Julie Hermann

Rutgers makes B1G gender history with athletic director hire

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Still a little over a year away from officially joining the Big Ten, Rutgers has already plowed some athletic department territory rarely before seen in the history of the conference.

At a press conference Wednesday afternoon, Rutgers announced that it has hired Julie Hermann as the university’s new athletic director, ending a search that had stretched nearly six weeks.  Hermann comes to the Scarlet Knights from Louisville, where she served as the Cardinals’ executive senior associate athletic director.  She had been at the U of L for the past 15 years.

Hermann will become the second-ever female athletic director in the Big Ten (Michigan State’s Merrily Dean Baker) when the Scarlet Knights move their athletic programs from the Big East next July.

“It’s a pleasure to welcome Julie Hermann to the Rutgers community,” said president Robert L. Barchi. “She is one of the most respected athletics administrators in the country and she was deeply involved in moving Louisville from Conference USA to the Big East and from the Big East to the Atlantic Coast Conference. Her 15 years of leadership experience will be an invaluable asset to the university as we prepare to enter the Big Ten.”

The Hermann hiring culminates a tumultuous few months for the university in general and the athletic department specifically.

In April, popular and highly-successful RU athletic director Tim Pernetti resigned his post thanks in large part to the public backlash over his handling of the Mike Rice situation.  Hermann will now be charged with cleaning up the mess left by her predecessor — and enjoy the fruits of his labor as well.

“Rutgers is poised to soar,” said Hermann. “With a world-class faculty and academic reputation, a strategic location and the power and reach of the Big Ten, the university is positioned to create a best-in-class experience for every student who accepts the challenge to learn and compete at Rutgers.”

Not only will Hermann become the second athletic director of the female persuasion in Big Ten history, she also joins a rather exclusive club at the FBS level.  Of the 124 schools that played FBS football in 2012, just five of them had females in charge of their athletic departments; just two of those female athletic directors — Maryland’s Debbie Yow, Cal’s Sandy Barbour — were from so-called automatic qualifying conferences.

It should also be noted that Georgia State will be transitioning to the FBS level, and their athletic department is headed by Cheryl Levick.

All told, there are 26 female athletic directors at the 300-member-plus Div-I level, including 10 at FCS schools.  Below is a brief look at the five female FBS athletic directors (Texas has separate athletic directors for men’s and women’s sports) and whose company Hermann will join:

Sandy Barbour, Cal
Per her bio on the school’s official website, Cal has claimed 17 team national titles and another 81 individual crowns since Barbour assumed control of the athletic department in 2004.  Two major facility upgrades have taken place on Barbour’s watch: the 142,000-square-foot Simpson Center for Student-Athlete High Performance and a massive renovation of Memorial Stadium.  She also performed a massive renovation on the stadium’s tenant by firing longtime head football coach Jeff Tedford following the 2012 season.

Cary Groth, Nevada
One of the first-ever female athletic directors when hired by her alma mater Northern Illinois in 1994, Groth has been with the Wolf Pack since March of 2004.  Groth’s greatest success at Nevada was the move from the WAC to the Mountain West.  She retired in April of this year after more than 30 years working in collegiate athletics.

Debbie Yow, North Carolina State
One of the most respected athletic directors of any gender by those in athletics, Yow has been at NCSU since 2010 after leaving the same job at Maryland after 16 years.  Yow has served as president of the National Association of Collegiate Directors of Athletics and the national Division I-A Athletic Directors Association, and is a member of the National Football Foundation board of directors.  The most significant move of her three-year tenure was the firing of Tom O’Brien as head football coach and hiring Dave Doeren away from Northern Illinois.

Lynn Hickey, UT-San Antonio
Hickey has been at UTSA since 2000, adding three sports program to the athletic department roll during that time.  Her most notable achievement, however, was moving the Roadrunners to the WAC in 2012 and then, with that conference folding football-wise, jumping to Conference USA beginning this season.

Kathy Beauregard, Western Michigan
The longest-serving athletic director in the MAC, Beauregard will be entering her 17th year in that post and her 33rd overall at the school.  Facility upgrades have been the hallmark of her long tenure at the university.

Report: Arizona lineman Zach Hemmila’s death caused by toxic mix of prescription drugs

GLENDALE, AZ - SEPTEMBER 03:  Arizona Wildcats helmets display the #65 to honor offensive lineman Zach Hemmila who passed away in the off-season before the college football game against the Brigham Young Cougars at University of Phoenix Stadium on September 3, 2016 in Glendale, Arizona.  (Photo by Christian Petersen/Getty Images)
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Nearly two months after his tragic passing, a cause of death for Zach Hemmila has been confirmed.

Based on the autopsy report filed by the Pima County Sheriff’s Office, the Arizona Republic is reporting that the 22-year-old Hemmila’s death was the result of the combined toxic effects of two different prescription drugs. The two drugs, the Republic noted, were oxymorphone, an opiate painkiller, and alprazolam, an anxiety medication.

