Out of the blue Tuesday, NJ.com dropped a bomb on the college football scene, leading off a breaking news alert that "Rutgers head coach Kyle Flood could face a suspension or firing because of impermissible contact with a university faculty member regarding the status of one of his own players."
Flood met with reporters before practice yesterday afternoon and was clearly displeased with the way the news was broken. "Let me start by saying I'm disappointed at the tone of the article," he said. "I think that that article not only insults my integrity but it insults the integrity of our faculty."
In his statement Flood went on to foreshadow that he had reached out to a faculty member, saying, "Any correspondence that I had with a professor in regards to a student-athlete would really be of this nature. One, to be in support of whatever decision that faculty member made. And two, to inquire as to whether or not there would be an opportunity to earn a better grade. This practice is not unusual at Rutgers. Many students all over campus receive what are called 'T grades' - doing work outside of when the class ends that semester to earn a better grade."
Later in the day, ESPN's Joe Schad reported that Flood had indeed emailed a professor but did not ask the professor to change the player's grade but addressed what the player could do to improve his grade.
This morning, NJ.com revealed that Rutgers officials have known about and "initiated an investigation with the assistance of outside counsel" when this matter was brought to their attention "a little more than one week ago." NJ.com noted that on Monday they attempted (through Rutgers employees) to review the contents of the email and sought comment from athletic director Julie Hermann, who referred all questions to the office of university president Robert Barchi. Note that as of this time, I have not seen any comments from the president's office either.
So, Monday, Rutgers officials were aware that NJ.com had knowledge of the investigation (for now, we won't even dive into the question of who tipped them off). I'm sure you're thinking the same thing I am, right? Why didn't Rutgers address this before allowing NJ.com to break the "scandal"? Oh, and let's dive into this "investigation." Someone brought the email to the administration's attention "a little more than a week ago," and Rutgers said they immediately brought in outside counsel to assist. How complicated is this investigation? Read the email. Ask the teacher about it. Ask Kyle Flood about it. Do we have a problem or not? Seems that could have been completed in far, far less than a week.
Less than a year ago, when announcing a contract extension for Flood, university president Robert Barchi said, "Coach Flood exemplifies our university's standards and values both on and off the field."
Looking back, it sounds as if Flood might not have made the best decision about how to reach out to a faculty member about one of his players. Rutgers has known about this for over a week. Seems like someone there could have been prepared to say, at the very least, "Coach Flood is a good man and has done a good job leading our program. Recently, he sent an email to a professor inquiring about the status of one of his players. A concern was raised about the email and we are in the process of reviewing whether any further action is required. We expect to have an update by _____..."
So, what do we have here? Another example of inept leadership within Rutgers athletics? Or should we perhaps put on the conspiracy theorist hat and go with a leak from within (only place a leak would come from) planted to, at the very least, smear Kyle Flood. Considering Rutgers' long history of dysfunction, and that utter chaos has been the department's m.o. since Hermann's arrival, anything seems possible here.
Time will tell; but the way this came out, and the absolute silence from Hermann, sure does feel wrong.