Rutgers AD Hire Illustrates Importance of Fit

You hear it all the time: “We’re looking for the right fit,” or “he/she just wasn’t the right fit.”  The concept of finding the right fit has been around for ages, and is still a buzzword in the hiring world today.  Rutgers University appears to have ignored or simply missed this factor when hiring its new athletic director Julie Hermann.

Before going further it’s important to focus in on what we’re talking about here and what we’re not.  This has nothing to do with whether Ms. Hermann is capable or qualified to do the job of Rutgers’ athletic director.  By most accounts she is a talented administrator and comes from arguably the most respected athletic program today in the University of Louisville and AD Tom Jurich.  Her qualifications are not the issue.

However it’s safe to assume there were other qualified candidates as well.  And it’s how the president and search committee decided Ms. Hermann was the best person for Rutgers right now instead of the other qualified candidates that’s important.  Factors often considered in these types of searches might include ties to the area, familiarity with the conference, management style and/or vision for the department.  In other words, who is the right “fit” for what we’re trying to accomplish?

If a university wants someone to shepherd a football program back to greatness, hiring someone from a school without football may not be the way to go.  Similarly a university wanting someone to energize a weary staff might choose not to hire someone low key and introverted.  It doesn’t mean that low key, introverted candidate from the non-football school isn’t qualified or wouldn’t make a fantastic athletic director.  It just means that person may not be a the right fit for that particular university at that particular time.

Also, in any organization how the last person left the job often will guide the search for the right fit in the new person.  If a team has had great success and the head coach retires, it’s not uncommon to see the assistant coach promoted to take over the reigns.  If the last coach was fired for poor performance, often someone very opposite of him or her is chosen as the replacement.

Rutgers had several factors which should have dictated what type of person would be the right fit for its athletic director position.  Chief among these was finding someone who could help them move on from the scandal involving abusive men’s basketball coach Mike Rice.  Based on what we now know about Ms. Hermann’s past at both Tennessee and Louisville, it’s near impossible to say she is the right fit for Rutgers right now.  Perhaps she would have been a year ago and perhaps she would be ten years from now.  Perhaps she is the perfect fit at any number of other schools looking for an athletic director.  But it seems a stretch to say she was the best fit for Rutgers in 2013.

Rutgers president Robert Barchi is standing by his decision to hire Ms. Hermann even as damaging revelations emerge almost daily.  This is unsurprising given the fact Mr. Barchi has demonstrated his indifference toward athletics in the past and continues to appear annoyed with the fact he has to deal with it at all.  Add in New Jersey Governor Chris Christie’s unwillingness to get involved, and there appears to only be three potential outcomes: 1) Ms. Hermann begins her tenure as AD as scheduled, 2) the Rutgers’ Board of Governors steps in and forces Mr. Barchi to rescind the offer to Ms. Hermann, or 3) Ms. Hermann resigns.

Is Ms. Hermann the right fit for Rutgers at this particular moment?  It doesn’t seem so, but assuming she begins her new job as planned, we’ll know for sure in due time.

photo credit: The Fayj via photopin cc

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