After weeks of waiting, new Rutgers AD says virtually nothing

Posted by Ronn / on 06/19/2013 / 0 Comments

New Rutgers athletic director Julie Hermann stood in front of the Hale Center yesterday, a pit bull dressed in a matching black and white sweater set and black pencil skirt.

This was Hermann's first public appearance since her introductory news conference on May 15; her first chance since the maelstrom of news reports that have called into question her hiring, and the process by which she was selected, to go eye-to-eye with the public and do some real damage control.

Hermann did no such thing.

She went on the attack, declaring herself uniquely qualified for this job, asserting she will take her office on June 17, skeletons in her closet be damned.

"I'll deal with a national embarrassment,'' she said.

This is what Hermann, and the crisis management firm Rutgers has hired, has failed to grasp. The events of the past three weeks have been more embarrassing to Rutgers than to Hermann.

By virtue of the evasive or contradictory answers she gave to the 10 questions she faced

(17 including followups), Hermann is determined to bury the controversy like a dog buries a bone.

Crisis management experts say it won't work.

"Let me give you one of the biggest sports scandals over the last five years - Tiger Woods,'' said Ronn Torossian, president and CEO of 5WPR, a leading, New York-base PR agency with expertise in crisis management.

"You know what Tiger Woods did, he cheated on his wife. If on Day 1 Tiger had given the press conference or interview that he gave on Day 90, that would have been a two- or three-day story.

"You cannot run from these things. You can't hide from these things.''

Which is exactly what Hermann - on the advice of Hill+Knowlton Strategies, the crisis management firm hired by Rutgers which orchestrated yesterday's yard sale of a press conference - tried to do.

Including a rambling introductory statement (in which Hermann lauded the Big Ten for adding Johns Hopkins in lacrosse?!) Hermann spoke for 13 minutes and 30 seconds.

The hurting Rutgers community, which has been yearning for answers for three weeks, was told it is worth less than 15 minutes.

Whatever closure was beginning to take place in the past few days while she and Rutgers battened down the hatches, was blown open.

Hermann initially said she did not remember a meeting with her Tennessee women's volleyball players in 1997, the one in which she was presented with a letter that stated she verbally abused them by calling them "whores, alcoholics and learning disabled."

Yesterday, after again denying using those words, despite writings by two former players claiming she did, Hermann trumpeted the '97 incident as one of the formative experiences of her life.

"That lesson 17 years ago is honestly why I felt I was uniquely qualified, because I'd been a student athlete, been an assistant coach, been a head coach and now been an administrator,'' she said.

"I've been in every spot that exists in an athletic department and I understand the challenges, and I've been successful at them and I've had a failure at them, and that failure was important.''

She didn't do Rutgers any favorites either. She said the Rutgers University search committee did not ask her about the two lawsuits in her past. Was it a search done with blindfolds and ear plugs?

She said Parker Executive Search knew of the pregnancy discrimination lawsuit at Tennessee, which resulted in a $150,000 judgment against Hermann and the school, and the still unsettled gender discrimination suit at Louisville, but she didn't say if she disclosed that information on her vetting forms.

Yet she had the gall to say, "I feel that I'm completely an open book about all my past experiences.''

As long as that book can be digested in 13 minutes and 30 seconds.



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