(Video courtesy of RVision1766)
Incoming Rutgers athletic director Julie Hermann made her first public appearance on the Piscataway, N.J., campus on Wednesday since she was named to the position three weeks ago. She touched on allegations about abuses that have been alleged at the University of Tennessee when she coached the volleyball team, but mostly on Wednesday, Hermann talked about the importance of moving forward and restoring the Scarlet Knights' reputation in the wake of the Mike Rice scandal.
“It's been tough for everybody on campus," she said. "It's been a bout of turmoil, but all of our dialogue is about moving through that and getting back to students and getting back to ensuring that, as fast as we can, that every student athlete that comes on our campus really has a best-in-class experience."
She met with Big Ten commissioner Jim Delany in New York on Wednesday morning, and aside from the controversy that has clouded the start of her tenure, the two discussed “all the initiatives that are going on in the Big Ten.”
Hermann made mention of the Big Ten's recent installment of the Pinstripe Bowl at Yankee Stadium and the inclusion of Johns Hopkins' lacrosse program into the Big Ten, but it was only after she was prodded by the media that she discussed her time at Tennessee.
Each time she was pressed on the specifics, though, she deflected and largely avoided any specific details.
“I went through a difficult time with the team and it was difficult for them and it was difficult for me. They were young and I was young. Because of that experience, the truth is, I feel uniquely qualified to create a fantastic student care system because I know as a former coach how important that student care system is.”
When asked specifically about the allegations of humiliation and abuse at Tennessee, Hermann said, “When you're a young coach, you may or may not be equipped to manage a lot of what we were managing.”
From Hermann's perspective, her experience at Tennessee helped make her a prime candidate to replace Tim Pernetti, the AD who was a casualty of the Rice video scandal. Hermann said that her turbulent years at Tennessee were a pivotal moment because she learned the importance of communicating with student-athletes.
She said that giving athletes “portals” to communicate with administrators and “subject matter experts” to deal with varying circumstances were both principal to her plan at Rutgers moving forward.
“That lesson of 17 years ago was honestly part of why I felt I was not only very qualified but uniquely qualified,” she said.
Her biggest task now is to engender trust among Rutgers' donor base and prove that she's a worthy athletic director, despite all the apparent baggage that she brings.
“Am I going to work double time to connect with the people who are passionate about Rutgers? I am,” she said.
She'll have two opportunities, beginning with an invitation-only meeting on Thursday night with 20 of the most “prominent” donors. She's also expected at an annual Rutgers golf outing on Friday.
Establishing roots with her donor base could go a long way toward building back her credibility, and it could help ease the transition into the Big Ten.
She begins her five-year tenure on June 17.
For more, follow Mike Singer on Twitter @RealMikeSinger.