Let me start by saying I am a proud New Jerseyan. I love my state and couldn’t imagine growing up anywhere else. New Jersey has long been a national punch line and has received much criticism over the years due to their politics and corruption. They have a large image problem as most people nationally perceive us as basically all Tommy Devitos from Goodfellas. That image was unfortunately only reinforced by the very popular Jersey Shore program, which is a misnomer considering only a couple people from the cast were actually from Jersey. Still, I love the people here and all my state has to offer. New Jersey is so diverse geographically and one of very few states where you can go from mountains to the beach in about an hour.
New Jersey is facing another image problem and that is all the negative attention Rutgers University has been getting. Rutgers is making the state of New Jersey look bad and people need to be held accountable for their actions. This all started when a video surfaced of ex Rutgers basketball head coach Mike Rice berating and abusing players on his team. He was eventually let go as well as the athletic director, Tim Pernetti. But there has been a significant amount of debate over whether or not university president Robert Barchi should get fired. To say he only saw the video of the abuse when the rest of the nation did sounds a little sketchy and is a bad way to start his tenure at Rutgers considering the abuse took place within his first couple months. They also hired former Rutgers player Eddie Jordan as the new head basketball coach, but then a minor stir was created when reports came out that he never actually graduated from there after it was reported for years that he did.
A third new controversy is coming out now and that is the reports about new athletic director Julie Hermann’s past. She is accused by former players of basically doing what Mike Rice did, berating her players mentally and calling them things such as “whores, alcoholics and learning disabled.” All 15 players signed a letter which admitted this and indicted her. Think about that. The entire team came forward with a problem with her and they had absolutely nothing to gain from it. Even some of Mike Rice’s old players he coached at Robert Morris defended him.
Other criticism has since followed such as her firing a pregnant volleyball coach and more recently another story came out about how Hermann was involved in a discrimination suit at Louisville. Mary Banker, a former assistant men’s and women’s track coach, filed against the University of Louisville Athletic Association, saying she was let go in 2008 after she brought allegations of sex and gender discrimination to Hermann and then human resources. Hermann was the executive senior associate athletic director for Louisville at the time. Hermann testified at the 2010 trial and a jury awarded Banker $300,000 for mental and emotional distress. But the university appealed and the Kentucky Court of Appeals overturned the verdict in February. The case is now headed to the Kentucky Supreme Court where they’ll decide if the Court of Appeals decision stands or not.
There are a few questions in all of this which have to be asked. Based on the information that has come out, it sounds like Hermann did exactly what Mike Rice was fired for. Where is the consistency? If Rice was fired for cause, she should be too. Women have fought hard to be treated equal to men and have made some headway over the years but if she is kept on, it is doing a disservice to women because she is not being treated like men are. Men would be fired for doing what she did. And frankly, I’m not so sure she didn’t get the job to begin with because she was female. Rutgers wanted a change from the old boys network so they went the politically correct route. One they knew themselves would make a lot of noise because she is a woman, one of the few in major Division I Sports and it looks like they got burned by their decision. Even if she is not let go, her every move will be watched and she’ll be viewed carefully.
Another big question in this are university’s hiring practices. The fact that the Newark Star Ledger was able to uncover a lot of information about Hermann’s past and did the proper research and journalism to accompany it should be praised. But how did Rutgers not know some things about Hermann’s past? They paid 70,000 for a background check which didn’t mean a damn thing! Nice waste of money there. Rutgers graduate from 1967 and a member of the Board of Trustees Robert Garutti said “Quite frankly, we didn’t have the chance to ask about it” regarding Hermann firing the volleyball coach for being pregnant. They didn’t have the chance? Then don’t be so quick to hire.
A division I athletic director has a very important job of overseeing all the sports in a particular school. Especially a state run university like Rutgers, there is a lot of money involved. Rutgers move to the Big Ten could prove very lucrative for them in the long run and they owe that to Tim Pernetti. A big problem with Rutgers that I think has created some divisiveness amongst people who run the university is over the last 10-15 years, ever since they started to see the football program getting better, Rutgers has decided to get greedy and try to run with the big dogs in college football, a battle that ultimately will prove futile. As much as I’d like to see it, they’ll never have the facilities or means to beat a team like Alabama in a national title game. And the bottom line is, Rutgers is one of the older academic institutions in the United States. They have been fine for more than 250 years being like that. They have never been known as an athletic school and there is nothing wrong with that. Some schools are and some schools aren’t. But Rutgers beats many SEC schools in the classroom. I can guarantee you that.
This is all part of a bigger problem in college sports. It has all become about winning and money even if your ethics and values are compromised. It’s only about TV contracts and being showcased now, which ultimately might perhaps be a bigger commentary on American society, where we place more value on athletes and other celebrities than people who are actual heroes and people to look up to.
I know money is important and to have it is nice, in order to have better salaries, nicer facilities, and more, but it should never come down to sacrificing your ethics for it. People in charge need to realize that. The fact many boys were allowed to be sexually abused at Penn State to protect the brand that is their football team is an utter disgrace and unforgivable. On a side note, the amount of arrogance college administrators have is unbelievable too. The fact that Robert Barchi is trying to say he didn’t know about it and trying to divert his responsibility from it is absurd. Take accountability! Same with Graham Spanier at Penn State. To keep diverting the blame and acting like you had no idea what was going on the whole time especially in the case of Penn State is a joke. And then to act like you did nothing wrong and had no place in it is even more ridiculous. Spanier should be in jail. He has helped sullen the name of Penn State University for at least a couple generations. When you hear Penn State for a long time to come, the first thing that will come to mind is the abuse committed by Jerry Sandusky. The Penn State incident really opened the eyes to how dirty college athletics really are and there is a lot behind the scenes going on that fans don’t know and sadly don’t care about either, as long as their team wins.
Would Mike Rice have been fired if he won the Big East Championship or a National Title? Honestly ask yourselves that question. I don’t think so. Winning solves everything even if they were wrong to begin with. Problems go away when you win, but people’s real character shows in times of hardship.
The ball is in Rutgers court now. They have to do something. Barchi should’ve been dismissed along with Pernetti and Rice and Hermann did the same thing Rice did, so she should be let go too. You can’t allow this double standard to exist. If you are a female or male athletic director, it shouldn’t matter. At the end of the day, you’re an athletic director. You’re meant to nurture and develop the student athlete. Hermann clearly didn’t do that based on the reports. Be consistent. Rutgers is in dark times. I’m tired of our state university making the rest of the state look bad, as if our image wasn’t already bad enough. Stop with the lies and ineptitude. Do what is right before this just continues to go in a downward spiral. Rutgers keeps making bad decision after bad decision and things better change fast. You’re not a private institution. Start acting in the best interest of the people of New Jersey.