Jeff Walz needs toughness from Louisville women

Tough times make tough people.

More than a little discomforting the 1-4 start for the University of Louisville women’s basketball team. Depressingly bad way to start a season.

Not what UofL fans, more than 16,000 of them turning out for the opening game against California, were expecting with what numerous analysts had proclaimed to be the top recruiting class in the nation. High expectations have given way to some harsh realities, the Cardinals dropping out of the top 25 this week.

Jeff Walz needs toughness from his troops.
Jeff Walz has some motivating to do.

Now comes the news that Asia Durr, the most heralded recruit in the 2015 class, is having difficulties recovering from a groin injury. She will miss the rest of the season, hoping to be ready for next year.  Update: She’s available and playing, a surprising recovery.

With only two starters among the four players returning from last season, Coach Jeff Walz knew there would be a learning curve. Little did he know how steep that learning curve would be, with more than a few shortcomings on offense and an inability to stop anyone on defense.

A rude awakening for a team that has two of the nation’s top recruiting classes over the past two seasons. A nice group of players, possibly too nice for their own good. Possibly taking too seriously all the conjecture about how good they were going to be, going through the motions. Welcome to reality, ladies. There’s a big difference between the fantasy world of recruiting hype and the rigors of college women’s basketball.

Walz has expressed surprise about the lack of basketball intelligence from some, indicating that he has spent a lot of time on basics, and possibly not being as demanding as in the past. In other words, too soft. Millenials are concerned about feelings, you know. That hasn’t worked for him or them.

This team obviously has some good players with significant potential. But they will begin to improve only when they develop some toughness, refusing to roll over when they are challenged. That will likely require a more hands-on approach from a coach who has never tolerated mediocrity.

*    *   *

Sorry to hear that Will Gardner has been granted his release from the UofL football team without seeing any action during the 2015 season.  Gardner actually looked good during the spring training camp, like he was ready to compete for the starting position again. But those three ACL tears on the same leg had to be a concern for Bobby Petrino, reluctant to get Gardner involved in any part of the season-long quarterback controversies. Hopefully he finds a good home and some serious playing time at his next stop while avoiding further injury.

*    *    *

Julie Hermann out at Rutgers.
Julie Hermann out at Rutgers.

Julie Hermann, the former associate AD in charge of women’s athletics at UofL, has been fired after two tumultuous years at Rutgers University. Hermann had to see the writing on the wall when the administration dealt directly with Kyle Flood, the football coach, who was suspended during the season for improper contact with an academic instructor. Hermann and Flood were fired within hours on Sunday.

Hermann had visions of doing for Rutgers what Tom Jurich has done for UofL. Rutgers announced a new $3.5 million baseball stadium last spring but they made little progress in raising the money. Hermann will continue to receive her $450,000 salary through 2018.

14,327 see Louisville women rip Rutgers

Asia-Taylor-2-23-14 Asia Taylor couldn’t have chosen a better day to have the best performance of her college basketball career, almost unstoppable in the University of Louisville women’s convincing 73-58 win over Rutgers.

A total of 14,327 fans, the largest turnout of the season, were on hand to witness the clash between two top 25 basketball teams, expecting a skirmish typical of the bruising battles between these teams in past. Few would be disappointed, however, that it turned out to a relatively easy win for Louisville, the Cardinals owning an eight-point lead at the half and extending it to 18 points at one point in the second half.

Julie Hermann, formerly of UofL, now athletic director at Rutgers, wasn't too happy .
Julie Hermann, formerly of UofL, now athletic director at Rutgers, obviously wasn’t pleased with the loss.

Taylor, a senior who has battled injuries during her five years, is finally healthy. She would score 25 points, pull down 15 rebounds, make three assists and three steals. She has always had the size and speed. Now finally back at full strength, she has the confidence and the accuracy  to go with her natural abilities.

Taylor provides UofL with still another serious scoring threat in addition to Shoni Schimmel and Sara Hammond with the regular season winding down and tournament action looming. Shoni and Hammond would add 13 and 12 points, respectively.

“It means nothing without the win. I’m happy that I got a career-high in both of those (scoring and rebounding),” she said after the game.  “That’s great. It just shows that I was out there working hard. But without the win, without Sara out there battling with me and Shoni getting me the ball and everybody playing together, that really means nothing. So I’m just happy about the win than anything.”

The win improved Louisville’s record to 27-2 for the season and ended a five-game winning streak for Rutgers.

Kellie Young’s stint with Louisville lacrosse turns sour

Who does 250 pushups in one sitting? Is that physically possible? Most people haven’t done that many in their entire lives.

That’s just one of the questions that isn’t answered in the Courier-Journal’s lengthy story on the alleged abuses of Kellie Young, the lacrosse coach at the University of Louisville. She is accused of being overly aggressive in applying discipline, including a report that she made a player with an ACL injury perform 250 pushups at an airport (not known whether the coach knew the severity of the injury).

Kellie Young
Kellie Young

What the reporter neglects to mention in the article, however, is why players were being disciplined.  Readers are largely left to decide for themselves, with the writer suggesting that the punishment was unreasonable. To some parents in today’s society, any level of punishment for their offspring by other adults is hard to accept.

