Blake Baxter - Eureka College

There is a shadow hanging over both college and professional football. As more evidence emerges about the serious long-term health risks of concussions, the safety of the game and the ethical implications of the game are increasingly being called into question. The controversy over the dangers of head injuries, currently raging at the professional level, could doom college football as well.

Rarely in history, if ever, has there been as big of a contradiction as the National Football League. The NFL is far and away the most popular sport in the country, and yet is constantly under fire. This phenomenon was captured perfectly in PBS Frontline’s documentary League of Denial, which aired last week after fifteen months of research and weeks of anticipation. The documentary has gotten a lot of attention. However, this is primarily due to an entity not officially affiliated with the project: The World Wide Leader in Sports, ESPN.

Originally, the documentary was a star-studded collaboration between the prestigious Frontline team and two of ESPN’s top investigative reporters. Brothers Steve Fainaru and Mark Fainaru-Wada are both highly respected and accomplished journalists – Steve won a Pulitzer Prize for International Reporting for his work during the Iraq War, while Mark is known for breaking the Barry Bonds/BALCO scandal.  (In addition, they wrote a book that is also titled League of Denial.) However, two months before the documentary aired ESPN mysteriously and – some would say suspiciously – pulled their names from the project.

Many speculated that it was because the documentary was highly critical of the NFL and they didn’t want to anger their lucrative business partner. Never mind the implications of compromising journalistic ethics; ESPN couldn’t afford to bite the hand that feeds.. ESPN vehemently denied anything of the sort. ESPN President John Skipper made the decision after seeing the trailer and feeling that it was “sensational.” The highly publicized split was a PR mess for ESPN, but, for PBS, it gave the project an unexpected boost. Suddenly, a group of people that probably wouldn’t have thought to tune into PBS were not only aware of the program, they were actively waiting for it. If League of Denial succeeded in scaring ESPN away from the project when it was that close to its end, then it must be fairly controversial and, more significantly, very damaging to the network’s golden goose.

So, just how damaging is it? It’s devastating, without a doubt. However, that is not to say that it was all that surprising or groundbreaking. The dangers of concussions and the risk of chronic traumatic encephalopathy (CTE) in football have been well documented. The NFL’s resistance to confirm the claims that there is a direct link between football and life debilitating diseases like CTE has also been quite public. Less widely known are the great lengths that the league went to to avoid dealing with the concussion crisis. League of Denial sheds light on the truth that the league has worked so hard to keep covered. And the truth is painful.

The documentary begins with hardnosed Hall of Fame center Mike Webster. During the seventies and the eighties, Webster was a force for the Pittsburgh Steelers, a team widely regarded as one of the toughest in football. Webster retired in 1990 with nine Pro Bowl selections and four Super Bowl championships. It was a glorious career that was followed by a harrowing epilogue. It lasted until he died in 2002 at the age of 50. In his post-playing life, Webster was tormented by depression and dementia. His struggles tore his family apart and left him homeless. After his death, neuropathologist Dr. Bennet Omalu examined his brain and diagnosed him with CTE. Webster was the first football player to ever be diagnosed with the brain disease.

By this point, the NFL was well aware that concussions were a problem. Then-commissioner of the league Paul Tagliabue created The Mild Traumatic Brain Injury committee way back in 1994. Notable players like Steve Young and Troy Aikman had suffered career-ending concussions. The media and the general public knew of the issue, too, but Tagliabue dismissed their concerns and said that their claims were a product of “pack journalism.” Dr. Omalu continued conducting research on the effects of the big hits that the NFL and its partners routinely glorified in stylized highlight packages. He published his research and found that the NFL was not only denying his claims, but also actively attempting to discredit him as a neuropathologist. Omalu, who is not a football fan, did not fully understand the implications of his findings. However, an NFL doctor memorably put it into perspective for him. “Bennett, do you know the implications of what you’re doing? If ten percent of mothers in this country would begin to perceive football as a dangerous sport, that is the end of football,” he said.

