NC State athletic director Debbie Yow does not know Julie Hermann, but she is thrilled nonetheless.
You can understand why. Hermann is now part of a club with only a handful of members. A club that has not seemed to grow in membership over the past 20 years, despite more women playing sports, more women coaching and more female sports teams than ever in collegiate athletics.
Hermann became the third female athletic director at a BCS-level school when she was hired Wednesday to take over the Rutgers athletic department, joining Yow and Sandy Barbour at Cal. The hire signals a bold move for Rutgers, in the middle of an athletic department mess with a move to the Big Ten looming.
But will it end up being a move that opens more doors for females with designs on becoming athletic directors? That question gets murkier. Dating back to when Yow got her first AD job at a BCS school -- at Maryland in 1994 -- there have never been more than three female ADs at any one time at BCS conferences.
Hard to believe that no progress has been made over such a long period of time, especially when strides have been made in virtually every other area.
"I understand it completely," Yow said during a break at the ACC spring meetings at Amelia Island, Fla. "These jobs are very challenging to secure and there are an ample number of qualified women. But they usually involve key boosters and those key boosters are often times men. I don’t have any statistical data to support this, but they have a challenging time seeing themselves on the football team plane with that female athletic director.
"In my case, I was blessed at Maryland the men on the committee who were key boosters really could see that. That’s how it happened. It’s very challenging for women to get these jobs."
Yow pointed to a study conducted by R. Vivian Acosta and Linda Jean Carpenter titled "Women in Intercollegiate Sport" that pointed out women had a better chance of becoming presidents at BCS schools than athletic directors.
According to that study, 10.6 percent of Division I athletic directors were females in 2012. In 1998, that number was 9.9 percent. If you look at the FBS level, only 4.9 percent of athletic directors were female in 2012.
For her part, Hermann has worked at the side of one of the top athletic directors in the entire country at Louisville in Tom Jurich, one of four nominees for AD of the Year. Louisville has made tremendous strides under Jurich and seen incredible success in the last year, joining the ACC while winning a BCS game, men's hoops title and playing in the women's title game.
Hermann said during her introductory press conference in New Jersey, "(Athletics) is male-dominated, but in my building it's not male-dominated, it's probably-female dominated. We have Tom surrounded. And on the other hand I've been a woman in collegiate athletics my whole life. I don't know anything different other than the men that helped us make it happen."
When asked at the ACC spring meetings whether he thought this might open more doors for women to become athletic directors, Jurich said, "I sure hope so. I don’t know how many women have gone for those jobs, but I know she’s definitely ready. She’s going to do a great job at Rutgers. They’ve got an incredible asset who was my right-hand for 15 years. She was more than an employee, she was a very close friend and I’m going to miss her dearly. But I couldn’t be happier for her."
Yow is thrilled, too. Though it feels as if progress in this one area has been nonexistent, seeing Hermann get a job at a school headed for the Big Ten is progress in itself. She would be only the second female AD in Big Ten history when Rutgers joins the league in 2014 (Michigan State's Merrily Dean Baker from 1992-95 was the first).
Whether this sets a trend or not, Hermann is the one who went out and got this job for herself.
"It’s terrific, terrific for the league, terrific for her, terrific for the thousands of women who aspire to becoming a director of athletics at this level," Yow said.
The glass ceiling has another little crack. Joyous news indeed.