PISCATAWAY — Embattled incoming athletic director Julie Hermann plans to visit Rutgers this week, a university spokesman said Monday. The details of her itinerary have not been set.
The selection of Hermann to run the university’s sports department has been under fire since it was revealed a little more than a week ago that players on the University of Tennessee volleyball team she coached in 1997 complained she had been verbally and emotionally abusive. They said in a letter at the time that she called them “whores, alcoholics and learning disabled.”
The allegations come in the aftermath of the uproar that left Rutgers searching for a new athletic director. Predecessor Tim Pernetti was forced to resign in early April, days after men’s basketball coach Mike Rice was fired for physically and verbally abusing his players during his three-year tenure.
Hermann, who is scheduled to start at Rutgers on June 17, has denied the allegations. She said that she had not heard of the letter until last week.
University President Robert Barchi has said Hermann remains his choice to lead Rutgers into the Big Ten Conference in 2014.
While state politicians have called for Hermann to step aside, New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie has said he will not micromanage Rutgers, adding he has complete confidence in Barchi.
Opponents of Hermann said she was not vetted properly. Some members of the selection committee said they had little or no say in the choice until they were informed that Hermann and Sean Frazier, the deputy athletic director at Wisconsin, were the finalists. Hermann had spent the previous 16 years as the No. 2 athletic administrator at Louisville.
The university’s board of governors has the right to replace Hermann, but the school would probably owe her $2.25 million based on her five-year, $450,000 contract.
Hermann was chosen May 15 as the Scarlet Knights’ first female athletic director.
Rutgers’ problems started in December when Rice was suspended three games and fined $75,000 by the school after a video of his conduct at practices was given to Pernetti by Eric Murdock, a former assistant coach.
The video showed numerous clips of Rice firing basketballs at players, hitting them in the back, legs, feet and shoulders. It also showed him grabbing players by their jerseys and yanking them around the court. Rice can be heard yelling obscenities and using anti-gay slurs.
The controversy went public in April when ESPN aired the videos and Barchi admitted he didn’t view them in the fall. Rice was fired and Pernetti, assistant coach Jimmy Martelli and interim senior vice president and university counsel John Wolf resigned.