The Board of Governors is meeting today, in an emergency closed-door session, regarding "athletics matters" and "pending or anticipated litigation" (see what I did there with the quotation marks?)
Since the announcement went out, speculation has run wild. What is the cause for an "emergency" meeting? And if lawyers are involved, it can't be good, right?
The range of possible agenda options is vast. Here's our best attempt to explain the options.
Best case: "Athletics Matters" and "Pending or Anticipated Litigation" are Unrelated Agenda Items
If you think of Rutgers as an enormous, diverse business conglomerate, it should come as no surprise that the University is sued frequently, for every imaginable possible cause of action. The University owns hundreds of vehicles - sometimes they get in accidents. It owns miles of land and hundreds of buildings, some of which are several hundred years old, in rural, suburban and urban settings - sometimes people fall down or buildings or sidewalks fall into disrepair.
Rutgers has thousands of employees, ranging from people who take out the trash and cut the grass to fully tenured professors - they have all the labor and employment issues you might expect from such an operation, including disputes with unions, discrimination lawsuits, wrongful termination cases, sexual harassment issues, etc. There are also environmental issues, research issues, intellectual property issues, mergers and acquisitions, partnerships with private entities like pharmaceutical companies and the BTN, financing and bond transactions, and vendor contracts with, for example, the companies that provide food for the dining hall or dumpster services.
Overlaid on top of those issues and dozens more, Rutgers is a quasi-government entity, and is subject to Constitutional restrictions on both the state and federal level that simply don't apply to normal businesses.
So it is quite possible that there was a development in an unrelated lawsuit that required BOG involvement, and they decided to discuss recent developments in athletics because the meeting was happening anyway. This could be the case, but this strikes us as very optimistic and coincidental.
Worst Case: High Profile People are Getting Fired and We Are About to See Another Sh*tstorm
The other end of the spectrum is not nearly so rosy: it contemplates Kyle Flood and/or Julie Hermann losing their jobs. It is possible the outside investigation found evidence so awful that the football coach and possibly the AD are about to lose their jobs. This would be a PR hit almost impossibly difficult to comprehend, involving a popular football coach hours before an important game/season.
Before he refused to say anything further about the pending investigation, Flood said (and I'm paraphrasing) he would often contact professors to see if there was anything a student could do on his own merits to improve a grade, particularly if the grade was a "T/TF" (temporary) grade. Assuming that's all he did, that practice appears to be a technical violation of the University policy, but likely one without serious consequences - slap on the wrist and public apology territory.
However, if Flood's contact was more aggressive and more frequent than the rather benign technical violation he seemingly described, and he actually was lobbying professors to improve student athlete's grades, and particularly if he did it multiple times, the matter becomes more serious. The situation is further complicated by this week's resolution by the University Faculty, which identifies the grade in question as an "F," not the type of temporary grade Flood described hypothetically.
And this is Rutgers - it's impossible to keep up with the internal politics and Game of Thrones style factional-ization, backstabbing, intrigue, and whisper campaigns. Who knows which player might have seen an opportunity to put a dagger in Flood and/or Julie Hermann, and is making the most of it.
There are a few reasons this is probably not going to be the apocalyptic scenario we just described. Academic types are never shy to play the victim to the big, bad Athletic Department's abuser - if there really were rampant issues with Flood or other coaches meddling and trying to influence grades, it seems unlikely that it would have stayed this quiet this long. This is not Tuscaloosa, and Athletics does not have that kind of "keep your mouth shut or else" juice here. It is also noteworthy that there have been no indications since the news broke of other professors stepping forward, publicly or anonymously, to say "me too - they tried to influence my grades also." Flood has in all other respects been an exemplary employee and representative of the university for more than a decade - he has earned the benefit of the doubt until facts show otherwise.
In the Middle: "Athletics" and "Litigation" are Linked, But There is A Spectrum of Seriousness
Like most things in life, this is probably not as bad as the worst case, or as good as the best case. Maybe it IS related to Flood's email: maybe the professor at issue sued or is threatening to sue; maybe Nadir Barnwell is suing for violations of his privacy (seems like he has other things to worry about, but you never know); or maybe the faculty union is using this as leverage in a contract negotiations. None of those are ludicrous options.
It is also possible the litigation is related to football's other recent black eye - the arrests of multiple current and former players. Maybe the victims of the alleged crimes are suing the University. Maybe dismissed players are suing because they were improperly dismissed, and they are actually innocent.
It is also possible the litigation is related to past sins of the Athletics Department - particularly the Mike Rice debacle, and its ongoing litigation. For example, the New Jersey Court's online case tracking system lists Jerome Seagear's case against the University and various athletics figures as "Active," and in a relatively early stage of litigation. A development in that case, or others like it, including possibly approval of settlement terms, could require BOG approval on an expedited basis.
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The waiting is the hardest part. This fan is hoping for some resolution today, and also hoping any investigation turns up little or no wrongdoing. I just want to watch some football.