Having already dealt with one abusive coach this year, some people are afraid Rutgers may have just taken on another. New athletic director Julie Hermann doesn’t start work until June 17, but a piece in New Jersey’s Star-Ledger warns that she mistreated her players back when she was coaching at University of Tennessee. The Star-Ledger reports that all the members of the women’s volleyball team there wrote a joint letter complaining about Hermann in 1996. It read, in part, “The mental cruelty that we as a team have suffered is unbearable … It has been unanimously decided that this is an irreconcilable issue.” The aforementioned “issue” involves numerous instances when players say Hermann called the team members “whores, alcoholics, and learning disabled,” punished them for losses by not allowing them to shower or eat, and “pitted them against one another, cutting down particular players with the whole team watching, and through gossip.” She left soon after the letter was written.
Additionally, the piece draws attention to a 1997 wrongful termination lawsuit brought against Hermann by a former assistant coach. Plaintiff Ginger Hineline ultimately won $150,000 after convincing the jury that Hermann fired her for getting pregnant. Though Hermann claimed Hineline was simply “under-performing,” a video taken at Hineline’s wedding features Hermann telling the new couple, “I hope it’s good tonight … but I hope it’s not too good, because I don’t want you to come back February with any surprises, you know, the office and all, and it would be hard to have a baby in there.” Hermann now says she was just “teasing her” and “being a smart aleck” and that the decision to get rid of the assistant coach was made before she learned of her pregnancy. However, Hineline maintains that she had already told Hermann she was going to have a child, and that Hermann actively discouraged her from doing so on several other occasions.
Despite the allegations, Rutgers is standing by their new recruit. The school’s vice-president of academic affairs Richard Edwards said on Friday, “We have looked at the totality of Julie’s record in athletics administration and we look forward to her continued success as she leads Rutgers’ transition into the Big Ten.” He also said that he’d “looked into” the lawsuit and was “satisfied that it was not an issue.” Hermann told the Star-Ledger, “From Ginger to these players, these are people I cared about and still care about. I just don’t feel it’s my job to guess their motivations. Like I said, it’s the first I’ve ever heard of it.”
Still, if the alleged mean streak rears its ugly head — and we certainly hope it doesn’t, for the sake of Rutgers’s players and coaches alike — we wouldn’t be opposed to another Melissa McCarthy sketch as the object-throwing college basketball coach.
Update: New Jersey Governor Chris Christie told NBC New York that he intends to discuss all this with Rutgers. “I’ve got to talk to university officials and try to get the complete story,” he said. “I wasn’t involved in the search at all and I haven’t met Ms. Hermann so let me talk to university officials. I’m as curious as anybody and given my position I get to ask questions more quickly than others.”