Other neuropathologists such as Ann McKee of Boston University have raised alarms as well. McKee has become the leading authority on brain injuries, particularly in football. Like Omalu before her, her findings have been contemptuously disputed by the NFL. She is responsible for one of the quotes that got under the skin of ESPN’s John Skipper. “I’m really wondering where this stops,” she told the Fainarus. “I’m really wondering if every single football player doesn’t have this.” Some have asserted that McKee doesn’t have a big enough sample size to say things like that. But the fact that she has diagnosed CTE in the brains of 45 out of the 46 football players that she has examined is pretty alarming. That she found it in an eighteen-year old high school player is even worse. The program is also packed with heartbreaking anecdotes from friends, widows, sons and daughters of NFL players that suffered greatly before dying too young – and, tragically, sometimes by their own hand.

The end of League of Denial focuses on the recent lawsuit between 4,500 former players and the NFL over concussions and other health issues that were the result of playing football in the league. However, a large chunk of the plaintiffs were going to be cut out of the deal because it couldn’t be determined that their injuries were caused by playing in the NFL, as opposed to occurring in college or high school. As a result, the NFL settled with the former players for $765 million. It sounds like a lot of money, but it’s a drop in the bucket for an industry that netted $9.5 billion in revenue last year. Although many saw it as an insult to the struggling and debilitated ex-players, some took it as a moral victory, and a sign that the truth was finally being exposed. “The human body was not created or built to play football,” former Giants linebacker Harry Carson said,  “I think the NFL has given everybody 765 million reasons why you don’t want to play football.”

The quote might be a little bit over-dramatic, but Carson definitely has a point. If research continues to suggest that playing football is likely to cause brain damage, then less and less parents are going to let their kids play the game. The NFL, college football, high school and youth football—it all looks invincible right now. But the truth is football is America is a lot more vulnerable than most people realize. The league, and the general public, for that matter, can’t keep denying forever.

Football is big business–both at the professional and college level. It may be hard to imagine such a lucrative and popular enterprise ever disappearing. But what if former college players start winning hundred million dollar lawsuits against universities? How long then until colleges would be forced to shut their football programs down? We may soon find out.

So, if you’re a football fan and you aren’t troubled by the ethical implications of each weekend’s biggest hits, it may be wise to fully soak in and appreciate the privilege of watching football while you can. League of Denial gives us good reason to believe it isn’t going to be around forever.

Blake Baxter is a graduate of Eureka College.

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Middle Tennessee State freshman and former Marine Steven Rhodes is finally living his dream of playing Division I NCAA football, but it was shockingly almost put on hold due to an arcane rule in the NCAA’s bylaws.

Rhodes, a native of Antioch, TN played football in high school, but was never nationally recruited. Upon graduating in 2006, he worked at a Nissan plant, while contemplating what he wanted to do with his life. He chose to serve his country by enlisting in the Marines.

In July, after serving for five years, Rhodes’ active enlistment ended and he began transitioning to the next phase of his life. The 24-year old husband and father of two had decided to not only get an education at Middle Tennessee State, but also to attempt to resume his football career. He had played sparingly since high school – just twelve games in a loosely organized recreational league while in the service. Still, Middle Tennessee found having a 6-3, 240 pound Marine sergeant as a walk-on to be an attractive prospect. Head coach Rick Stockstill eagerly welcomed him to the team after viewing a highlight video that Rhodes had made of his limited play in the recreational league.

Rhodes worked out and practiced with the Blue Raiders for three weeks leading up to the season, but two weeks before kickoff, the NCAA told him that he had to sit out a season before he could become eligible. In addition, after he was red-shirted for a season, he would have to forfeit two years of eligibility due to his participation in the marine recreational league. Both Rhodes and the university were blindsided by the ruling. The university appealed it, but it was only partially overturned. Although Rhodes was granted his other two years of eligibility, he was still forced to sit out a season.

For reasons that few understood, Rhodes was going to have to put his dream of playing Division I football on hold. How could this possibly be? The rule that prevented him from playing is NCAA bylaw Initially, in 1980, when it was instituted, the rule stated that student-athletes who do not enroll in college within a year of their high school graduation will be charged a year of eligibility for each academic year that they participate in organized competition. However, there was an exemption specifically designed for “participation in organized competition during times spent in the armed services, on official church missions or with recognized foreign aid services of the U.S. government.” Since then though, the NCAA rulebook has gone through many revisions and somehow the exemption fell through the cracks. It looked like Rhodes would have to pay for the NCAA’s careless mistake.

