Sports Commentary 5/28/13
Coaches Deserve as much forgiveness as terrorists –
COACHES DESERVE AS MUCH FORGIVENESS AS TERRORISTS
After taking the pulse of the situation it appears I’m about to join the minority in my opinion of the situation surrounding the hiring of Julie Hermann as the athletic director at Rutgers, where sensitivity to certain matters was a necessity in naming a successor to Tim Pernetti, who was fired following the firing of head men’s basketball coach Mike Rice over physical and verbal abuse of players. An investigation into Hermann’s past uncovered an unfortunate circumstance. 17 years ago Hermann was accused of similar actions to those that cost Rice his job, when she was the women’s volleyball coach at the University of Tennessee. 11 players under Hermann on the 1996 Tennessee volleyball team penned a letter in which they accused Hermann of referring to them at various times as “Whores”, “Alcoholics” and “Learning disabled”. Hermann does not deny the allegations, admitting she was an intense coach, but she says she was not aware of the letter and that she never used the word “Whore”, saying, “That’s not part of my vocabulary.” One former assistant coach at Tennessee has backed the players version of the story, but another has called the allegations, “Crazy”. With her own admission that she was intense, Hermann added, “You can’t be in this profession and not be learning from your mistakes all the time. Because we make them are there things you’d do differently? For sure”, but she denies ever crossing the line to inappropriate behavior. The issue has gone political in New Jersey, where Rutgers is the state university, at least one Democratic gubernatorial hopeful attempting to force the hand of Governor Chris Christie, calling not only for the dismissal of Hermann, but for the firing of university president Robert Barchi, who fired both Rice and Pernetti and hired Hermann. State senator Barbara Buono, who’s running for the Democratic nomination, charged, “President Barchi has made mistake after mistake. We need to put an end to this crisis.” To his credit, Christie, who’s been no stranger to controversy the last six months, refused to be drawn into a political debate until he’s had more time to investigate the matter. The story of the incident at Tennessee was first brought to public attention by the Newark Star Ledger, which investigated Hermann’s past and, in my mind, it leads to this question. After leaving Tennessee Hermann became the assistant athletic director at Louisville, where staffers are unaninmous in their support of her, and an investigation into her past in both positions turns up just this one incident, from 17 years ago? I find it interesting that in a society in which we are willing to look beyond far more heinous acts committed by tenured college professors in their pasts, and offer them foregiveness, that we aren’t as willing to credit a young coach with growing past mistakes made 17 years earlier, particularly when she has demonstrated a new maturity and wisdom in the ensuing years. If the newspaper had uncovered a pattern of behavior rather than one incident that, apparently, was not repeated over the next 17 years, I’d have more of a problem with the Rutgers hiring. As I said, I seem to find myself in the minority for believing if we can forgive former domestic terrorists and offer them sanctuary in our university systems we can do at least the same for coaches who have outgrown the hotheaded intensity of their youth and learned valuable lessons along the way that they can now impart to others. With a comment from the sports world, I’m Scott Gray.