May 29, 2013, 7:24 PM EDT
One of the biggest factors in the backlash that came as a result of Rutgers’ hiring of Julie Hermann to be their next athletic director was the fact that Hermann was accused of mistreating her players while coaching volleyball at the University of Tennessee.
During the 1996 season 15 members of the team felt the need to voice their concerns in writing, resulting in a meeting that included then-Tennessee women’s athletic director Joan Cronan, the players and Hermann.
Hermann’s hiring at Rutgers, which is struggling with the process of moving forward in the aftermath of Mike Rice’s firing for abusive behavior in practices (and Tim Pernetti’s subsequent resignation), brought back vivid memories for those players and not of the positive variety.
One of those players, Erin Zammett Ruddy, addressed the situation on her personal blog Wednesday afternoon and had some interesting things to say about the entire ordeal.
But here’s what I told [Newark Star-Ledger reporter Craig] Wolff and what I’ll tell you now with my name attached: After our 96/97 season, the team got together—sans coaches—to figure out why we were all so miserable and why we felt so much animosity toward one another. We quickly realized Julie was the common denominator. The letter you’ve seen referenced was written as a result of that meeting. We carefully crafted it, signed it simply “The Lady Vol Volleyball Team,” then brought it to Joan Cronan, our athletic director. Joan called a meeting with the entire team—held in the women’s basketball locker room, which, rightfully so, was way nicer than ours—and we shared our grievances with Julie face-to-face. There were a lot of tears. It was not easy. In addition to the bad times, there had been good times with Julie and this was not the way any of us thought our careers at UT would unfold. But, as the letter stated, it was an irreconcilable issue. After the meeting, Julie walked out and many of us never saw her again. I know I never did.
What’s important to know is that 16 years ago, our intention was to see Julie go because there was no way any of us could continue at UT with her at the helm. Our intention today is not to see her suffer or to take her down in any way. None of us wants that. It is simply to tell the truth because we were asked. And because it is relevant. But we have all moved on from that time. Julie has moved on. And just because she was a bad coach doesn’t mean she can’t be a good administrator. Maybe her experience with us made her a better administrator. Who knows? Sure, she made mistakes but she paid for them at the time by losing her job at UT. It’s only because she was hired at Rutgers—Rutgers!—in the wake of an abuse scandal that our past experience is even relevant. And it is, don’t get me wrong. Everything in that letter is true. But I agree with what many are saying: This reflects worse on Rutgers than it does on Julie.
Zammett Ruddy makes a good point about the length of time that has elapsed since these events took place. But as she also notes, this entire fiasco says a lot more about the leadership at Rutgers than Hermann.
The school stated that it would be thorough in its background checks in looking for a new men’s basketball coach and an athletic director, and it’s safe to say that the folks in charge didn’t live up to that claim.
And in defending Hermann, President Dr. Robert L. Barchi made note of her “entire record of accomplishment,” which led some to wonder why Pernetti wasn’t afforded the same benefit.
Unless the school were to suddenly change its tune Hermann will be the person entrusted with the task of leading Rutgers into the Big Ten.
And while her actions in the past won’t make for a smooth transition, it should be noted that Hermann’s new superiors didn’t help matters either.
Raphielle can be followed on Twitter at @raphiellej.
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