After the punishment was handed down on Wednesday afternoon to Rutgers coach Kyle Flood, the beleaguered coach remains employed, but must sit out three games.
For a situation that has more twists and turns than the Game of Thrones, it is fairly impressive that Flood and AD Julie Hermann still remain on the payroll.
What started as a handful of suspensions and a very bad day has become an assortment of noticeably worse developments: arrests after practice; players allegedly assaulting women after a game; and coaches sending direct messages to alter grades. Think about it, in the three weeks since it all spiraled downward, even the Washington Redskins have stayed out of the news, except for a few minor RGIII notes. If your program makes Dan Snyder look like a model leader, it might be time to go in a different direction.
Even Illinois fired Tim Beckman right before the season after mishandling player injuries. Beckman deserved the axe, particularly with the focus on player safety and the long-term effects of neglectful (non-)responses to situations which demand attention. Even with all of that dysfunction, it still did not compare to what has happened at Rutgers and the embarrassment these events have cast on the conference. Think Jim Delany has any second thoughts?
Just as a timeline, the initial news that came out about Flood was based on some possible violations regarding a player’s eligibility. Since then, two players were arrested and charged in connection with a home invasion that happened a few months back. Following this, four other players allegedly assaulted a Rutgers student. One of those four was Nadir Barnwell, the player whose eligibility issues had put the program back in the spotlight for all the wrong reasons. Additionally, one of the team’s best players, NFL prospect Leonte Carroo, was suspended for allegedly assaulting a woman following the loss to Washington State.
In terms of Flood’s improper contact with academic personnel regarding Barnwell’s eligibility, the collection of communications was released on Wednesday. Flood (unsurprisingly, but in an ultimate humiliation) had to backpedal from his previous stance that he had done nothing wrong. He took “full responsibility for the consequences.”
In one communication, Flood said that he was sending the information from his personal email to keep things private. Then after being told not to have contact with the professor by an academic advisor, Flood went ahead and did so anyway.
Flood also told the professor that he would not wear any school gear to avoid being recognized in public with the professor. Flood knew he was in the wrong, but did not care at all. He simply did not want to be caught.
If you sort through recent history at Rutgers — not just the past two to three years, but the past eight or nine, dating back to the Greg Schiano days — you’ll find a continued presence of two very disturbing kinds of figures: unrestrained coaches in the major revenue sports — men who plainly overstepped their bounds in one way or another — and administrators in both the athletic department and the university itself who were enablers at worst, bystanders at best.
Hermann was hired as the school’s new athletic director in the face of considerable protests and the revelation of deeply troubling incidents from her past. A program seeking a clean start after the Mike Rice-Tim Pernetti mess a few years ago needed someone with a squeaky-clean track record to oversee a wayward athletic department. Hermann, by any possible measurement, didn’t pass the sniff test. Rutgers being Rutgers, however, Hermann was awarded the post and did not have it taken away from her when subsequent controversies came to light.
Naturally, in the middle of this Flood of bad behavior, Hermann has to show strength as the AD. However, how can one expect a person with a history of questionable (at best) decision making and behavioral control to make tough decisions when they’re entirely called for? It should not be surprising at all that Hermann’s response to the events of the past few weeks has been much less than authoritative or convincing.
While a three-game suspension is certainly a strong penalty, and while the school appears to want to maneuver in such a way that an eventual termination of Flood will not have to cost as much, it does not prove the point that is needed at Rutgers. It certainly appears that the school gave Flood the three-game suspension to get all its ducks in a row to eventually fire the coach. That being said, Flood needed to be kicked to the curb to show that Hermann and the school had a no-nonsense, no-tolerance attitude toward the football coach’s complete lack of oversight over his program. Even though Flood is almost surely a goner when this three-game suspension runs its course, the fact of not firing him with the promptness the situation deserved shows that Hermann and Rutgers are still in a mindset of looking for the clever and slick escape from a problem, instead of the head-on confrontation of issues which have persisted at the university for far too long.
(One also has to consider the possibility that Rutgers is not planning to fire Flood, but could alter its thinking due to a public outcry for the coach to lose his job. Either option is still possible, but the if suspension is all he gets, Flood will be back for the Indiana game in early October. It remains likely that Flood is done, but don’t discount the possibility that Rutgers will be tone-deaf… again.)
Beyond the off-field crises that have emerged over the last few weeks and months, consider these other reasons why Flood is still employed at Rutgers:
1) He is by far the cheapest coach in the Big Ten. Only three coaches in the conference made under two million dollars coming into the 2015 season. One was Beckman and the other is Kevin Wilson, with Flood being the cheapest acquisition. In fact, Flood does not even crack the million-dollar mark at $987,000, the only one to be in such a position.
With this, Flood has seen amazing production at the school. Since the program has still made bowl games and has a platform that other, less successful programs lack, why would the school make a change unless the NCAA comes knocking?
2) Rutgers is not sure if it can do better than Flood on the field. While the squad lost to Washington State last weekend, Flood is still 24-17 in his fourth year at the school, including three bowl appearances. In two of his seasons, Rutgers finished with a winning record, including a nine-win campaign. Past achievements have bought Flood some time and goodwill… but that’s precisely the point.
Rutgers University athletics has burned every last ounce of goodwill over the past several years. Individuals who continue to tarnish the program and the school in substantial ways can’t be allowed to continue to do damage.
If you recall the Mike Rice-Tim Pernetti situation, one of the central realities of that sorry episode — the reality which caused so many people to be upset — is that when Pernetti learned what had happened, he didn’t exercise the strong leadership needed to immediately remove Rice from the program.
This pattern — of an athletic director or other university administrator not acting in the swiftest and strongest possible manner to immediately dismiss a wayward coach — is now repeating itself.
“Those who forget the past are doomed to repeat it,” the saying goes. At Rutgers, an ironic twist is involved: Julie Hermann knows her past, so she’s naturally going to fail to be the disciplinarian and leader Rutgers needs in the wake of another profound embarrassment for an athletic department that can’t get its act straight.