(Reuters) - New Jersey Governor Chris Christie on Sunday vowed to investigate a report that the athletic director hired by Rutgers University after a basketball coach was fired for abusing players had herself been accused of similar abuse 16 years ago.
“I’ve got to talk to university officials and try to get the complete story. It would be irresponsible for me to comment at this point on it,” Christie told NBC News. “I’m as curious as anybody and given my position, I get to ask questions more quickly than others so I’ll be asking questions and we’ll see what happens.”
Rutgers, the largest public university in New Jersey, hired Julie Hermann as athletic director earlier this month in the wake of the furor caused by abusive behavior by Mike Rice, the men’s basketball coach, toward his players.
Herman’s predecessor, Tim Pernetti, resigned in early April after ESPN aired video showing Rice berating players with homophobic slurs and throwing basketballs at them during practice.
Pernetti at first decided to discipline Rice rather than fire him but after the video became public, the coach was dismissed.
The New Jersey Star-Ledger reported on Saturday that Hermann resigned as women’s volleyball coach at the University of Tennessee in 1997 after all 15 players on the team signed a letter accusing her of mental cruelty.
The letter said she ruled through humiliation, fear and emotional abuse and called them “whores, alcoholics and learning disabled,” the Star-Ledger said.
The newspaper quoted Hermann as saying that she did not remember the letter and that several players she coached had stayed in touch with her over the years. When a reporter read her the letter, she replied, “Wow,” the newspaper said.
Hermann had been senior executive athletic director at the University of Louisville when hired by Rutgers, where she became the first woman to hold that post at the university.
Reporting by Jane Sutton; Editing by Daniel Trotta and Bill Trott