Rutgers Athletic Director Hermann made off-the-cuff comment about Penn State scandal

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PISCATAWAY, New Jersey — Rutgers athletic director Julie Hermann made an off-the-cuff joke about the Jerry Sandusky child sex-abuse scandal at Penn State during a meeting with staff last fall.

The university acknowledged Friday that Hermann made the impromptu comment in a fundraising meeting but said it was not directed at anyone associated with Penn State.

The comment was first reported by NJ Advance Media, whose story included statements from more than a half-dozen people inside the Rutgers athletic department.

The report said Hermann told staff members to "reach out and touch the donors" of the Rutgers program, and her punchline was to not do it "in a Sandusky way."

"Julie's comment was an off the cuff response to a give-and-take interaction urging the fundraising team to reach out and touch the donors,'" Pete McDonough, senior vice president for external affairs, said in a statement sent Friday evening to The Associated Press. "There probably isn't a person alive today who hasn't made an impromptu remark in a private meeting that probably shouldn't have been said. Even taken out of context, this single comment was not directed at Penn State, its students, staff or faculty."

McDonough said the university is not going to let a spontaneous, offhand remark take away from the "great" job Hermann is doing since replacing Tim Pernetti in May 2013.

The report comes just days after Rutgers apologized to Penn State for offensive signs and shirts referencing the Sandusky scandal that some Rutgers fans displayed during a weekend football game, the Scarlet Knights' debut in the Big Ten Conference.

Hermann called the actions at the game a "classless display" that she said does not represent the New Jersey school's views or its fan base.

Several photos posted on an official Rutgers football Facebook page showed fans wearing T-shirts that read "Beat Ped State." Hermann says the photos were removed.

There also was a sign that showed what appeared to be stick figures of a man and boy engaged in a sex act, with "Penn State" emblazoned across the top.

Sandusky, a former longtime assistant football coach at Penn State, was convicted of 45 counts of child sexual abuse.

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