Rutgers University is standing behind their new athletic director despite reports that she was abusive towards student athletes during her time as head women's volleyball coach at the University of Tennessee 16 years ago.
"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," Rutgers University president Robert Barchi said in a release Monday.
The release came after a report in the Newark Star-Ledger Saturday that Hermann "ruled through humiliation, fear and emotional abuse" during her tenure at Tennessee, with players claiming she referred to them as "whores, alcoholics and learning disabled." Hermann resigned from the position after meeting with her players and top athletic officials.
In an interview with the Star-Ledger Monday, Hermann denied the allegations.
"It's absolutely not true that I referred to them with any name calling like that," Hermann told the newspaper. "That's not part of my vocabulary. Am I an intense coach? Absolutely, as many coaches are. There's a big canyon between being super intense and abuse."
"Since the announcement of her selection, some media reports have focused on complaints about aspects of her early career," Barchi said in the release. "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."
Hermann was hired May 15 to replace former AD Tim Pernetti, who was dismissed earlier this year after a number of basketball officials, including then-head coach Mike Rice, were fired. Rice and his staff were let go after a videotape surfaced of Rice hitting, kicking and shouting gay epithets at players. She is scheduled to assume her new duties on June 17.
Hermann told ESPN Monday that Barchi assured her she would not be losing her job.
"It's been communicated to me that I'm the athletic director and will lead Rutgers into the Big Ten," Hermann told the sports network.
The abuse allegations have drawn the ire of New Jersey lawmakers, who want to see Hermann and Barchi dismissed from their positions and Pernetti reinstated.
New Jersey state senator Ray J. Lesniak told the New York Post, "The initial mistake was made getting rid of [Pernetti] in the first place. They made him a scapegoat for following university procedure, which was inadequate for dealing with human [failures] not legal" ones.
Another state senator, Richard Codey, likened the entire fiasco to "Comedy Central."
"It's an embarrassment to the students and alumni of a great university and it's time Mr. Barchi takes his show on the road," Codey told the Post.
A spokesman for New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie told the Associated Press that the governor will meet with Rutgers leadership to discuss the matter before making a public comment.
"He's not going to make any judgments at this time," Christie spokesman Michael Drewniak told the AP Sunday.
The athletic scandals come at a crossroads for Rutgers' sports programs, as the school is scheduled to join the Big Ten Conference in 2014. Earlier this year in an interview with the Star-Ledger, Barchi said moving the athletic program onto a bigger public stage is a "sword that cuts both ways." The school had been a member of what was the original Big East conference, but that conference has since disbanded, with schools leaving for different conferences or forming completely new ones.
"It can be very valuable in having our brand out there in a couple million homes every weekend, but also, if things go wrong, it's extremely visible," Barchi told the newspaper.