Rutgers coach Flood under fire heading into season opener
PISCATAWAY, N.J. (AP) When Rutgers opens the season against Norfolk State Saturday, coach Kyle Flood seemingly is going to lead the team on the field at Rutgers Stadium.
How long he continues doing that is uncertain in the wake of a university investigation into whether he improperly contacted a teacher about a player's grade and the arrest of five players on Thursday in connection with home invasions, armed robbery and assault, including the player at the center of the grade probe.
The players arrested and charged, including three starters, were suspended from the team by athletic director Julie Hermann on Thursday.
The university placed seven students, including the five football players, on interim suspension, Richard L. Edwards, chancellor of Rutgers University-New Brunswick, announced Friday. The students may appeal the suspension.
The team suspensions were the second action in less than two weeks. Star receiver Leonte Carroo and quarterback Chris Laviano, along with three other players, were suspended for the first half of Saturday's game for a curfew violation.
The investigation, into Flood's contact with the teacher about a grade receiver by starting cornerback Nadir Barnwell, probably won't be completed until next week at the earliest.
However, the pressure is mounting on Flood, who has led Rutgers to three bowl games in his first three seasons, including a surprising eight wins last year in the Scarlet Knights' first year in the Big Ten Conference.
The two largest organizations that cover Rutgers football daily had columnists write after the player arrests that Flood's tenure should end.
If the university decided to part with Flood, he would be second Big Ten football coach fired in recent weeks. Illinois dismissed Tim Beckman on Aug. 28 after he was accused of trying to influence medical decisions and attempting to have injured student-athletes play. He denied the allegations.
Before the player arrests on Thursday, Flood said that the investigation and the earlier suspensions were not a distraction for his team. He added the attention has brought it closer together.
''I feel good about where the team is at mentally,'' he said. ''Ultimately we're going to find out Saturday at 12 noon.''
Carroo, who gave up a chance to enter the NFL draft, has been a big supporter of Flood.
''He's still the same guy that's been the same guy since I got here,'' Carroo said before Thursday's arrests.
It also will be interesting to see how the fans react when Flood leads the team on the field.
Some things to know about the game:
LSU transfer Hayden Rettig will start with Laviano suspended. Flood never said whether Rettig won competition to replace Gary Nova. He said he will evaluate his performance at halftime. So don't be surprised is Laviano plays in the second half. Many felt he had the edge in training camp.
The suspensions on Thursday wiped out three quarters of the Scarlet Knights' secondary. Barnwell and Dre Boggs were the starting cornerbacks and Delon Stephenson was a starting safety. Florida Atlantic transfer Greg Hankerson Jr. will start for Norfolk State and it wouldn't be a surprise if he tested the secondary. He started against No. 2 Alabama last year and against Rice as a freshman in 2013.
With all the attention on Flood, it's easy to forget this will be Latrell Scott's debut as Norfolk State's coach. He joins the Spartans after guiding Virginia State University to a 19-4 record over the past two seasons.