The use of obscene language by coaches in dealing with athletes shouldn’t come as a surprise to anyone who has ever participated in athletics. Watch a college football or basketball game a few minutes and note the language being tossed around on the field or in the stands. While we don’t condone resorting to gutter language, there may be some individuals these days who only respond to the hammer approach.

What does give credence to the complaints, however, is the admission of Julie Hermann, former associate athletic director, who wrote to parents that “this is not new information to us and therefore has been part of the ongoing dialogue, along with a mass of other information we have acquired and are working on.” Reminiscent of other empty public promises these days, however, Hermann reportedly took no action and, shortly afterwards, departed UofL to become the Athletic Director at Rutgers.

Somewhat ironic because Hermann had been accused of similar activities during her time as volleyball coach at Tennessee during the nineties. She may have even sympathized with Young, having been a target herself of angry team members.

In her efforts to build a winning program, Young may have missed opportunities to instill loyalty and trust. Individuals want to work or play for leaders they can respect and who respect them in return. Most unhappy parents might be supportive if discipline efforts are seen as constructive. On the other hand, lack of playing time is often cause for bitterness for some players and their folks.

Whether the allegations in the C-J report have merit or not, the program, which she built from the ground up since 2006, has been undermined and recruiting has been severely damaged.

Whether she stays or goes, one still has to wonder about all those pushups.

Rutgers standing by Julie Hermann

The clue that the accusations against Julie Hermann may have been bogus came from the video that was supposed to be the smoking pistol.

Hermann, the bridesmaid in a celebratory mood with a couple of drinks, hoping the bride doesn’t get pregnant in the middle of the volleyball season, but expressing her love and wishing the bride well. Nothing threatening about the video at all. Until after the assistant coach was fired and an aggressive attorney gets his clutches on the video.

Equally questionable is why a letter from the volleyball team would be surfacing 16 years after a team meeting was held? To whom was the letter addressed? If the letter was sent to Hermann, why was it in someone’s else’s possession all this time? She said her former boss never heard of it and she never heard her former players make the allegation.Hermann indicated she has no intentions of resigning.

Robert Barchi, the Rutgers President, issued a statement Monday saying the school is standing by Hermann.

“Over the course of the search, Julie’s record established her as a proven leader in athletics administration with a strong commitment to academic success as well as athletic excellence, and a strong commitment to the well-being of student athletes. Since the announcement of her selection, some media reports have focused on complaints about aspects of her early career. Looking at Julie’s entire record of accomplishment, which is stellar, we remain confident that we have selected an individual who will work in the best interests of all of our student athletes, our athletics teams, and the university.”

Like they say, hell hath no fury like a woman scorned. Hopefully, the cat fight is over.

Hermann’s future uncertain at Rutgers

Don’t look now but Julie Hermann may not be the Athletic Director at Rutgers very long. Some alleged incidents from her past are coming back to haunt her in a big way.

Hermann was due to leave the University of Louisville in mid-June but issues from her term as volleyball coach at Tennessee have surfaced after being totally submerged during her 15 years at UofL, as Forbes Magazine reported Sunday:

A letter written [in 1996] by all 15 players on that team said Hermann called them “whores, alcoholics and learning disabled”. [They said she] forced them to do 100 sideline push ups as punishment during matches and wouldn’t allow them to shower or eat after losses. [They also said] she was physical, yanking players by their jerseys and slapping them.

Ginger Hineline
Ginger Hineline

In addition, the University of Tennessee was ordered to pay $150,000 as the result of a lawsuit filed by Ginger Hineline, former assistant volleyball coach to Hermann, who said she was fired because she became pregnant during the volleyball season. Interesting that Julie had been a bridesmaid during Hineline’s wedding a few months earlier, even catching the bridal bouquet during the wedding party. Must have been pretty close at the time, huh?

The east coast media is having a field day with this, piling on of course, especially after the uproar following the dismissal of Rutgers basketball coach Mike Rice and his boss for alleged physical and verbal abuse of players.  And it doesn’t help that Hermann can’t seem to remember many details from her days at Tennessee, including being involved in the wedding.

An overwhelming 86% of 2,465 respondents to a Newark Star-Ledger on Sunday indicated that she should be turned away. Gov. Chris Christie is getting involved. Her days would seem to be numbered.

So the question may come back to Tom Jurich and the University of Louisville where her boss praised her for “impeccable” behavior during the past 15 years. Plenty of time for a person to have learned from real-life experiences, adapting new approaches, maturing professionally.

She’s still on campus we presume. Should Hermann be allowed to stay on in her current position?

Hermann was just a few years out of college when she assumed the Tennessee job. She was on the wrong end of a 34-62 won-lost record, and losing evokes a lot of raw emotions for coaches and players, as well as fans. Everything gets out of kilter, crazy things happen. Fortunately, she got out of coaching.

If Hermann is rejected by Rutgers, we suspect the question of whether she will stay at UofL will be determined by how she performed behind the scenes at the University. Rutgers, for all we know, may have been doing UofL a favor. As fans, we simply don’t know, not being privy to the interaction she had with coaches, associates, subordinates and students at UofL.

Those issues may have to be addressed if she is not welcome in Piscataway and wants her old job back at Louisville.