However, fortunately for Rhodes, his plight became a national story after The Murfreesboro (Tenn.) Daily News Journal reported the NCAA’s ruling. Columnists, politicians, pundits, veterans and football fans alike rallied behind Rhodes and the university. The story spread across the country by way of social media, talk radio and news stations. Arizona senator and Navy veteran John McCain tweeted, “NCAA should allow Steven Rhodes to play – don’t penalize him for serving his country.” U.S. Representative Scott DesJarlais wrote an open letter to embattled NCAA president Mark Emmert, advocating Rhodes’ cause.

“While I think we would both agree that this particular rule and clause therein was never intended to punish or deter our nation’s military personnel from having the opportunity to participate in NCAA sanctioned athletic events, that is exactly the scenario that is currently unfolding,” DesJarlais said of the ruling in his letter.

view“I respectfully ask that you take another look into Mr. Rhodes’ situation and make a determination that military “recreational leagues” are not considered organized competitions that should preclude Mr. Rhodes from having immediate eligibility. After all, Mr. Rhodes has given the sacrifice of service to his country, displaying not only leadership but all of the qualities that the NCAA wants its student-athletes to emulate and represent. Mr. Rhodes is seeking to be a “walk-on” athlete, paying for his own education and working to enhance his life both academically as well as athletically,” DesJarlias said, echoing the feelings of pretty much the entire country.

The full appeal process was supposed to take weeks. It was likely that Rhodes would, at minimum, miss multiple games this season, even if he was ruled to be eligible. But, on August 20, a little over 24 hours after the second appeal process began, the NCAA reversed its ruling and cleared Rhodes to play immediately. As a part of the announcement, NCAA vice president of academic and membership affairs Kevin Lennon stated, “As a part of the ongoing review of NCAA rules, our members will examine the organized competition rules, especially as it impacts those returning from military service. We thank Steven for his service to our country and wish him the best as he begins college.”

Even though the NCAA reversed the ruling, it was an embarrassing and very public debacle for an organization that is constantly under fire. Whether it is due to abuse of power, corruption or just plain incompetence, the NCAA can never seem to stay out of the headlines for long. This time, one of its oversights almost cost a veteran an opportunity that he clearly deserved. Fortunately, the rest of the country stood up for Steven Rhodes, in gratitude for his service.

Rhodes will suit up for his first game as an Middle Tennessee State Blue Raider tonight at 6:30pm in the team’s season opener against Western Carolina. Tonight, he will finally have the chance to live his dream.

Blake Baxter is a 2013 graduate of Eureka College.

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Image Source: (top), MTSU (right)

The Washington Redskins are less than two months away from kicking off the NFL season as a possible Super Bowl contender for the first time in more than a decade.

But in recent months, their on-field potential has been overshadowed by a longstanding nickname controversy. Many fans, the media and members of Congress continue to mount pressure on the storied franchise to change its name, calling “redskin” an offensive term.

The team’s owner, though, has vowed to never change the name and has maintained that it is a positive symbol of their culture.

In March, American Samoa representative Eni F. H. Faleomavaega introduced a bill that would abolish any trademarks that feature the term “redskin.” In May, Faleomavaega and nine other Congress members appealed in a letter to Redskins owner, Dan Snyder, to change the name on the grounds that it was derogatory, offensive and damaging to Native American youths.

“Native Americans throughout the country consider the ‘R-word’ a racial, derogatory slur akin to the ‘N-word’ among African Americans or the ‘W-word’ among Latinos,” the letter stated. “Such offensive epithets would no doubt draw widespread disapproval among the NFL’s fan base. Yet the national coverage of Washington’s NFL football team profits from a term that is equally disparaging to Native Americans.”

Similar letters were also sent to NFL commissioner Roger Goodell and the president and CEO of Fed Ex, the team’s sponsor. Goodell responded with a letter of his own.

“The Washington Redskins name has thus from its origin represented a positive meaning distinct from any disparagement that could be viewed in some other context,”Goodell wrote. “For the team’s millions of fans and customers, who represent one of America’s most ethnically and geographically diverse fan bases, the name is a unifying force that stands for strength, courage, pride and respect.”

Whereas Goodell, thoughtfully and respectfully replied to the claims, Snyder was more defiant and blunt. He declined to directly respond to Congress, but instead addressed their claims to USA Today by explaining that fans understand “the great tradition and what it’s all about and what it means.”

“We’ll never change the name,” Snyder said. “It’s that simple. NEVER — you can use caps,” Snyder said.

