I like Kyle Flood, I actually like him a lot. One of the classes I took as part of the sport management program at Rutgers was ‘Leadership Development in Sport Management’, a class focused on well, leadership in sports and different leadership styles and philosophies while examining what approaches contribute to effective leadership. As part of the class our professor arranged for a wide variety of guest speakers to come in and present to the class to share their own personal stories as well as their own personal leadership beliefs. The speakers ranged from Hall of Fame coach of the Rutgers Women’s Basketball Team C. Vivian Stringer to then newly hired and controversial Athletic Director Julie Hermann. One of the best speakers however was the Head Coach of what is undoubtedly the most popular sport of the University, Football Head Coach Kyle Flood.
I remember Coach Floods presentation (yes I went to class, sometimes) quite well. Out of all the presenters that semester, he was the most prepared, coming in with a fully organized Powerpoint presentation with each discussion topic neatly outlined. He looked presentable, nice Rutgers polo and pants and once it was time for class to start he wasted little time and gave the class a thoughtful, engaging presentation. Coach Flood can be described as energetic, personable, warm, funny, respectable and passionate. He began by talking about his humble beginnings. He was raised in Queens and his father, who never went to college and worked as a sanitation worker, is who ultimately inspired him to develop a passion and thirst for education. The standard early life and beginnings talk continued, but what he later talked about really struck a chord with the class. He began to discuss hardships he embraced during his coaching career, instances that made him the man he was today. He admirably opened up about the most critical point of his coaching career, it was before he coached at Rutgers and one of his players had died from a drug overdose. Mortified, he had to compose not only himself, but his entire team as they had to play a game that following week. This anecdote stuck out to me because it showed that Coach Flood was a real human being, with the ability to connect with people on some of the deepest levels possible. Rather than being overly dramatic, Flood shared this story with us and moved on with his presentation, snapping back into fast paced coach-mode where he then started to dive into his own leadership and program beliefs. He was even able to show his humorous side, calling out me, yes me, in front of the class for wearing a Penn State snapback (hey, I look good in Navy). It was a funny moment that the class as well as my professor (as well as myself) chuckled at, a nice way to end the presentation on a light note.
Fast forward to present day. Rutgers’ leading receiver and team captain Leonte Carroo has been suspended indefinitely due to what is believed to be an altercation that took place outside High Point Solutions Stadium after the teams crushing 37-34 loss to Washington State on Saturday. Unfortunately, this is not the first instance of trouble by members of the team this season, not hardly. Prior to the teams first game it was announced that five players (including Carroo) were to be suspended for the first half of the teams opening game against Norfolk State for a curfew violation. Also among the five was quarterback Chris Laviano, who was competing to start. It was reported that Laviano was caught trying to use a fake ID. The trouble didn’t end there, on September 3, it was announced that five current members of the team as well as two former members were arrested for a variety of different charges including robbery, home invasion and assault stemming from both on and off campus instances dating back to April. Among this batch of players was cornerback Nadir Barnwell who also was the center of unwanted attention recently. Before the season it was reported that Coach Flood was being investigated for contacting a professor about Barnwell’s grades after learning that his eligibility for the upcoming season was in question, which would be breaking school policy. Is your head spinning yet? Mine is, let’s recount this real fast, in no order, because frankly, I can’t even keep up with this chaos.
- Coach Flood investigated for impermissible contact with a professor regarding Nadir Barnwell’s grades.
- Five players suspended for first half of Norfolk State game for violating team curfew.
- Five current players (including Nadir Barnwell) arrested for variety of charges including robbery, home invasion and assault
- Receiver Leonte Carroo (who was already suspended once this season) suspended indefinitely for his role in an altercation following loss to Washington State on September 12.
Woah. That’s some ’06 Bengals shit right there.
Based on these recent incidents I think it’s evident that Rutgers’ football program is having a severe crisis of culture. When Rutgers was invited to become a member of the Big Ten Conference, it was expected that it would take a few years to build up the program before we were expected to compete, but this is flat out unacceptable. This has nothing to do with x’s and o’s but with leadership, or a lack of leadership in effectively handling the young men on this team. Rutgers football is going backwards rather than forward, and not the type of backwards that puts you in position to go forward either. I don’t even think the blame falls all on Kyle Flood. These are young adults who by this age should know the difference between right and wrong and what is expected from them as student athletes. Receiving an invite to join the Big Ten is a big deal and the recent news is embarrassing to the university as we’re the new kids on the block who are trying to prove we belong. It’s like bringing your friend to a different group of friends and telling them “he’s cool, he’s cool” and then you turn you’re head and he’s puking on their couch.
As I mentioned before, I think Kyle Flood is a stand up guy, trying to do the right thing and lead this program in the right direction. However, it’s fair to wonder if that’s enough to right the ship for Rutgers football. I’m not a psychologist or a coaching expert but my opinion is this: I think Kyle Flood is such an understanding and nice guy that players are taking advantage and acting without any real fear of consequences they may face. If Leonte Carroo was already suspended for the first half against Norfolk State, shouldn’t he have been on his best behavior following the next game against Washington State? Part of that is just a young man making a stupid mistake, and part of that is a coach not effectively communicating the consequences of a players actions well enough to his team.
It pains me to say this too. I firmly believe that you don’t need a screaming, intimidating maniac on the sidelines to win football games. While stone cold Bill Belichick won the Superbowl last season, it was happy-go-lucky coach Pete Carroll that was one play away from taking that victory from him, which would have been his second in as many years. Take former Rutgers Head Coach Greg Schiano for example. He was the total opposite of Kyle Flood, a rigid control freak who liked to micromanage his players and instill enough fear to make sure that incidents like these didn’t occur. In fact, Bill Belichick frequently selected Rutgers players for the Patriots because he knew that they were used to this system and was comfortable with how they were coached from Schiano in the past. However, this methodology proved to be Schianos downfall. After leaving Rutgers to coach the Tampa Bay Buccaneers in the pros he was ultimately fired, from what many to believe was in part from a rift created with his players who didn’t appreciate the big brother approach as they felt they were grown men who didn’t need to be watched every second.
Again, I stress that re evaluating if Flood still belongs at Rutgers is not a slight at his coaching ability. He’s proven he can win games and lead a big time program. It’s just that he might have let this current situation get too far out of hand for him to be able to reconcile on his own. Sometimes in instances like these it’s best for each party involved to have a fresh start elsewhere, no hard feelings. This situation might just not be the right fit for the kind of coach he is anymore.
Luckily, I don’t think Rutgers would have much trouble finding a new, big time coach to come in and take the reigns. Despite being a perennial basement dweller in the standings, Rutgers is still a Big Ten school playing the top competition (yes top competition, a Big Ten school won the championship last season) in one of the most, if not the most fruitful media markets. I think we would be able to pluck an up and coming coach who’s building up a program at a smaller school that’s ready to take the next step.
Just like I’ll never forget Coach Flood’s presentation to my class my senior year, I’ll also never forget Julie Hermann’s. She talked about what she looked for when bringing in somebody to lead a program. She explained how the most important factor was just finding “good people”, people who have a strong vision and the right ideals and values. That’s probably why she decided to keep Kyle Flood upon taking over for Rutgers athletics. Now, she may be putting that philosophy in action all over again in a new search, sooner rather than later.