Report: Rutgers Athletic Director Made Sandusky Joke In Staff Meeting
At the athletic department’s annual meeting in High Point Solutions Stadium, Hermann addressed more than 100 Rutgers staff members and stated her vision for the upcoming school year. Employees present at the meeting, speaking under the condition of anonymity, said Hermann was talking about “reaching out and touching the donors” of the program and her joke was to not do it “in a Sandusky way.”
“I know there were two or three of us that looked at each other, and I said, ‘You gotta be kidding going down that road,'” one employee said. “Comparing relationships with donors or with people in organizations that we want to drum up and get money from in that relationship and saying we have to get close to them and touch them? And she goes ‘not like Sandusky.'”
When pressed about why members of the athletic department suddenly decided to make Hermann’s remarks public, one employee told NJ.com it was “hypocritical” for the athletic director “to come out on your high horse and apologize for their behavior” after making inappropriate comments of her own.
Hermann issued an apology on Monday to Penn State AD Sandy Barbour on behalf of the university following the revelation of pictures of Rutgers fans wearing “Ped State” shirts that surfaced on the team’s official Facebook page.
The Sandusky joke represents another misstep for the new Rutgers AD. Hermann was hired on May 15, 2013, to succeed Tom Pernetti, who was fired after mishandling a bullying scandal involving men’s basketball coach Mike Rice. The same month, the Newark Star-Ledger reported that in 1996, when Hermann was a volleyball coach at University of Tennessee, players accused her of bullying them, calling them “whores, alcoholics and learning disabled.” Hermann said she had no recollection of the charges.
A lawsuit in 1997 alleged that Hermann, who was a head volleyball coach at Tennessee at that time, discouraged an assistant coach from getting pregnant. The coach, Ginger Hineline, won $150,000 in the suit against the school.
As recently as November 2013, former Rutgers football player Jevon Tyree alleged he was bullied by defensive coordinator Dave Cohen. A Rutgers statement said Hermann had spoken with Tyree’s father twice and settled the matter, but Tyree’s parents say they tried to meet with Hermann but she never returned messages. Hermann claimed she spoke with a man posing as Tyree’s father, a story a local minister said is not believable by “a reasonable person.”
Hermann could not be reached for comment in the article, but Pete McDonagh, senior vice president of external affairs at Rutgers, said “Julie’s comment was an off the cuff response to a give-and-take interaction urging the fundraising team to reach out and touch the donors. There probably isn’t a person alive today who hasn’t made an impromptu remark in a private meeting that probably shouldn’t have been said. Even taken out of context, this single comment was not directed at Penn State, its students, staff or faculty.”