However, closely examining the “tradition” of the Redskins name doesn’t particularly bode well for either Synder’s or Goodell’s claims.

Washington’s football team has been known as the Redskins since 1993. It’s possible that the team’s original owner, George Preston Marshall, named the team as some form of homage to head coach Lone Star Dietz, who was supposedly part-Sioux. (Dietz’s true heritage has long been questioned by historians and has never been proven.)

Dietz was known for wearing war paint and feathers at games. What was not as well known was that Dietz did so at Marshall’s request. In addition, Marshall himself was known for being an ardent racist. The Washington Redskins were the last team to integrate and only did so because they were forced by the government in 1962 — sixteen years after other NFL teams began signing African-Americans.

In short, it seems unlikely that Marshall was truly honoring the team’s coach.

Last week, Rep. Faleomavaega addressed the controversy on the floor of the House of Representatives. The speech echoed the sentiments of the letter and made it clear that his side was not giving in anytime soon.

“Mr. Speaker, it’s time the National Football League and the NFL commissioner, Roger Goodell, face the reality that the continued use of the word ‘redskin’ is unacceptable. It is a racist, derogatory term, and patently offensive to Native Americans,” Faleomavega said. “The Native American community has spent millions of dollars over the past two decades trying earnestly to fight the racism that is perpetuated by this slur.”

In some ways, the situation is reminiscent of the fight that took place in North Dakota over the University of North Dakota’s former nickname, the Fighting Sioux. In that case, after years of threats of sanctions by the NCAA, lawsuits, state laws and petitions, residents of North Dakota voted to retire the nickname.

In both instances, nicknames were under fire for being offensive to certain groups of people. However, Washington’s nickname is more apt to offend a broader group of people, whereas the “Fighting Sioux” pertained to a smaller portion of the population.

Both teams were also under tremendous pressure from a variety of sources, but the Redskins haven’t been pressured by their league and governing body, the NFL. In contrast, the NCAA deemed “the Fighting Sioux” to be “hostile and abusive” shortly after the controversy over tribal nicknames began.

The Fighting Sioux nickname was ultimately retired because North Dakotans grew tired of their tax dollars being spent on the dispute. The Redskins debate could also be decided for financial reasons, but in a much different way.

According to Forbes, the Washington Redskins are the NFL’s third most valuable franchise, worth $1.6 billion. Furthermore, $131 million of that figure can be attributed to the franchise’s brand strength. Stripping Washington of its nickname would not only put a significant dent in the team’s overall value, but it would also hurt the NFL.

Although Snyder has strongly and publicly shot down the possibility of changing the name, it appears that others in the organization are open to at least gauging the public’s opinion on the matter.

Last week, the team released a lengthy survey to their fans that included a section of questions relating to whether or not the team should change its name.

There are a lot of factors and variables in this multifaceted dispute. Political, economic, historical and social issues all play significant roles. Regardless of the outcome, it would be nice to see each factor weighed equally in determining the conclusion. Perhaps then, this time, the dispute will be settled by something other than money.

Fix contributor Blake Baxter is a student at Eureka College.

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The practice of taking ADHD medicine to enhance cognitive ability or “academic doping,” as some have referred to it, is a phenomenon that has been rapidly spreading across college campuses in recent years.

With the increased exposure of this practice has come increased scrutiny from the public and from the government. New York senator Charles Schumer is spearheading a movement against this trend that has raised both health concerns and ethical questions.

For college students, the use and abuse of academic stimulants stems from a common dilemma: There is so much to do, but so little time. (And, of course, so many distractions.) College students spend thousands of dollars in hopes of attaining an education that will open doors to future professional success and affluence. However, many find themselves either unprepared or overwhelmed with the amount of work they have to do to. So they seek an aid. Instead of turning to an advisor or a tutor, students are increasingly turning to prescription drugs to give them an edge.

The prescription drug most commonly used for this practice is Adderall, but others such as Ritalin and Vyvanse are also used. How exactly does it work? Adderall is comprised of amphetamine and dextroamphetimine mixed salts, both of which are stimulants. The drug releases dopamine, norepinephrine and is mildly sertonergic. In layman’s terms, this means that the pill releases chemicals that increase focus and energy for a certain period of time.

