The Big Ten just sweated out the messy details of Jerry Sandusky and the never ending lying and cover-ups that followed.
Now the conference has to deal with another public relations bonanza as Rutgers decided to hire someone as athletic director that mirrors the person it just got rid of as its men’s basketball coach.
Thanks to exhaustive research by the Newark Star-Ledger, Julie Hermann was found to treat her players inappropriately while serving as a women’s volleyball coach at Tennessee in 1996.
Hermann has claimed that the allegations that she told former players that they were “whores”, “alcoholics” and “learning disabled” were corroborated by all 15 members of that ’96 team.
Even if you really want to believe her, it’s nearly impossible when 15 people not only provide the same story but paint a picture of an abusive person, that was just handed the keys to the Scarlet Knights athletic department.
Hermann no doubt will argue that those words were a microcosm of a coach’s intensity without a tinge of abuse. However, Rutgers had to know better. This is a school that just showed men’s basketball coach Mike Rice the door after chucking basketballs at players and screaming obscenities in order to become a coaching bully.
That practice video that was aired on ESPN eventually gave way to the firing of athletic director Tim Pernetti for only suspending the coach for three games.
This isn’t just an athletic department in disarray but all of the school’s administrators missed this. Which is surprising, because Hermann was forced to resign and that blip on her resume didn’t raise a red flag at Rutgers?
This has even grabbed the attention of New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie who has been upset about the embarrassment attaching itself to the state’s flagship school. Seeing as how Christie is able to spend time on this should be frightening for Rutgers considering he just gave President Obama a tour of the rebuilding efforts of the Jersey Shore last week from the havoc caused by Hurricane Sandy.
Big Ten commissioner Jim Delany has already said that this will not affect Rutgers’ admission into the Big Ten in 2014 when Maryland will also join the conference.
But now would be a good time to rethink that. Rutgers quickly accepted the Big Ten’s offer to join the financially lucrative conference, allowing it a chance to leave the murky Big East and secure some stability for the future. Let’s not forget that Rutgers earmarked $28.5 million from the university budget and student fees into sports in 2011 — which works out to nearly $1,000 per student. That’s the most among 54 schools in BCS conferences according to Bloomberg
Think about that for a second. Rutgers has been playing in a high-profile BCS conference but it acts like it’s in the Division III New Jersey Athletic Conference.
Rutgers clearly doesn’t understand how important abuse awareness is in the Big Ten or in collegiate athletics after what has transpired in the last year. The Sandusky situation and the proceeding harsh penalties by the NCAA proved that schools need to take a long look at verbal and physical abuse and steps that need to be taken to fix it.
The hiring of Hermann at Rutgers makes its officials look foolish for not dotting every “i” and crossing every “t” to prevent such action in the future.
The Big Ten holds the leverage here. With Rutgers not entering the conference fold until 2014, there is still time to say thanks but no thanks. It would be a strong message, yes, but I think the message about making informed background checks would finally be getting through.
Iowa State has been a member of the prestigious Association of American Universities since 1958. The AAU is something the Big Ten hangs its hat on that every one of its schools belongs to. The Cyclones would also be a natural fit with an in-state rivalry with Iowa.
Time to forget about Rutgers and the coveted East Coast TV money. Add a team that the Big Ten can be proud of.
To contact Cory Jennerjohn e-mail him at firstname.lastname@example.org or follow him on Twitter: @CoryJennerjohn