Newly minted Rutgers athletic director Julie Hermann, hired in the wake of the Mike Rice player abuse scandal, was herself accused of abusing players as a volleyball coach in the mid-90s, according to a report from The Star-Ledger released late Saturday. Players on Hermann's Tennessee Volunteers 1996 volleyball team wrote a letter to administrators describing the "mental cruelty" exhibited by Hermann:
"The mental cruelty that we as a team have suffered is unbearable," the players wrote. Specifically, they said the coach had called them "whores, alcoholics and learning disabled."
In blunt terms, the players wrote, "It has been unanimously decided that this is an irreconcilable issue."
Hermann, the players say, absorbed the words, turned to her team, and said simply: "I choose not to coach you guys."
Players on that team reported that Hermann forced the team to wear their warmup clothes inside out in public after a loss to Kentucky, frequently pulled players by their jerseys while making substitutions, and, according to one player, punctuated an insult "with a backhand to my gut."
Hermann was "flabbergasted" by her former players' allegations:
Hermann says she is mystified by the reaction of her former players, including several, she said, who had stayed in touch with her over the years.
"I never heard any of this, never name-calling them or anything like that whatsoever."
The Star-Ledger also investigated a lawsuit filed by former assistant coach Ginger Hineline against Tennessee, alleging Hermann fired her because she and her husband had a child. Hermann had been a bridesmaid at Hineline's wedding, and a clip from Hineline's wedding video shows Hermann cautioning Hineline about having a child:
"I hope it's good tonight," she says into the camera. "Because I know you've been waiting for a while, but I hope it's not too good, because I don't want you to come back February with any surprises, you know, the office and all, and it would be hard to have a baby in there."
Hermann has maintained that Hineline's termination was for performance and had been determined before Hineline notified her of her pregnancy, but a jury awarded Hineline a $150,000 verdict in the case. The case had been raised during Hermann's introductory press conference, but Hermann denied the existence of the video and said she did not remember being a part of the wedding. Hermann later told Wolf that she was being a "smart aleck" about the potential pregnancy in the video.
Rutgers announced Hermann's hiring on May 15. She replaced Tim Pernetti, who resigned amid allegations of abuse by head basketball coach Mike Rice.