Rutgers Escapes Relatively Unscathed

University receives relatively mild punishment from NCAA, even though former head football coach pressured faculty member to raise a player’s grade and didn’t act when players tested positive for drugs.

September 25, 2017
 
Kyle Flood

Rutgers University escaped the most serious punishments by the National Collegiate Athletic Association after its football players failed drug tests and were still allowed to compete and the team’s former head coach tried to persuade a professor to raise an athlete’s grade.

The NCAA levied few consequences outside those the university already imposed. Rutgers will face probation from now until 2019, and both the former head football coach and an assistant coach have been slapped with a yearlong “show cause order,” limiting their job prospects in college athletics.

But neither is employed by the university anymore, and the head coach, Kyle Flood, now works for the Atlanta Falcons of the National Football League. He was fired in 2015.

Rutgers already chose to pay a $5,000 fine and reduce off-campus recruitment days, as well as the number of times prospective athletes can visit the university this academic year.

The NCAA did not force the university to vacate any of its wins or cut back on scholarships, which would have more severely hurt the football program.

Flood, whom the university suspended for three games during the 2015 season after the allegations came to light, also contacted the professor of an athlete with a failing grade. He tried to arrange extra course work for the player to boost his grade and ensure he could play. Ultimately the professor, who was an adjunct, refused, and the athlete was deemed ineligible.

An administrator in the university’s Academic Support Office had already warned Flood against making the request, which Flood chose to ignore. Flood also contacted the professor multiple times using his personal email account -- at one point, he admitted it was to avoid the email coming to light via a public records request.

Flood asked the player to draft a letter to the professor "explaining his behavior last semester." The coach then forwarded it to the faculty member -- "I am sending it from my personal email to your personal email to ensure there will be no public vetting of the correspondence."

The professor said she felt Flood had "badgered" her.

Some of the other infractions stem from a group called the football student ambassadors, an unofficial collective that nonetheless handled many aspects of recruiting players, including hosting them on the campus. It is separate from the Scarlet Ambassadors, the recognized campus group.

Because the ambassadors were unaffiliated, their activities conflicted with the university’s procedures on recruitment and flouted NCAA rules.

“The former head coach took a casual approach to compliance as it relates to the host program,” the NCAA’s Division I Committee on Infractions panel said in a statement. “He exercised little, if any, oversight of the group, permitting recruiting staff to administer the program with no supervision. As the individual who had ultimate oversight of all aspects of the football program, it is implicit that the head coach was also responsible for the actions of football hosts and, ultimately, the violations they committed.”

Rutgers also violated its drug-testing policies; athletic department employees, such as the athletics director, at times weren’t informed when an athlete tested positive for banned substances.

A total of 32 athletes tested positive for such substances from September 2011 through fall 2015, but many continued to play without being disciplined, according to the NCAA. A few times, even the athletes weren’t informed they had tested positive.

In 2014, an assistant football coach met with a sophomore in high school, a potential recruit, face-to-face, which violated the NCAA policy of not taking face-to-face meetings until a student’s junior year. The assistant coach then lied to investigators about speaking with the student, though others had confirmed the visit.

Rutgers President Robert Barchi issued a brief statement on the NCAA’s findings Friday.

“Today, the committee issued its final report concluding the matter, and not only recognized our cooperation but also acknowledged the extensive changes we have taken in personnel, structure, policies and compliance. The committee accepted our self-imposed penalties and extended our self-imposed probation period from one to two years,” the statement reads in part. “We want to express our gratitude to the committee and to the NCAA enforcement staff, and we are moving forward in a new era of Rutgers athletics.”

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