For Rutgers, the hits just keep on coming. On Wednesday the Scarlet Knights suspended head football coach Kyle Flood for three games and fined him $50,000 for violations of university policy. The news was first reported by NJ.com.
Flood will miss games against Penn State (Sept. 19), Kansas (Sept. 26) and Michigan State (Oct. 10). The punishment comes after NJ.com reported Monday that Rutgers athletic director Julie Hermann voiced support for Flood at a football practice earlier this week.
Flood’s suspension stems from an allegation last month that the coach inappropriately contacted a faculty member who taught junior cornerback Nadir Barnwell. In a letter released to the university community Wednesday, Rutgers president Robert Barchi said the investigation showed that Flood “circumvented established policies and procedures in contacting a faculty member to discuss the academic standing of a student-athlete.”
“Based on what we know now,” Barchi wrote, “it is clear to me that Coach Flood had inappropriate communications with the faculty member in violation of an established policy.”
According to a report released on Wednesday following a school investigation, Flood contacted the faculty member via personal email and also initiated an in-person meeting with the faculty member. Flood likewise provided “grammatical and minor editorial suggestions” to a submitted paper for the player in question. The full report can be found here.
“Our faculty must have complete independence in executing their duties, and there is a reason why we prohibit athletics coaching staff from discussing the academic standing of students with faculty,” Barchi wrote.
In his letter Barchi said Flood is tasked with understanding university policy, and Rutgers is working with the NCAA to determine if any bylaws have been broken. “We have high expectations of every member of our community and no one is free from responsibility,” Barchi said. “We must use this opportunity to grow, to do more and to do better. And we will. “
With the possible exception of Illinois, which fired head football coach Tim Beckman last month after an investigation revealed the coach influenced medical decisions of players, Rutgers has become the laughingstock of intercollegiate athletics. The Scarlet Knights have dismissed six members of the football team for off-field transgressions in the last two weeks. Last weekend Flood suspended star wide receiver Leonte Carroo, who was arrested following an assault charge.
Flood is fortunate this academic situation hasn’t cost him his job; he holds a 24–17 overall record and is in his fourth season with the Scarlet Knights.
But Rutgers’ off-field issues extend far beyond football and Wednesday’s suspension. In 2013 the school fired basketball coach Mike Rice after a video surfaced showing Rice throwing balls at players and using gay slurs during practice. Last spring Rutgers rescinded an invitation for former football player Eric LeGrand, who was paralyzed in a 2010 football game, to speak at commencement, but the university re-extended the offer after news of the gaffe broke.
Hermann herself has also become a lightning rod for criticism; last September NJ.com reported that Hermann made a joke about the child sex scandal involving Jerry Sandusky during a staff meeting. It was just the latest of several ill-advised comments for which she has caught flak.
At this point, issues surrounding Rutgers athletics have become a regular part of the news cycle. From Hermann on down, how much longer will such ineptitude last in the Rutgers athletic department? The school appeared on the rise when it joined the Big Ten last summer, but currently the Scarlet Knights are nothing but a national joke.
On-field success won’t be enough to point Rutgers in the right direction, either. The athletic department simply needs better leadership at the top, and so far, Hermann and Flood have dropped that responsibility.