Heading into today we were all excited about who would be named the starting quarterback of our beloved football team. Instead, we were hit with a tornado of allegations, investigations, suspensions, and no clarity on the long term status of our starting quarterback. What happened and who is all involved? Here is a timeline and recap of the news that unfolded today regarding the Rutgers football program.
Keith Sargeant of NJ Advance Media posted this story early this afternoon about an investigation alleging that Kyle Flood improperly contacted a university professor. It was allegedly regarding Nadir Barnwell, the cornerback who has been rumored to be very close to being ruled academically ineligible for this season.
Coach Flood responded before practice to the media. Here is this article by Ryan Dunleavy's of the Asbury Park Press, quotes by Flood below:
"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."
On top of this breaking news, ESPN reported here that Leonte Carroo and Chris Laviano were suspended for the first half of the Norfolk State game for a curfew violation. It was also mentioned that Ruhaan Peele, Tim Gleeson and Kevin Marquez were also suspended for the first half but no violation was given.
With Laviano being suspended, it was also reported by ESPN that Hayden Rettig would start at quarterback against Norfolk State. Was it by default or was Flood declaring him the starter for the season?
Flood will not commit to Hayden Rettig beyond the first half of the opener, wouldn't say if Rettig was going to win the job anyway.— Josh Newman (@Joshua_Newman) August 25, 2015
Still no clarity on the quarterback position. Did Flood decide on Laviano and then he had to suspend him for the curfew violation and fake ID? Was he changing his tune and planning to play both quarterbacks against Norfolk State? We don't know for sure, other than Flood did not endorse Rettig as the full time starter. He didn't even confirm who would play the second half of the Norfolk State game. To quote Hall & Oates, "so close yet so far away", regarding the quarterback decision.
It was then reported that all five players were suspended for violating curfew and that in addition, Laviano, was caught using a Fake ID at a local bar. For Peele, it is his second violation in a year after last season's suspension for an assault charge. The case was ultimately dropped and Peele was reinstated by Flood in February. This new violation could land Peele an even longer suspension than the four games he missed last season, as he is a repeat offender of team rules.
Now back to the Flood investigation, later on this afternoon, Keith Sargeant receives confirmation from the President's office:
Rutgers president's office confirms an investigation w/ assistance of outside counsel when "this matter was first brought to our attention''— Keith Sargeant (@KSargeantNJ) August 25, 2015
The Rutgers president's office says it was brought to their attention "a little more than one week ago.''— Keith Sargeant (@KSargeantNJ) August 25, 2015
Here is the full statement that Sargeant received from the office of the President:
"We can confirm that the Rutgers University Office of Ethics and Compliance initiated an investigation with the assistance of outside counsel when this matter was first brought to our attention a little more than one week ago,'' read an official statement from Rutgers. "We will have no further comment until the investigation is concluded.''
The confirmation of the investigation and that it was being assisted by outside counsel made this a bigger story and validated Sargeant's original report.
This afternoon Flood addressed the confirmation of the investigation with the media. Here is Sargeant's full article and the Q&A with Flood is below:
On whether it's common practice for him to email a faculty member from a personal account regarding the status of a player:
"Again, I'm going to be respectful to the university process. You have my statement from before practice. We'll just refer to that for now.''
Is it a distraction to the team?
"If the team allows it. We can't afford any distractions. So I think we have a pretty strong-minded team. So we'll see as time goes on.''
There's a belief that there's supposed to a 'separation of church and state' when it comes to coaches contacting professors, but is it typical to inquire as to what a student-athlete can do?
"Let me just say this, again, without getting in the way of the university process. I have a lot of communication with teachers. I teach classes on campus. I was a member of a faculty for four years. So to me I don't know why you would want to have a separation of church and state. We're all part of the same university. We all want the same things for our student-athletes.''
Is there a danger of crossing the that line when you're asking about a student-athlete's grades?
"You have my statement from before.''
Are you aware of university policies to that regard?
"Again, we have professors who come to practice, we have professors who come to practice, we have professors that are part of our recruiting weekends. I teach classes on campus. So I welcome those interactions. Again, I think we're all a part of the same university.''
So no one from the university has contacted you yet about the investigation?
"Nobody has contacted me specifically to say anything about this.''
On Nadir Barnwell's status:
"Nadir's eligible for practice right now.''
Would you consider releasing that email publicly?
"What I have to do is go through the university process first before I can really make any decisions on any of that stuff.''
So where does that leave us now, other than with so many more questions than the one we started the day with. As in who would be the starting quarterback? Now we have the following:
- What were the contents of the email Flood sent the professor?
- Why did Flood email the professor from his personal email account and not his university account?
- How long will this investigation take and what will it uncover?
- Sargeant's original report included, "One of the university officials monitoring the investigation said the university's athletics compliance department prohibits coaches from communicating with instructors, however. The same university official told NJ Advance Media that any and all contact with a professor of a student-athlete must be made by the relevant academic support member." Flood has stated throughout the day he has contact with professors all the time. So if it is university policy not to have direct contact, why doesn't Flood know that? And why are faculty at practice as Flood claimed earlier in the day?
- What punishment will Flood receive?
- As Ryan Dunleavy wrote here, is this nothing or is there "impending doom" awaiting Flood and the program?
We are less than two weeks away from the start of the season and now it feels two hundred weeks away. We have to respect the process of the investigation and wait until all facts are released. We have to give Kyle Flood the benefit of the doubt until proven otherwise. He has shown to be a man of integrity in his almost four years as the head coach of the football team. The team has one of the highest APR academic ratings in all of college football, year after year. High School coaches in Middlesex County have already come out in support of Flood. Expect many of his former players to state the same in the coming days.
For those that want to attack Keith Sargeant and the Star-Ledger, understand the university confirmed the investigation within hours of his report. This is not a witch hunt. Hopefully, the findings are not severe and Flood is issued a verbal reprimand for inappropriate contact. It could have just been an email asking when Barnwell's grades will be posted so Flood could make a decision on the depth chart. It could be worse, but we don't know anything more and until we do, we wait. An upcoming season that has had all Rutgers faithful hopeful, returns us to a period of worrying that worse news is ahead. And we still have no answer on who will start at quarterback. A question that consumed us all to start the day, seems unimportant at the end of the day. The future of the program, not our future quarterback, is now the question we are consumed by.