The United States Food and Drug Administration has approved use of these types of drugs for people who suffer from conditions such as attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) and narcolepsy. People who suffer from attention deficit hyperactivity disorder get medical prescriptions to correct their attention problems. Over the years there has been a spike in the number of young people who receive an ADHD diagnosis. Consequently, there has been an increase in the number of prescriptions for ADHD medicine, which has inadvertently resulted in more accessibility to students and recreational users.

To students, the drugs have a host of benefits. They increase focus during studying, allow for students to study for greater lengths of time and decrease general fatigue. Beyond that, they make users feel euphoric while they are under the influence so they feel good and stress free while being productive. What could be bad about that? Looking past the obvious issues – that it is illegal to sell or distribute prescription medications to others who have no prescription – there are numerous questions surrounding the health consequences and ethical implications.

As for the health consequences, ADHD medicines, Adderall in particular, are easily abused. Adderrall is meant to be taken orally, but can also be easily crushed and snorted, or dissolved and injected. Like many other drugs, the body can become dependent on it. Over time, users feel depressed when they aren’t on the drug and begin to take it more often. In addition, there are a multitude of side effects that go hand in hand with taking the drug, including sleeplessness, loss of appetite and mood changes. Withdrawal symptoms can be even worse. The body eventually crashes after long periods of stimulation. This crash could cancel out all of the productivity accomplished during the high and it is accompanied by other problematic effects such as crankiness, panic attacks, extreme hunger, and nightmares. In extreme cases, users can fall into a psychic state similar to schizophrenia with symptoms such as paranoia and hallucinations.

As for the ethical implications, some in academia have questioned whether students who take the drug without a prescription, strictly for an academic edge, gain an unfair advantage over students who aren’t taking the drug. Some have even likened the drug to taking steroids for performance enhancement in sports.

In other words, some consider the illegal use of academic stimulants to be a form of cheating. Others say it falls into an ethical gray area. In a recent USA Today article, a graduate of Indiana University-Purdue University Indianapolis and a former ADHD medication user, best explained the kind justification many students use to defend use of the drugs: While such drugs may make it easier to focus, “Adderall doesn’t teach you calculus.” This particular student, though, did still feel a little guilty about taking the drug, even if it was only a couple of times in the most dire of circumstances.

Concern about the abuse of academic stimulants has been around for a while, but few have made an attempt to do anything about it until recently. Last month, New York Senator Charles Schumer outlined the basis for his proposed prevention plan.

According to Schumer, up to 35% of all college students use (or abuse) Adderall and similar drugs as study tools. The basis of his plan revolved around students being diagnosed at on-campus health clinics.  He would require formal contracts and follow-up diagnostics for that student, as well as require detailed medical, educational, and psychological history. However, there would also be students being diagnosed off-campus, seeking refill of their prescriptions. For these students, he would require mental health evaluations to verify diagnoses, as well as parent/guardian verification. Schumer also proposed short-term counseling, time management and procrastination workshops, and medication consultation to students with prescriptions and encouraged stimulant abuse education programs for first-year students as a part of orientation.

It would be impossible to completely rid colleges and universities of this or any other drug use, but those who wish to curb the abuse of academic stimulants hope that if students become more aware of the risks then they may at least think twice before using them.

Fix contributor Blake Baxter is a student at Eureka College.

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The Department of Education’s Office of Civil Rights (OCR) has responded to widespread criticism that its nationwide blueprint for sexual harassment reform has received. The blueprint – which was detailed by the OCR and the Department of Justice (DOJ) in a letter to the University of Montana last month – has been condemned by many who believe its redefinition of the term “sexual harassment” is overly broad and therefore threatens First Amendment rights. The OCR has ardently denied this claim, but its new assertions have caused nearly as much confusion as the original letter did criticism.

As was reported on The College Fix, the original letter came on the heels of Title IV and Title IX investigations by the Department of Education and the Department of Justice following a series of sexual assault and harassment allegations made over the course of a three-year period at the University of Montana. The investigations uncovered twenty-three sexual assault complaints and ten sexual harassment complaints in that time span. Upon the investigations’ conclusions, the government actively sought ways to protect students from sexual assault and harassment. It also aspired to create new protocol intended to effectively eliminate the sexually hostile environment that it determined existed on the campus.

The 30-page document that the OCR and the DOJ sent to the university described and detailed various remedial measures required by the government, but also defined “sexual harassment” in a way that has generated much controversy. According to the letter: “Sexual harassment is unwelcome conduct of a sexual nature and can include unwelcome sexual advances, requests for sexual favors, and other verbal, nonverbal, physical conduct of a sexual nature, such as sexual assault or acts of sexual violence.”

