Rutgers, as we all know, is a unique university. Things move at glacial place, and often need some inciting incident to really get off the ground. Look at the recent facility issue--a Court Club meeting got the entire issue off the ground, and actually moving forward. Before that it was rumors, innuendo and very few actual public plans.
It has always been like this at Rutgers. Something small turns into something major and the next thing you know--the university is changed... mostly in the athletic department.
In the summer of 2005, Fred Hill was hired away from Villanova to be Gary Waters' lead recruiting assistant, and-rumors said-head coach in waiting. It was a move that was mostly celebrated by the Rutgers community, and appeared to be a move that would help recruiting going forward. This was the season of Quincy Douby and Rutgers kept flirting with being a bubble team. Douby was incredible and the team was over .500. Late in the season, head coach Gary Waters was invited back to his former school, Kent State, to be inducted into their athletic Hall of Fame. He decided to go, and if memory serves me, he was given permission to go by then Athletic Director Bob Mulcahy, despite the fact that Rutgers had a big game against Marquette the next day. Waters would go to the induction and fly by to New Jersey in time for the game.
And then a blizzard hit.
Airports were closed and Waters couldn't make it back. Fred Hill was the head coach for the game, an impressive one that Rutgers won 91-84. But the head coach had missed a game. And it incensed the fans. Three days later, in a game against St. John's the student section unfurled a Fire Gary Waters banner. The team never imploded, but rumors of Waters' firing was the storyline. Gary Waters was bought out after an NIT appearance, which led to Fred Hill being hired without a national search.
A small thing--a snow storm--led to this firing.
Baseball, um, Gate
Fred Hill's tenure at Rutgers was a disaster. Blowouts, transfers, chemistry issue. It was, indeed, a steak of turmoil. In December 2008, the AD who hired Fred Hill was fired and replaced by Tim Pernetti (which happened because of a minor scandal itself). The following year, Hill was on notice. It was his fourth season and he needed to make waves. But top recruit and developing center Greg Echinique suffered an eye injury and then decided to transfer mid-year. And though the team upset Georgetown, it never got its feet under itself and had another disappointing year.
Rumors were Hill was going to be ousted as soon as the season was done. Rumblings about Seth Greenburg's interest in the job further increased the conversation. However, after meeting with Pernetti, Hill was able to hang on to his job--the buyout in his contract proving too large.
And then Fred Hill went to a baseball game.
And got into a shouting match on the field.
Yes, the basketball coach got into an curse filled argument at a baseball game. When the story originally broke, I rolled my eyes. It was embarrassing, sure, but seemed minor. But then more words seemed to leak out. Pernetti had scolded Hill and forbid him from returning to watch anymore games. However, Hill disobeyed his boss and was spotted watching the game from a car nearby.
Pernetti fired him, after a long and drawn out process. It was late in the year and the coaches that had been interested in the job were off the table. Pernetti hired fiery coach Mike Rice.
Video, er, um, Gate
Mike Rice had promise, but he was a lunatic on the sidelines. He'd been thrown out of a game in Louisville and though his teams fought and battled, they hadn't gotten over the hump yet. Rice preached to his team that they be "comfortable in chaos" and rumors were his practices were brutal. And suddenly, in December of 2012, Rice was suspended for three games and fined $50,000.
The word was Rice used inappropriate language in practice.
But after the suspension, Rice seemed to right himself. The team didn't have a great year, but his attitude and intensity seemed to improve. Yet, people were wondering if Rice would be fired. So much so that Pernetti had to issue a statement he Rice would return the following season.
It was over, right?
No, of course not. This is Rutgers.
The rumor was, Pernetti wanted to fire Rice when the suspension happened, but wasn't allowed to because they couldn't justify firing Rice for cause. So, this lingered.
ESPN got the tapes of Rice's practices and the thing just darn tootin' blew up. We all know what happened next--lots of controversy. Rice was fired. Pernetti resigned. Eddie Jordan was hired. Julie Hermann was hired. There was more controversy and more problems and mis-speaking. There was the lack of a degree and another video that supposedly didn't exist.
There were other scandals that hung over a team for years--like naked free throws, and Mulcahy's budgeting issues. Stuff that either should have been dealt with immediately or never should have been an issue to begin with.
All stuff we Rutgers fans know really well.
Which brings us to Kyle Flood, who is embroiled in an email controversy (Email-Gate? Nah, that doesn't work. There has to be some email controversy out there that we could nickname this... right?)
Flood has long been considered on of the classiest individuals at Rutgers--one who cares about his players. And it appears likely that his move to email a professor was done out of good will, genuine curiosity, and possible ignorance of a rule. I don't expect he will be fired over this, and I don't want him to be.
Let me repeat that, I don't expect Flood will get fired over this email, and I don't want him to be fired.
But this episode has brought back too many memories of "scandal" at Rutgers. Something that originally seemed innocuous or slightly embarrassing and turned into something bigger as time went on.
With luck, this will blow over on Monday or Tuesday, and be forgotten by December's Bowl Game. But this is Rutgers, and sometimes these things hang over the school.
Once the investigation is complete, we'll know more. With luck Flood will be exonerated.
I hope so.
I expect so.
But the Rutgers fan in me is always nervous.
Dave White is the author of numerous crime thrillers, most of which take place in and around Rutgers University. You can check them out through his website.