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April Fools - 3

Rutgers AD Julie Hermann

Our third "awardee" for this year's prize is Rut­gers University. The only state university with­out the name of the state in its title "wins" this prestigious honor because of its Athletic Director, Julie Hermann. In less than a year on the job, Ms. Hermann has managed to irritate a number of people and embarrass the university for not doing its due diligence before hiring her.

  • First of all, Hermann was hired in the af­termath of a scandal involving the physical and verbal abuse of Rutgers men's bas­ketball players by coach Mike Rice, who was dismissed along with AD Tim Per­netti. Her latest position was Executive Senior Associate Athletic Director at the University of Louisville, where she served 15 years.
  • The most recent controversy involves Hermann's comments about the Newark Star-Ledger. After the newspaper laid off 167 people because of financial dif­ficulties, she told a journalism class that she was happy to hear about the difficulties and said it would be "great" if the newspaper died. Hermann also said that one person at the newspaper has "one mission, that's to get any AD at Rut­gers fired." When confronted with her remarks, Hermann didn't apolo­gize or explain her attack on the newspaper but instead said she was sharing her experi­ences "in an informal way and out of the glare of the media spot­light." The university issued a statement that her remarks came before she knew about deep layoffs at The Star-Ledger.
  • The Star-Ledger had been the first to report that she quit as Tennessee vol­leyball coach in 1997 after players submitted a letter complaining that she ruled through humiliation, fear, and emotional abuse. The players wrote, "It has been unanimously decided that this is an irreconcilable issue." At a meet­ing called by the AD to settle the matter, Hermann made just one statement, "I choose not to coach you guys." After Rutgers hired her, Hermann was asked about the letter. "I'm being very honest," she replied. "I don't remember that letter." A player on Hermann's last UT team said, "How ironic that Rut­gers had an abu­sive coach and they're bringing in someone who was an abu­sive coach."
  • Another revelation about her tenure in Knoxville was that she discouraged an assistant coach from getting pregnant and, when the coach did get pregnant, fired her. In that same bad year of 1997, a jury awarded the former assistant $150,000 despite Hermann's claim that the assistant was fired for underper­forming, not because she was pregnant. Remarks Hermann made at the assis­tant's wedding became central to the discrimination lawsuit against the univer­sity. "I hope it's good tonight," she said into the camera. "Because I know you've been waiting for a while, but I hope it's not too good, because I don't want you to come back February with any surprises, you know, the office and all, and it would be hard to have a baby in there." Hermann was asked about the video at her introductory news conference at Rutgers May 15, 2013. She replied, "There's a video? I'm sorry, did you say there's a video? There's no video, trust me."
  • So Hermann now leads Rutgers into the Big Ten for the 2014-15 school year. I wonder how Big Ten Commissioner Jim Delany feels about all the negativity sur­rounding one of his new ADs.
  • Perhaps this has nothing to do with the criticism of Julie, but her biography on the Rutgers website ends with this line: Hermann and her partner, Dr. Leslie Danehy, are the proud parents of son, Aidan.

Previous April fools

Baseball Proposal
Watching several players hurt themselves tripping over the 1B bag or turning an ankle by landing on the edge of the bag led me to formulate this proposal.

Sink 1B partially into the ground. According to the official rules, the three bases shall be "not less than three nor more than five inches thick ..." Set 1B in the ground in its current position so that 3" are underground and only 2" are above ground.

The advantage is that a runner is (a) less likely to stumble over a lower base and (b) less likely to twist an ankle by landing on the edge of it since the dropoff to the ground is not as high.

1B can't be sunk into the ground like home plate because the first baseman needs to feel the bag with his foot when taking throws. But it doesn't have to be as high above the ground as 2B or 3B because players aren't sliding into 1B. A runner on 1B avoiding a pickoff is diving headfirst back to the bag and touching it with his hand. Even a batter who slides into 1B usually goes headfirst also. With experi­mentation, you might find that just an inch above the ground is sufficient for the 1B to find the bag with his foot to take throws. The effect for the runner would be like stepping on the edge of a thick rug, which doesn't damage the foot or ankle.

In softball, the "double base" is used at 1B as in the picture. Half the base is in fair ter­ritory and half the base in foul territory. The intent is to lessen the chances of a runner landing on the foot or ankle of the 1B who is taking a throw. But that doesn't solve the problem of runners tripping over the base or landing awkwardly on the edge of it.

Wild Rumor?

Someone told me that Stuart Sternberg, the principal owner of the Tampa Bay Rays, who attended Tulane University in New Orleans (a fact I haven't been able to confirm), is working behind the scenes to transfer the franchise to New Orleans.

  • The Rays have finished with a winning record for six straight seasons and won the AL pennant in 2008. Yet in 2013 they had the lowest average attendance in the major leagues (17,909).
  • The main source of frustration for the Rays' ownership is the lack of any impetus by public officials to build a new stadium. Instead, the team is locked into a contract to play at Tropicana Field, universally panned as the worst venue in MLB, until 2027.
  • As the story was told to me, New Orleans Mayor Mitch Landrieu dreams of tearing down City Hall, which is just a few blocks from the Superdome, and building a 35,000-seat baseball stadium to house the Rays. Saints-Pelicans owner Tom Benson is supposedly involved in the discussions as well. (Remember that Tom tried to buy a AA team for New Orleans but was trumped by the move of the AAA Zephyrs from Denver when the Colorado Rockies entered the NL.)
  • Even if the story is true, it doesn't seem that anything would happen for quite some time. And by then, Landrieu would no longer be mayor. And Mitch's hope of a new ballpark seems unrealistic unless someone like Tom Benson put together a syndicate to fund it.
  • The city of New Orleans has so many pressing needs like a severe shortage of police officers that a new City Hall seems out of the question. Then there's the question of whether the area could support a third top-level pro team, especially one that would play 81 home games a year.

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