NEWARK, N.J. - Incoming Rutgers athletic director Julie Hermann was involved in a discrimination lawsuit while an administrator at Louisville, where an assistant track coach said she was fired after complaining to human resources.
Information about the case came to light Tuesday, amid continuing debate about Hermann's treatment of players while she was a volleyball coach at Tennessee in the 1990s.
The earlier episodes from Hermann's career are particularly troubling for Rutgers, which hired her after former basketball coach Mike Rice was fired in April for physically and verbally abusing players and former athletic director Tim Pernetti was forced to resign for his handling of the problem.
The New York Times first reported on details of the Louisville suit, which Mary Banker, a former assistant men's and women's track coach, filed against the University of Louisville Athletic Association, saying she was let go in 2008 after she brought allegations of sex and gender discrimination to Hermann and then human resources. Hermann was the executive senior associate athletic director for Louisville at the time.
Hermann testified at a 2010 trial in the case. A jury found in Banker's favor, awarding her $300,000 for mental and emotional distress. But the university appealed, and the Kentucky Court of Appeals overturned the verdict in February.
The appellate ruling said that "even in a light most favorable to Banker," Louisville proved Hermann and the head track coach, Ron Mann, "had contemplated, if not decided, not to renew Banker's contract prior to Banker's complaint to HR."
In addition to news of the sex-discrimination lawsuit, a member of Rutgers' athletic director search committee said she was dumbfounded that the firm hired to vet potential candidates for the athletic director's job never uncovered allegations by former Tennessee women's volleyball players that Hermann verbally abused them while she was their coach.
Still, the lawsuit is bound to bring greater focus on the hiring of the 49-year-old Hermann. On Monday, Hermann said that she had no plans to resign, and Rutgers president Robert Barchi later said the university was standing behind her.
Susan Schurman, dean of the School of Management and Labor Relations at Rutgers, was on the search committee for the athletic director but out of the country for much of the process.
She said she was on one conference call during which the search firm briefed the members on how the process was going to work. She remembers the firm saying that they had "incredible interest" in the job, and many qualified people were interested. No names were discussed.
Schurman read in the newspaper that Hermann's name wasn't among the 60 passed along from the search firm, which she found "interesting, because she's clearly a pretty prominent person."