Julie Hermann, the latest athletic director at beleaguered Rutgers University, may have a dark past of her own.
According to Craig Wolff of The Star-Ledger, Hermann “ruled through humiliation, fear and emotional abuse” during her tenure as head coach of the University of Tennessee women’s volleyball program.
Hermann's methods were apparently grating enough to cause all 15 players on the Lady Vols team to write a letter, alleging that (per Wolff): “The mental cruelty that we as a team have suffered is unbearable” and that the coach demeaned them as: "whores, alcoholics and learning disabled."
After receiving the letter—which concluded with a statement regarding the players' unanimous decision to call the issues irreconcilable and supposedly had support from the AD—Hermann resigned and went on to work as an assistant AD at the University of Louisville.
She had held that position for the past 16 years, until Rutgers came calling.
Hermann has denied these allegations per Craig Wolff of The Star-Ledger.
Hermann said she never called players "whores" and she is unsure why her turmoil with the team in the 1990s is coming up now.
"I don't know what their motivation is 17 years later," Hermann said, answering questions from four reporters in the 10-minute conference call.
"Am I an intense coach? I'm absolutely an intense coach as many coaches are. But there is a big canyon between being super-intense and abuse. And this was not an abusive environment for these women," Hermann said.
Hermann also told ESPN's Brett McMurphy that her job is safe despite the allegations against her.
Rutgers also released a statement in support of Hermann on the school's website.
Julie Hermann’s appointment as the next director of intercollegiate athletics at Rutgers University followed a rigorous and consultative selection process to ensure we had the best person for the position. We look forward to her joining Rutgers and leading the university through the coming transition into the Big Ten.
Julie was one of 63 individuals initially considered by the search committee and she swiftly stood out as a leading candidate. She ultimately emerged from a vetting process that involved multiple stakeholders from across the university and leaders in the sports community around the country. The search was coordinated by an experienced executive search firm and included a thorough background check conducted by one of the world’s leading private security firms.
Rutgers was deliberative at every stage of this process. Over the course of the search, Julie's record established her as a proven leader in athletics administration with a strong commitment to academic success as well as athletic excellence, and a strong commitment to the well-being of student athletes. Since the announcement of her selection, some media reports have focused on complaints about aspects of her early career. Looking at Julie’s entire record of accomplishment, which is stellar, we remain confident that we have selected an individual who will work in the best interests of all of our student athletes, our athletics teams and the university.
In the wake of the Mike Rice scandal that shook RU basketball and athletics to the core, the university hired Hermann to help repair its tarnished image.
Rice was shown on tape throwing basketballs at his players and abusing them both physically and verbally, which cost him his job. The incident also caused former AD Tim Pernetti to resign and other figures on campus to leave their posts.
As per Wolff, Hermann made her players wear their workout clothes inside out in public, barred them from showering or eating and attempted to turn them against one another via gossip and other demeaning tactics.
Hermann denies the allegations, replying to The Star-Ledger with a simple, “Wow,” after the letter was read to her via phone.
She went on to say, "I never heard any of this, never name-calling them or anything like that whatsoever…None of this is familiar to me."
The 49-year-old AD hasn’t even assumed full duties for her new job yet, as she’s expected to take over at Rutgers on June 17.
It remains to be seen what the school has to say and what its plan of action will be concerning these latest claims about Hermann’s past.