger reported Saturday that Hermann quit as the head women's volleyball coach at Tennessee 16 years ago after all 15 of her players at the time, in a letter, accused her of calling them "whores, alcoholics and learning disabled."

"It's absolutely not true that I referred to them with any name calling like that," Hermann said Monday. "That's not part of my vocabulary.

"Am I an intense coach? Absolutely as many coaches are. There's a big canyon between being super intense and abuse. This was not an abusive environment. Was it challenging? Yes. It was incredibly challenging. Was I aware players were unhappy? I was unaware by the end of the season. We had so many challenges with this group of women."

According to the Star-Ledger report, Hermann was confronted by players, who piled into an office -- some sitting on the floor and others sitting on a black leather couch. After hearing their complaints, according to the report, Hermann said she didn't want to coach the team anymore.

The players were not named in the report; however, one, Abbey Watkins, who played for Tennessee as Abbey Blazer from 1995-96, responded to the denials of mistreatment.

Am I an intense coach? Absolutely as many coaches are. There's a big canyon between being super intense and abuse. This was not an abusive environment. Was it challenging? Yes. It was incredibly challenging. Was I aware players were unhappy? I was unaware by the end of the season. We had so many challenges with this group of women.

-- Rutgers AD Julie Hermann, on allegations she abused her players as volleyball coach at Tennessee

"I write this in response to make sure that the pain that we went through as a team is validated," Watkins wrote in an email Monday to ESPN.com's Andy Katz. "All of the things that were written are unfortunately true. Many of these things happened to me personally. I truly hope that Julie has changed but refuse for anyone to deny the fact that our dreams had been crushed and our hearts broken."

"I pray that each of my teammates are happy and well despite what we went through," Watkins continued in the email. "I was the first player to speak at the meeting with my team, Julie, Kim and Joan. I said that she had made me hate the game I loved. For her or anyone else in the room to say that meeting didn't happen is appalling. I will never be able to get that day (and yes those black leather couches) out of my head."

Hermann said since the allegations were reported she has not contacted any former players and they have not contacted her. However, Hermann said Amy Buchanan and Kelly Hanlon Dow, two former players, sent her emails a few years ago when she was an assistant athletic director at Louisville.

"They sent me notes," Hermann said, "saying 'glad you're doing well. Life is good.' They just wanted to say hey."

Despite the supportive e-mails that Hermann said she received from Buchanan and Hanlon Dow, both women painted a different picture to the Star-Ledger.

Buchanan said in the first set of a match in 1994 at Tennessee, Hermann glared at Buchanan in a huddle.

"She looked at me and said, 'What about you Buchanan?" she told the newspaper. "Are you going to lose the whole match for us?' And she followed that up with a backhand to my gut."

Dow, a sophomore of the 1996 team, told the Star-Ledger: "How ironic that Rutgers had an abusive coach and they're bringing in someone who was an abusive coach.'

Hermann said she was not asked by Rutgers search committee or Parker Executive Search, the search firm, about the allegations. Hermann said only the search firm asked her about a 1997 jury verdict that awarded $150,000 to a former assistant coach who said Hermann fired her because she became pregnant. Hermann says the assistant was fired because she was underperforming, and it had nothing to do with pregnancy.

Because of the allegations, New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie plans to discuss the allegations with Rutgers officials this week, the Associated Press reported.

Other New Jersey political leaders have spoken out against Hermann and former Gov. Richard Codey believes Barchi should resign as the school's president.

[+] EnlargeRutgers' Julie Hermann
U of L Card Game.comShortly after being introduced as Rutgers' athletic director, Julie Hermann was facing abuse allegations from her former volleyball players at Tennessee.

Hermann said she understands the amount of attention this has drawn to Rutgers, which is reeling from the firing of basketball coach Mike Rice and the resignations of Pernetti, assistant coach Jimmy Martelli and interim senior vice president and university counsel John Wolf.

"I feel I have lived a life of integrity and operate with integrity, but I am not a perfect person," Hermann said. "I knew it (the job) would be tough."

Hermann said her initial reaction to the practice videos of Rice was "shocking. The same reaction as everyone else in America."

As Rutgers athletic director, Hermann said there is "an enormous amount of work for us to do" before Rutgers joins the Big Ten on July 1, 2014.

"It will involve a number of passionate people who care for Rutgers," Hermann said. "We all care about Rutgers. We want to assure our student-athletes have the best in class environment and academic support and the coaches have all the support they need.

"When we focus on that, then the people that care about Rutgers -- that what took place (with Rice) will never take place again. That's my sole focus. The chapter Rutgers had been through, where they clearly had an abusive coach, we never what them to be in an environment where they're in a place of disrespect."

Hermann, who was a senior executive associate athletic director at Louisville, was selected over Sean Frazier, a deputy athletic director at Wisconsin.

"In 15½ years, I never had one problem," Louisville athletic director Tom Jurich said. "She did impeccable work for us. No one has said anything the past 15 years. She is beloved here."

Jurich told ESPN if Hermann didn't remain at Rutgers there is a "possibility" she could return to Louisville.

Jurich also said he would have to discuss the matter with university officials, including UL president Dr. James Ramsey.

"My focus is 100 percent Rutgers," Hermann said. "I don't know what's on the other side of not being at Rutgers."

Information from The Associated Press was used in this report.

Brett McMurphy | email

College football reporter

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