The Dagger

Nightmare at Rutgers continues as new AD Julie Hermann is linked to discrimination suit

Jeff Eisenberg
The Dagger

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Julie Hermann (Getty Images)

The most critical time for school officials to be thorough about examining the background of a potential new hire is when the candidate is arriving on the heels of a scandal that cost his or her predecessor their job.

That's why it's so stunning that the vetting process at scandal-ravaged Rutgers this spring wasn't more thorough.

In the six weeks since Rutgers fired Mike Rice for shoving and kicking players and hurling balls at their heads and athletics director Tim Pernetti for initially insufficiently punishing the coach, the bad news for the Scarlet Knights has yet to subside.

[Related: Rutgers' 'Comedy Central' leadership crisis isn't funny]

First came the revelation earlier this month that new basketball coach Eddie Jordan didn't have a degree from the school as claimed on his bio. Next came news this past weekend that new athletic director Julie Hermann had been accused of mistreating players when she was women's volleyball coach at Tennessee in the 1990s. And finally came Tuesday's latest punch to the gut, a New York Times report that Hermann was also at the center of a 2008 sex discrimination lawsuit when she worked at Louisville as a senior athletics administrator.

According to the Times, assistant track and field coach Mary Banker approached Hermann to complain about sexist behavior and “discriminatory treatment” by head coach Ron Mann. Three weeks later, Banker was fired from her position at Louisville, a decision her lawsuit largely attributes to Hermann.

It's Louisville's contention that Banker lost her job simply because her performance wasn't sufficient. A jury initially awarded Banker $300,000 in damages, but a Kentucky appeals court overturned the verdict, insisting Banker did not prove Louisville officials retaliated against her.

[Related: Latest Rutgers controversy is bad news for Big Ten]

Which side is right and which is wrong, however, is not the point when it comes to the Rutgers hiring process. What matters is that the Scarlet Knights were foolish enough to hire someone who had skeletons in her closet at a time when the athletic department couldn't afford more negative publicity.

Hermann may very well be a qualified administrator capable of cleaning up the mess Rice created and helping the school flourish in the Big Ten, but that doesn't mean she was the right choice for the job at this time. Rutgers needed an athletic director whose background was so squeaky clean that further examination wouldn't turn up so much as an unpaid parking ticket.

Instead the school is again facing negative publicity, which calls into question whether the pressure should shift to the one man who has been around for all of the past few months' problems: school president Robert Barchi.

Barchi opted to stand behind Hermann when news of the Tennessee allegations first broke. It will now be interesting to see how long the Rutgers community chooses to stand behind him.

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