Foundation of Individual Rights in Education (F.I.R.E.) President, Greg Lukianoff was among those unsettled by the development. He had this to say about the matter back in May: “I am appalled by this attack on free speech on campus from our own government. In 2011, the Department of Education took a hatchet to due process protections for students accused of sexual misconduct. Now the Department of Education has enlisted the help of the Department of Justice to mandate campus speech codes so broad that virtually every student will regularly violate them.”

The sentiment has been echoed by others. One of the issues that various free speech advocates, professors, and students have had with the letter is its assertion that both a subjective and objective perspective are taken into account to determine if certain conduct is considered sexual harassment. The letter states: “Whether conduct is objectively offensive is a factor used to determine if a hostile environment has been created, but it is not the standard to determine whether conduct was “unwelcome conduct of a sexual nature” and therefore constitutes “sexual harassment.”

The OCR recently responded to the uproar from organizations like F.I.R.E., in at attempt to clarify its policy and quash the turmoil. According to an excerpt from the OCR’s new statement:

“Sexual harassment” is unwelcome conduct of a sexual nature but that sexual harassment is not prohibited by Title IX unless it creates a “hostile environment” — that is, unless the harassment is sufficiently severe, pervasive, or persistent such that it denies or limits the student’s ability to participate in or benefit from the school’s program. To create a hostile environment, something beyond the mere expression of views, words, symbols or thoughts that some person finds offensive must exist. Rather, the conduct or speech must also deny or limit a student’s ability to participate in or benefit from the educational program.”

While the latest statement doesn’t contradict the OCR’s original letter to the University of Montana, it has prompted more confusion and thus create a new problem. Previously, the government was vilified for broadening the definition of “sexual harassment” to a purportedly dangerous degree. Now, the government has failed to satisfy critics who fear that the new sexual harassment guidelines are so broad that the enforcement of the rules will turn out to be almost entirely arbitrary from one campus to the next.

Unfortunately, this muddled rhetoric will likely overshadow the government’s worthy goal of preventing sexual assault and sexual harassment and eliminating sexually hostile environments on college campuses across the country.

Fix contributor Blake Baxter is a student at Eureka College.

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Rutgers University is back in the headline–and not in a good way. Less than two months after the release of a video showing a coach abusing athletes sparked nationwide outrage and resulted in the dismissal of numerous staff and administration members, the university is under fire yet again.

The latest controversy involves Julie Hermann, who was hired as Athletic Director to replace Tim Pernetti. Pernetti was forced to resign in the fallout of the embarrassing scandal. Recently, allegations were made that Hermann, herself, has a shadowy past that has included actions not unlike the very behavior her predecessor was fired for enabling. Now, there is an outcry for not only her ouster, but also for that of the only person still standing in the original scandal’s aftermath – Rutgers University President Robert Barchi.

To refresh you memory: The month of April was a complete nightmare for Rutgers University. Then-head basketball coach Mike Rice was fired after being caught on tape physically and verbally assaulting his players over the course of three years. One of his assistant coaches, Jimmy Martelli, was also fired for being abusive. Others on the staff resigned in an attempt to separate themselves from the ugly ordeal. The media, the NCAA, educators and the general public all wanted answers. Who was responsible for enabling this behavior beyond Mike Rice? Many pointed the finger at Rutgers University President Robert Barchi. Barchi, however, assigned the majority of the blame to then-Athletic Director Tim Pernetti.

By May, with many involved in the matter terminated, Barchi and the university were ready for Rutgers athletics to turn the page on the events that tarnished the whole university’s reputation. It hired Parker Executive Search to manage a nationwide hunt for new athletic director candidates at a cost of $70,000. The Georgia-based firm was contractually obligated to conduct thorough background checks, “including criminal, credit and motor vehicle checks; confirmation of candidates’ degrees; and reference checks”. The university then created a 26-person selection committee to take part in selecting Pernetti’s successor.

On May 15, Julie Hermann was announced as the new Athletic Director. According to the university’s selection committee, Hermann was the most qualified of the 63 candidates who were interviewed for the position.

“Over the course of the search, Julie’s record established her as a proven leader in athletics administration with a strong commitment to academic success as well as athletic excellence, and a strong commitment to the well-being of student athletes,” Barchi recently stated.

