Kyle Flood's suspension could be latest in string of bad Rutgers decisions

The amount of bad decisions and twisted logic that Rutgers head coach Kyle Flood apparently used to try to get a player's grade changed is mind-boggling.

Take some of these excerpts from the school's internal investigation into Flood's actions, according to the report that was released Wednesday afternoon:

  • Flood contacted the professor about the player's grade from his personal email account, admitting in the email that he was doing so "to ensure there was no public vetting of the correspondence." In other words, he was avoiding a paper trail, as any emails from his university account would be subject to open-records laws.

  • Flood allegedly was told by an academic adviser that he could not have any contact with a professor and that if he did so it was "going to be a big problem." Despite that, he continued to contact the professor and even had an in-person meeting with the professor about the player's grade.

  • Flood told the professor that he purposely avoided wearing Rutgers gear to the meeting "so that he wouldn't be recognized in public." When the professor mentioned that she would not even know how to change a grade that had been posted, Flood told her that "all the professor needed to do was go in to the computer system and change the grade, so the professor had nothing to worry about."

  • Flood went as far to help the player (identified in news reports as former cornerback Nadir Barnwell) make "minor grammar and punctuation changes" to the paper he turned in late, hoping for a grade change.

  • Despite his cloak-and-dagger routine with the emails and meetings, Flood told university officials that he didn't know he was breaking any school policies. The no-contact rule was included in his contract, and coaches on campus were required to attend compliance meetings that reinforced it.

  • Lastly, Flood jeopardized his career to try to get Barnwell eligible. Barnwell already had a DUI charge on his record and was one of a group of players whom the program dismissed earlier this month after they were charged with aggravated assault and riot. A nadir, indeed.

Given all that, Flood is lucky that Rutgers president Robert Barchi only suspended him three games and fined him $50,000. Interfering with academics in any way is a serious problem and a fireable offense for any coach.

But did Barchi only compound the problem with yet another poor decision by somebody involved with Scarlet Knights athletics?

This suspension didn't even take into account the string of arrests that has plagued Flood's program this summer. The latest arrest, in which star receiver Leonte Carroo stands accused of throwing a woman to the ground right outside the football complex not long after the team's loss to Washington State on Saturday, is ugly. So were the home-invasion charges against three players who were dismissed this month.

I've always believed Flood is a decent guy who sincerely wants what's best for his players. But it's more than fair to wonder if he's lost control of the team and whether his poor decision-making in the Barnwell situation reflects the type of leader Rutgers should want.

Suspending him for three games is a punishment, for sure, but it's not any kind of resolution. It merely kicks the can down the road. Can Flood come back from an embarrassment like this? Can he recruit effectively? Who will be held accountable for all the off-the-field problems?

Accountability is a major question for the Scarlet Knights. Athletic director Julie Hermann only speaks these days through carefully crafted public statements, as her multiple missteps since taking the job have relegated her to the shadows. Her voice was almost entirely missing throughout this saga, and Barchi made it clear that he alone made the decision on the suspension. It's unclear if Rutgers would trust Hermann to make a firing/hiring decision this high-profile.

So on it goes. The suspension guarantees that Flood will remain the huge story for this team in its next three games, beginning with Saturday's Big Ten opener at Penn State. When he returns, that will be the story, too. The Scarlet Knights have been operating under a storm cloud of dysfunction and poor decisions for many months now. Today's news does nothing to promise clearer skies in the future.