I admit, Rutgers is sometimes a bit of a punching bag on this blog, and if one was looking for more easy ammunition, it wouldn't be hard to find today. According to NJ.com, Rutgers is currently investigating head coach Kyle Flood for a potential rules violation involving emails. It's hardly a big, fancy potential scandal like something out of say, 1980s Miami, but the potential for significant impact is still there. Here's what you, a Buckeye fan, need to know:
What is this investigation about, exactly?
Per NJ.com, Rutgers is looking at emails Kyle Flood sent to a professor in the Mason Gross School of Arts concerning the status of cornerback Nadir Barnwell, who was rumored to be in jeopardy of not being academically eligible. Flood allegedly sent the emails from a personal account, rather than his Rutgers email account, which raises some suspicions (a university official may use a personal email account to escape FOIA requests). The email itself is unknown, but if Flood was trying to pressure a professor or academic staff member to keep a player eligible, that would potentially be a big problem. At Rutgers, any communication with a professor concerning should come from an academic support member not a football coach, so even a relatively innocent communication could potentially be a violation.
What does Kyle Flood say about this?
Flood, for his part, seems pretty adamant that he didn't do anything wrong. Per App.com today:
"Let me start by saying I'm disappointed at the tone of the article that (media relations official) Hasim (Phillips) showed me this morning," Flood told reporters before practice. "I've been the head coach now this is going into my fourth season and I've had a lot of interaction with the teachers on our campus.
"I think that that article not only insults my integrity but it insults the integrity of our faculty. I've come to realize that our faculty here at Rutgers is beyond reproach and I have a tremendous amount of respect for them. Our faculty are a part of our program. Just as recently as the other day, we had two faculty members at our practice."
"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 receiver what are called"'t grades" -- doing work outside of when the class ends that semester to earn a better grade."
For what it's worth, NJ.com said that their sources said that "the investigation is expected to be concluded quickly", so we'll know one way or another soon enough.
Has Rutgers said anything else?
They released a quick statement this afternoon:
Short statement from Rutgers: "We can confirm that the Rutgers University Office of Ethics and Compliance initiated an investigation (more)"— Ralph D. Russo (@ralphDrussoAP) August 25, 2015
RU cont: " with the assistance of outside counsel when this matter was first brought to out attention a little more than one week ago."— Ralph D. Russo (@ralphDrussoAP) August 25, 2015
Independent of this investigation, is Kyle Flood on the hot seat at Rutgers?
Probably not, but you never know. Flood's Scarlet Knights did go 8-5 last year, beating UNC in a bowl game, and secured a win over Michigan. Flood is 23-16 during his head coaching tenure at Rutgers, with three bowl bids in three years, and has at Rutgers competitive every season, even if they haven't been say, Top 25 quality. The key for Rutgers to become more successful is likely in recruiting though, and their 2016 class is currently ranked 11th in the Big Ten, without a single blue chip recruit, despite several coming from New Jersey in this cycle.
Flood was probably on a hotter seat last year, but did secure a two year contract extension early in the season, most likely to help stabilize recruiting for 2016 and 2017. Baring this incident being something major, or the wheels totally falling off the wagon for this season, it would be a little surprising if Flood is fired this year.
What happens if Rutgers does decide to fire Kyle Flood?
That's a good question. Right now, if Flood is fired without cause (say, Rutgers just sucks next season and the program wants to move on), Flood would be owed a buyout of $1.4 million dollars. That's not an insignificant amount of money for Rutgers, given that the program doesn't have a full BTN share and isn't flush with cash like some of their Big Ten compatriots are, but it may not be an insurmountable number.
However, Flood's original contract does contain language that states, essentially, if Flood broke university guidelines, committed an NCAA violation, etc, he could be terminated with cause, and the school would not need to pay his buyout or other compensation. Theoretically, in the event that Flood was found to have broken rules, the two sides could attempt to negotiate a settlement for a reduced buyout as well.
So what's the most likely outcome here?
Hard to say conclusively without looking at the email, but we should hear more pretty soon. Rutgers isn't exactly the easiest athletic department to predict, after all. In the wake of their bad publicity surrounding the basketball team, do they try and drop an extra strong compliance hammer? Did university officials leak details of this investigation to help bolster a case to eventually fire Flood for cause? Both are possible outcomes. It's also possible, maybe even probable, that Flood's emails had nothing to do with with trying to pressure anybody, meaning he'd be guilty of an coaching equivalent of a speeding violation; worthy of a stern lecture about FOIA and proper channels, but probably not anything else.
For what it's worth, my gut tells me that some sort of wholesale academic fraud scheme would feel pretty out of place for Flood, and I would expect this to be much more on the minor side as far as punishments go. Still, combined with a slew of suspensions announced for their first game, this will provide an interesting wrinkle if Rutgers struggles a little bit on the field.
Rutgers is a really tough job, but with the right coach, it could have a much higher ceiling. Any developments that bring on a potential coaching chance at the State University of New Jersey would be worthy of notice from Ohio State fans.