AP Sports Writer
PISCATAWAY, N.J. (AP) -- Incoming athletic director Julie Hermann must win over supporters of Rutgers' sports programs after a recent run of embarrassments and controversies made the Scarlet Knights the punch line of late-night shows.
Several backers said over the past two days that while they believe donations to the athletic department might take an initial hit because of the blunders made in the aftermath of the firing of men's basketball coach Mike Rice, they feel boosters will resume contributing.
While still upset about the forced resignation of popular former athletic Tim Pernetti, the Rutgers faithful want to put the controversy behind them and look forward to joining the Big Ten Conference in 2014.
"I absolutely feel all the donors will come back," said Dr. Michael Kerner, a Springfield-based gastroenterologist who attended Rutgers and is a season ticket holder for both football and basketball. "Maybe not all, but the overall majority. No one wants to hurt the teams. People at some point will move on."
Hermann, who spent three days on the Rutgers campus this past week visiting coaches, administrators and Big Ten Commissioner Jim Delany, is keenly aware that fundraising is going to be one of her biggest concerns in the new job. The boosters were firmly entrenched in Pernetti's corner.
"When I was awarded the job, I was told that would be a tough challenge and I believe it is going to be a tough challenge," Hermann said Wednesday. "Has it been made harder? No doubt. Am I going to have to work double-time to connect with the people who are passionate about Rutgers? I am."
Hermann had dinner with some big boosters Thursday night and made a good impression by all accounts.
Rutgers grad Dr. Gerald Costa, a surgeon and hospital administrator, believes donations to the school probably will drop in the short term.
"If a company makes a bad product or toys that Hasbro makes are faulty, what's the bottom line? Stocks drop and income starts drying up. She (Hermann) has to prove herself. I think she will," said Costa, who plans to continue to contribute.
Still, there is work to be done.
Lou DeFalco, an accountant who attended Rutgers and lives in Scotch Plains, was upset with the decision to push Pernetti out. He noted that the former AD orchestrated Rutgers' entry into the Big Ten, sold the naming rights to the stadium and had increased fundraising and was working on plans to expand the Rutgers Athletic Center, the home of the basketball teams.
DeFalco said Pernetti followed all the university's protocols in handing the Rice situation and never attempted to "sweep anything under the rug."
"They made a decision and then they rolled up on the wrong people," DeFalco said.
The athletic department has seemingly tripped over its own feet for the past 2
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