"I want every Scarlet Knight to have what he or she needs to compete at the highest level."
--Julie Hermann, Rutgers Magazine Interview
It's a nice sentiment and the right one. I believe Julie Hermann really believes these words, and truly wants to work to get there. But it's a statement the Rutgers Athletic Director hasn't been living up to. At least not since she spoke to a Journalism and Ethics class back in February.
Instead, whether you-as a fan-believe it or not, these quotes may be hidering the department. Hermann's comments, intentionally or not, alienated former Rutgers football players, the highest visible group of athletes the department has. And there are some fans out there that thinks this is a good idea.
Or, they trotted out the tired and true statement that this--like everything else that happens negatively to Rutgers--is a "non-story."
Maybe her quotes, on their own, would be a non-story. But these comments haven't happened in a vacuum. Instead, from the moment she swore there was no tape, up until the Journalism class incident, Hermann has been a walking controversial quote machine.
In fact, throughout the entire hour and fifteen minute class, Hermann talked openly about the Jevon Tyree case (after speaking for a while about FERPA), said ESPN wanted Tim Pernetti to be fired and fired the shot about former football players. While some fans may have been spouting off about these things for quite some time under screen names and in comments sections, they are not something the person in charge of the biggest Athletic Department in the state should be saying.
It's not the way to do things. It's not "telling it like it is." Controversies like this, which may or may not be true, should be dealt with behind the scenes.
But there are fans, a vocal group on social media, who are lapping this up. Who believe that this is the right way to do things--that Hermann should take a message board approach and attack her "attackers." They've now turned on the former football players, the ones who put Rutgers in a position to succeed. They believe that Hermann is doing the right thing.
Meanwhile, the media is tearing her a new one. People around the country appear to see her as an embarrassment.
Blame the media, right?
It's not what she said. It's that what she said was reported.
Sorry, guys. News must be reported, good or bad.
Because if the Star Ledger or Gannett News or ESPN went away, who would be there to report the good news when it came? Newspapers are not there to be an organization's friend.
But skilled people can use the press to their advantage. This is Julie Hermann's challenge, and a huge hill she now has to climb. She needs to get the media on her side, and she needs to recruit donors--NFL players or not--to actually donate.
But she shouldn't talk about it publicly. By not working behind the scenes to fix what she perceives as a problem with former players, she's angering and upsetting those people--the ones she needs to help the department. She's alienating the players who brought the team the success it needed to make the transition to the Big Ten. And by saying what she said, she's forced Kyle Flood into the unfortunate position of either protecting his boss or his former players.
All the guys I know are younger guys in the grand scheme of things. Maybe 10-20 years from now, you'll look back and say, 'Oh, guys are giving back.' But a guy in his 20s and 30s – I think that's not just athletes, I think that's most alumni – you don't see too many 20- and 30-year-olds (donating). I just think sometimes we have to stand together as a university instead of kind of tearing each other down. That's not productive and it's from an athletic director.
And it's a shame, because when you listen to the entire tape of the class, it's clear Julie Hermann has some great ideas to improve Rutgers athletics. She truly cares about the student athlete, and she does want what's best for them. But her words often limit her ideas.
Fans may want to support her through thick and thin.
But the people who matter, the people who create the image of Rutgers--aka the media, former players and maybe even the donors--are turning away.
Without them, Julie's vision can't be truly unleashed. She won't be able to give this department what it needs. And it appears, it truly appears, she has a great vision. She might be the right person for this department.
And the fans supporting her "tell it like is" words, are hindering her even more.