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New Rutgers AD Is One of Only 5 Women to Head Major Program

Shortly after Rutgers University named Julie Hermann as its next athletics director on Wednesday, I got a note from my colleague Libby Sander. She reminded me of a candid conversation she had with Ms. Hermann two years ago for her analysis of the scarcity of female athletic directors in the NCAA’s Football Bowl Subdivision.

Ms. Hermann, a longtime No. 2 at the University of Louisville who has helped drive that athletic department’s fast growth, will become one of only five female ADs among the 125 FBS programs. For those of you keeping score, that’s 4 percent of positions at the NCAA’s elite level—the same meager number we reported two years ago.

There are plenty of reasons so few women have cracked the glass ceiling in college sports, including a stubborn old-boys’ network that dictates many hiring decisions. Here’s more from our 2011 report:

Some critics say women are often bypassed because of a belief, sometimes held by influential boosters, that they aren’t up to the task of leading programs dominated by football. Others say a lack of experience on the business side, a crucial part of any major AD job, is sometimes to blame. But in many cases, it comes down to the willingness of those doing the hiring—presidents and chancellors—to break the mold and hire a woman.

Two years ago, Ms. Hermann told The Chronicle that she was perfectly happy playing second fiddle, or, as she put it, being the “silent partner.” She was adamant that she’d never throw her hat in the ring unless it was for a plum job that she knew she could get.

“I’m not interested in being a candidate,” she said, particularly for programs just looking to add diversity to their pool. “I’d need to finish first.”

At the time, she described the increasing challenges and pressures of the top job.

“You can’t just be a good corporate-minded person. You can’t just be a former coach,” said Ms. Hermann, who played volleyball for the University of Nebraska and was head coach at the University of Tennessee before serving for 16 years at Louisville. “You have to be wildly prepared across the spectrum. You need to know what your dock workers are doing, or you need to be a CEO who hires somebody who does.”

She will need plenty of good lieutenants at Rutgers, which is still reeling from allegations of abuse by Mike Rice, its former head men’s basketball coach, and the discovery last week that his successor, who claimed to be a Scarlet Knights’ graduate, never completed his degree.

Few leaders have dealt with such high-profile problems, but Ms. Hermann hinted in 2011 that she would be up for the right challenge.

“If that opportunity ever comes to me, and it’s absolutely the right fit, several things would need to happen,” she said. “My boss would need to say, ‘This is a great opportunity, you absolutely need to go for that.’”

Also, she’ll have to give up that comfortable silent-partner label.

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