It's a brand new day! According to Keith Sargeant, a source has said President Barchi and the university have parted ways with athletic director Julie Hermann, just a little over two years since her tenure began. Head football coach Kyle Flood has reportedly been fired as well. Hermann came to Rutgers under a cloud of controversy, created new ones while on the banks, and spent the past few months vanquished from the public stage by Barchi. The signs were there all along that Hermann was not the right person to be the athletic director and after much speculation, Barchi made the decision to move on.
It's never a positive when someone starts their new job labeled as "embattled" from day one. That is exactly how Hermann started her days at Rutgers, due to her past history that was quickly brought out into public view. Allegations that she verbally abused her players while serving as the Tennessee volleyball head coach started the firestorm. Then it came out Hermann was part of a sexual discrimination lawsuit at Louisville, when she was the assistant athletic director. The university ultimately lost that court decision. The search committee that selected Hermann immediately were criticized for not properly vetting Hermann, and rightfully so. A university that so needed closure from the Mike Rice scandal and the opportunity to heal, had the scab ripped off and doused with alcohol with Hermann's hiring.
Hermann continued to create controversy while at Rutgers, making misstep after misstep, until Barchi had no choice but to silence her while still on the job. There was the infamous classroom appearance when she said she hoped the Star-Ledger went out of business. There was her acknowledgement and reversal that she must not have actually spoken to someone from the Tyree family, during allegations that former defensive coordinator Dave Cohen abused their son Jevon. This came days after insisting she had spoken to the father, until the family called her bluff and insisted she release phone records of her alleged calls to them. There was the allegation she made an inappropriate joke at a fundraising meeting, referencing former Penn State coach and convicted child molester Jerry Sandusky. Ultimately, all of these missteps and potentially any other behind the scenes we are unaware of, led to her taking a major step back from the public view.
The most important position of the athletic department at Rutgers, a major public university transitioning into the Big Ten conference, was being led by someone with a checkered past who could not prevent herself from igniting controversy whenever she spoke. That is why when the university unveiled their suspension for head coach Kyle Flood earlier this fall, it was Barchi who spoke publicly about the decision and not Hermann. You cannot have the face of the athletic department, someone with the responsibility to rally donors and raise money for the department, be unable to speak publicly. It has been a major problem and one that President Barchi finally rectified today.
Hermann did make some positive contributions, including releasing a facilities plan, starting the groundbreaking for the baseball/softball facility, and institute RCare for our student-athletes. Fundraising has improved under her watch, although Rutgers entry to the Big Ten and the efforts of Sarah Baumgartner, senior associate athletic director, were the biggest factors.
Now that a change has been made, the entire Rutgers community will finally have a second chance at healing from past mistakes and revel in the prospects of a brighter future. President Barchi made the correct first step in firing Hermann, but he must see this entire process through. No more 20+ person search committees or a long, drawn out process. Barchi and board of governors must act swiftly in identifying the correct person to lead the university's athletic department. It seems Barchi finally came to the realization part of his legacy was on the line, and he had no choice but to act. The hiring of the new athletic director, if done correctly, could enhance his legacy even more. In addition to the positive contributions Barchi has made with the medical school merger, he could set up Rutgers to flourish in the future athletically with the right hire.
Eddie Vedder wrote " change don't come at once, it's a wave building before it breaks." The wave has finally broken, and change is coming. President Barchi and the BOG need to ensure that the change that is coming within the athletic department is the right one, once and for all!