From the newspaper’s report:

Chewing tobacco was found in Hemmila’s mouth, according to the autopsy report. No intact pills were discovered in his gastrointestinal system. His lungs were “markedly congested,” per the report.

Hemmila passed away either very late on the night of Aug. 7 or early in the morning Aug. 8. A cousin discovered Hemmila’s body at the Arizona offensive lineman’s residence.

His death has officially been ruled an accident.

“Arizona Athletics continues to mourn the passing of Zach Hemmila,” a statement from the university said in response to the report. “We will honor the family’s request for privacy and support them in any way we can.”

Hemmila started six games last season. He was slated to start at center for the Wildcats this season.

The Wildcats will continue to wear a sticker the No. 65 to honor Hemmila for the remainder of the season.

LSU reinstates suspended starting D-lineman, but Leonard Fournette a game-day decision vs. Mizzou

GREEN BAY, WI - SEPTEMBER 03:  Chikwe Obasih #34 of the Wisconsin Badgers tackles Leonard Fournette #7 of the LSU Tigers during the second half at Lambeau Field on September 3, 2016 in Green Bay, Wisconsin.  (Photo by Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images)
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LSU received some good news and not so good news ahead of its first game without Les Miles on the sidelines in more than a decade.

On the latter news front, star running back Leonard Fournette is listed as a game-day decision for Saturday’s contest against Missouri because of a lingering ankle issue.  The All-American initially injured the ankle during a mid-August summer camp practice; then aggravated it against Wisconsin in the opener; sat out the Week 2 game against an FCS foe; and then aggravated it again in Week 4 against Auburn.

After leading the country in yards per game last season with nearly 163 yards per game, Fournette is currently 10th at 128.7. That total still tops the SEC.

On a more positive tip for the Tigers, interim head coach Ed Orgeron confirmed that starting defensive lineman Davon Godchaux has been reinstated to the program and will be permitted to practice with his teammates.  Whether he plays this Saturday remains to be seen.  Godchaux had been arrested on a pair of charges stemming from a domestic incident over the weekend, but the prosecutor in the case announced Tuesday that he would not be filing formal charges.

Godchaux has started all four games this season (26 in his career) and is fifth on the team in tackles.

Anthem-kneeling Cornhusker invited to meet with Nebraska governor

Neb. Gov. Pete Ricketts, left, and former Gov. Kay Orr unveil the state road projects that have been designated as major priorities over the next few years at a news conference in Lincoln, Neb., Thursday, Sept. 22, 2016. (AP Photo/Nati Harnik)
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Three playing members of the Nebraska football program who knelt in protest during the playing of the national anthem Saturday faced significant — and some racially-charged — criticism for their actions, including one NU regent who wants the players removed from the program.  The state’s governor, Pete Ricketts (pictured, right), was highly critical as well.

“Generations of men and women have died to give them that right to protest,” Ricketts said. “I think the way they chose to protest was disgraceful and disrespectful.”

One of the NU kneelers, senior linebacker Michael Rose-Ivey, took to Twitter to ask the governor to met with him and discuss the issues that led he and his teammates, freshmen Mohamed Barry and DaiShon Neal, to kneel in protest.

Late Tuesday night, Ricketts responded.

Imagine that, discussion, not rhetoric, on both sides of an issue. What a revolutionary concept.

Jimbo Fisher: ‘I love FSU. I plan on being here for a long time’

GAINESVILLE, FL - NOVEMBER 28:  Head coach Jimbo Fisher of the Florida State Seminoles signals to his players during the game against the Florida Gators at Ben Hill Griffin Stadium on November 28, 2015 in Gainesville, Florida.  (Photo by Sam Greenwood/Getty Images)
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In the eyes of some, Jimbo Fisher left the door open for a departure from Florida State in his first public comments since LSU fired Les Miles.

I’m not talking about LSU. No I haven’t [had contact with the Tigers] and I’m not talking about it,” the head coach said Monday.

Two days later, Fisher, one of the wagering favorites to replace Miles, attempted to slam the door on a potential departure, although some will see his “plan on” qualifier as leaving the door propped open yet again.

“I love this university. I plan on being here for a long time,” Fisher said during Wednesday’s ACC coaches’ teleconference. “I love Florida State, and that’s all I’m saying. I’ll talk about myself and Florida State.

“Anything else is clutter, and does not concern me, and is not involving me.”

Fisher spent seven seasons (2000-2006) as the offensive coordinator and quarterbacks coach at LSU before leaving for the same jobs — and the added title of head coach in waiting — at FSU.  Taking over for Bobby Bowden following the 2009 season, Fisher has guided the Seminoles to a 71-15 record in six-plus seasons, with 2013 ending with a national championship.

Last year as speculation centered on Miles’ tenuous status, Fisher was mentioned as a potential candidate then as well.  In fact, some reports had Fisher “intermediaries” in talks with LSU, although, obviously, nothing ever came of it if it indeed actually happened.