New Rutgers athletic director Julie Hermann, charged with overhauling an athletic department racked by the firing of abusive basketball coach Mike Rice, is facing questions about her own conduct as the volleyball coach at Tennessee, according to a report from the Newark Star- Ledger published late Saturday night.
The charges stem from a letter her volleyball team submitted to her in the spring of 1997, claiming Hermann coached through fear, ridicule and humiliation.
“The mental cruelty that we as a team have suffered is unbearable,” the team wrote of Hermann in the letter obtained by the Star-Ledger. The players told the newspaper Hermann quit her position at Tennessee after being confronted with the letter 16 years ago.
Hermann was hired by Rutgers from Louisville on May 15 after former Scarlet Knights AD Tim Pernetti and basketball coach Mike Rice left in disgrace, following the release of a video depicting Rice's abusive coaching tactics. Footage included images of Rice heaving basketballs at his players and yelling homophobic slurs at them.
In the 1997 letter submitted to Hermann by the Tennessee volleyball team, all 15 team members said Hermann called the team “whores, alcoholics, and learning disabled.” According to the report, the players continued, “It has been unanimously decided that this is an irreconcilable issue.”
According to the players via the Star-Ledger, Hermann responded: “I choose not to coach you guys.”
When contacted by the Star-Ledger, Hermann said she didn't remember the letter.
The paper reported that some of the players were so distraught over Hermann's mistreatment of the volleyball team that it drove them to “depression and counseling.”
Hermann told the paper: “I never heard any of this, never name-calling them or anything like that whatsoever. None of this is familiar to me.”
Hermann, who coached the Tennessee volleyball team for six seasons, from the 1991 fall season until the spring of 1997, pledged to be more transparent about Rutgers' athletic program at her introductory press conference.
"No one on the coaching staff doesn't believe that we need to be an open book, that we will no longer have any practice, anywhere at any time, that anybody couldn't walk into and be pleased about what's going on in that environment," she said.
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