Hermann was coming off a successful stint as executive senior associate director at the University of Louisville. Prior to her tenure at Louisville, Hermann was the head volleyball coach for the University of Tennessee in the 1990s. She had a noted reputation for being “tough” and “intense” – the same words that were once used to describe Mike Rice prior to his hiring. When she was hired, Hermann was celebrated for becoming only the third woman to carry the title of athletic director at one of 124 NCAA schools that have a Division I football team. However, the honeymoon didn’t last long.

On May 26th, New Jersey’s Star-Ledger reported that Hermann’s 1996 Tennessee volleyball team had made allegations that Hermann’s behavior wasn’t much different than Mike Rice’s. All 15 members of the team signed a two-page letter that explained Hermann’s “mental cruelty,” including, but not limited to: calling her players “whores, alcoholics and learning disabled.” She has since vehemently denied these claims.

“Am I an intense coach? I’m absolutely an intense coach as many coaches are,” Hermann said. “But there is a big canyon between being super-intense and abuse. And this was not an abusive environment for these women.’’

But these are not the only charges against Hermann; the Ledger-Star also reported that Hermann has been involved in lawsuits that took place during her time at both Tennessee and Louisville. As head volleyball coach at Tennessee, Hermann was accused of threatening to fire assistant coach Ginger Hineline if she became pregnant. The lawsuit resulted in a $150,000 jury verdict.

At Louisville, assistant track and field coach Mary Banker sued the university for allegedly wrongfully terminating her after she voiced complaints to Hermann and the university’s human resource department of sex discrimination by the head track and field coach, Ron Mann. Although, Banker has assigned much of the blame to Hermann, she did not name her in the lawsuit that awarded her $300,000 before being overturned by an appeals court. The case is currently pending before the Kentucky Supreme Court. While the suit may not legally implicate Hermann, it certainly doesn’t help her embattled public image.

Hermann, Barchi and even New Jersey Governor Chris Christie have all labeled the various allegations as “character assassination”. Christie, who was among the most outspoken during the Mike Rice scandal, has pledged to stay out of this new matter. But others, such as state senators, Ray J. Lesniak and Richard Codey, have been more vocal, actively calling for both Hermann’s and Robert Barchi’s dismissal. Lawmakers are not the only ones advocating for her removal, though. The Star-Ledger has reported that 87% of 3,800 people polled by the newspaper believe Hermann should be fired. And, even some members of the selection committee have been critical of the university’s hiring process.

The new controversy has led to turmoil among members of the selection committee. Leaders of the selection process, distinguished Rutgers alumnus Kate Sweeney and Rutgers Executive Vice President for Academic Affairs Dick Edwards, addressed the criticism in an email to the committee: “You all had the opportunity to examine Julie’s credentials, to spend some time with her when she was on campus, and to provide us with your thoughts regarding her candidacy as Rutgers’ next Director of Intercollegiate Athletics”. This claim, however, has been challenged by others on the committee. Rutgers University Board of Trustee member, Ken Schmidt replied, “At this time, please do not try to re-write the facts. I suspect you will find others that share my opinion.” Fellow Rutgers Trustee, Ron Garutti seconded the sentiment, “Please, let’s not present this as any kind of exemplary process. Subsequent events have proven otherwise,” he said.

President Barchi defended Hermann and gave her a vote of confidence on May 24. It seemed as though Hermann would keep her job, despite the widespread calls for her removal. But by the end of the week, the university decided to postpone a series of on-campus meetings that Hermann, along with other athletic administrators and coaches, was scheduled to participate in, a move that suggests that, perhaps, her status actually is in jeopardy.

When he was appointed Rutgers University President in the spring of 2012, Robert Barchi, a former physician and neuroscientist, was hired to oversee Rutgers’ major integration of the schools and programs that made up the University of Medicine and Dentistry of New Jersey. In November, he, with Pernetti, was also charged with orchestrating Rutgers’ highly publicized athletics conference transition from the tattered and fractured Big East Conference to the lucrative Big Ten Conference. Those important tasks were overshadowed by the initial coaching scandal. Now Barchi’s failure to double-down on the vetting process of a new athletic director has given the school yet another black eye. As a result, both his and Hermann’s fate are hanging in the balance.

Fix contributor Blake Baxter is a student at Eureka College.

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