A stronger presence in the New York media market does not mean constant outpouring of positive press. With great exposure comes great scrutiny and Rutgers, led by president Robert Barchi, was unprepared.
The media microscope is not going away as Rutgers continues its ascent to big-time athletics. As Ohio State president Gordon Gee showed last week, administrators have to always be on their guard and on their toes. Barchi came to Rutgers with no experience in big-time athletics and Julie Hermann comes onboard without any experience as an athletic director. Both learning the ropes, May's mess is all about learning lessons the hard way for both leaders of the state university.
Although each president has brought something new to the historic Rutgers University, Barchi must preserve what can be preserved and perfect what can be perfected. The education of young minds is of vital importance, but Barchi was put in place to get the medical merger done and nothing in the last six months changes that.
The upcoming merger is a game-changer in more ways than anything in the athletic department and needs to be treated as such. Deep down, Barchi deserves to be held accountable for the numerous examples of failed leadership, but not right now – not with so much on the table.
Barchi's lesson? Athletics matter. All schools should be about education first, but don't treat athletics like they are beneath you. Most national exposure for Rutgers University comes from its athletics programs and advertising during football and basketball games on television. Keep looking at the juggernaut that is Rutgers football as "an activity" and it will only get worse. Barchi is the boss and needs to start acting like it.
Things are going to be very different with Hermann in charge. Hermann, should everything remain on track for her to assume the position of athletic director, showed that she will not fold under pressure and that toughness should be looked at as a positive for a school in need of a strong backbone.
Hermann began assimilating herself with New Jersey and Rutgers this week and, right now, is expected to take over on time for interim athletic director Carl Kirschner.
Hermann's less? Transparency. This goes for the rest of the Rutgers administration as well. Keeping things under an invisibility cloak cannot happen at Rutgers ever again. Mistakes happen and the main issue is not that Hermann made them in her past, but that she failed to disclose any of it.
Rutgers needs to regain the trust of its alumni and its fan base. Honesty is the best place to start.
Programs self-report NCAA violations all the time. Look at what football coach Kyle Flood did during this time of scrutiny. Instead of keeping quiet, he announced Michael Larrow's dismissal from the program and subsequent arrest and no one thought less of him for it.
When in doubt, do the right thing and that means a transparent Rutgers administration.