The latest “here we go again with a college wanting so badly to be a sports power having a problem” comes from New Brunswick, N.J. Apparently Rutgers’ new Athletic Director has a problem in her past.
According to the Newark Star-Ledger, Julie Hermann’s alleged behavior as the volleyball coach at the University of Tennessee (UT) in 1997 has not endeared her to her former players, and that could become yet another problem for Rutgers, a school that so desperately wants to be a college sports factory.
“The mental cruelty that we as a team have suffered is unbearable,” the UT team wrote of Hermann in the letter the Star-Ledger received and printed on Saturday. The 15-member team accused Hermann of calling them ““whores, alcoholics and learning disabled.”
Hermann doesn’t remember the letter, but did resign from her position as coach in 1997.
Again, the chain of command, which apparently failed to rein in Rutgers’ men’s basketball coach Mike Rice for abusive behavior, will be called to review the Star-Ledger’s report.
That means New Jersey Governor Chris Christie and Rutgers’ President Robert Barchi have to go through the same ritual dance they just did a few of months ago after a video surfaced of Rice hurling balls at basketball players and verbally abusing them.
The school fired Rice, and Athletic Director Tim Pernetti quit. Barchi survived and blamed others for not getting rid of Rice when allegations of abuse surfaced in 2012.
The Pernetti resignation had to be painful to all hoping that Rutgers would hit the big time, which was in the school’s case getting into the Big Ten Conference. Pernetti, a one-time TV executive, delivered as Rutgers was invited to join the major leagues — the Big Ten Conference.
Rutgers thought the Rice-Pernetti “scandal” was put to bed when Rice was fired and Pernetti resigned. The school hired Eddie Jordan, a former Rutgers player who went on to play and coach in the National Basketball Association (NBA), as a way of putting Rice in the past (along with other coaches who tarnished the Scarlet Knights brand), but the school made one mistake in packaging Jordan.
The school pushed that Jordan was a Rutgers graduate. Jordan never graduated Rutgers. That is a minor indiscretion, but an indiscretion nonetheless.
Rutgers won’t be the last school dreaming of the big time to get caught with ethics problems. It’s just the latest school and the latest incidence of big-time college malfeasance.
It has been a brutal year for “student-athlete” entertainment.
Penn State apparently knew something was amiss with defensive coach Jerry Sandusky for years and did nothing. But, in the world of college sports, Penn State was punished by the National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA). Eventually, the crimes that Sandusky committed against minors will be forgotten and people bowing at the altar of college football in State College, Pennsylvania will continue.
The whole college sports industry needs to be reviewed, starting at the top with the presidents, provosts, chancellors and trustees who are more preoccupied with getting money than the sanctity of the student-matelote. People look at the “student-athlete” and say “no one should feel sorry for them as they are getting a full scholarship and an education.” Neither is true.
The athletes are getting a substantial scholarship and chance at an education, but are told to be grateful for the opportunity. What is conveniently left out by scribes is the clamp on the ability to earn income outside of the university for part-time jobs.
What is left out is the scholarship is an annual, not a four-year deal, and can be revoked at any time.
What is left out is the very term “student-athlete” is a dodge so that schools don’t have to pay workman’s compensation if an athlete suffers a disabling injury while playing a sport.
What is left out is a coach can break a contract and go to another opportunity, but a scholarship-athlete cannot leave a school for another and play sports without sitting out a season.
What is left out is the tax-exemption status given to big-time programs by Congress and a limited antitrust exemption that allows conferences to bundle teams and sell the sports package as one to a television network.
But, the games go on and the public has a passive attitude towards both college and professional sports. There are some eyebrows raised when it is revealed that New Jersey’s highest-paid state employees are Rutgers head coaches in football, men’s basketball and women’s basketball.
The whole question of verbal, and in some cases physical abuse, by a state employee of athletes is never discussed. If a science professor pulled the stuff an average coach does in cursing, calling names and condemning, that science professor would be dismissed at the first reported incidence. That doesn’t happen in big-time sports.
The question that is never asked is whether a coach is an educator? The answer is, of course not. A coach is brought in to win games, bring spirit to a school and broaden the brand name.
There is never an “at what cost” discussion. Passionate fans don’t care and the non-sports public doesn’t pay attention. Only on a once-in-a-while occasion, a newspaper will report unpleasant facts and realities or a video will surface.
Rutgers, again, will fade away unless the school’s sports teams aren’t up to snuff. Winning in the Big Ten is paramount. Winning is the only thing.
Evan Weiner can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org . His e-book, “The Business and Politics of Sports, Second Edition” is available at www.bickley.comand Amazon.com and his e-books, America’s Passion: How a Coal Miner’s Game Became the NFL in the 20th Century, From Peach Baskets to Dance Halls and the Not-so-Stern NBA and the reissue of the 2005 book, The Business and Politics of Sports are available at www.smashwords.com, iTunes, nook, versent books, kobo, Sony reader and Diesel.