If a picture says a thousand words, then yesterday’s debacle for the Rutgers University football program could not get any more descriptive. Not only did the Scarlet Knights squander a 21-point lead at home, they did so to a hapless Big Ten foe in the throes of an eight-game losing streak, in an atmoshpere remenisent of the pre-Greg Schiano days on the banks.
At least the University of Maryland had the good sense to fire its coach several weeks ago before their program reached a similar percipice, and their rebuild began in earnest in Piscataway, N.J. yesterday. Unfortunately for the Scarlet Knights faithful, there seems to be at least several more days of agony ahead before the perverbial light of the end of the tunnel. Although stranger things have occurred, and sometimes history repeats itself along the banks of the Raritan River, it would be hard to imagine a scenario where Kyle Flood returns as head football coach in 2016.
The collateral damage that the Flood firing will cause will likely sweep an overmatched Julie Hermann from her athletic director’s perch at the state university as well. By contrast, for as much pain as the Terrapins’ football program has caused this season, the fact of the matter is that alumni can still cheer a men’s basketball team currently ranked number two in the country. Competitive programs in secondary sports are great, but when your signature program becomes a laughing stock, then something has to change.
“The quicker they move, the quicker they can get going on the process of rebuilding the program, whether it’s hiring the athletic director first – hopefully one with Big Ten experience and solid football credentials – or allowing the new head coach to have input on the athletic director,” Stephen Edelson of the Asbury Park Press wrote on Nov. 29.
Stubborness has a way of clouding your vision, so it comes as no surprise that Flood would spend most of his post-game press conference citing his resume, most of which was achieved with his predecessor’s recruits. When the training wheels were taken off this season, the results needed to be owned by Flood, and not just the wins and losses. But listening to the embattled head coach, it was apparent that his mindset was one of defiance, not contrition, even if those folks who pay his salary were not pleased.
And in one final act of defiance, Flood summoned his personal pet project, quarterback Chris Laviano, to ensure that everyone knew that Flood was his own man, even if Hayden Rettig deserved more than one lousy handoff yesterday afternoon. For his part Laviano repaid Flood’s faith with an Instagram post that would have made Jerry Jones proud, but one not befitting a major college football program in an article posted on Nov. 29 by NJ Advance Media for NJ.com.
According to NJ.com, “Laviano posted a photo of himself with coach Kyle Flood and offensive coordinator Ben McDaniels on his Instagram account on Saturday night with the caption: ‘We’re here to stay and don’t give a **** about u … Players, coaches, I love em all.’ He concluded the captain with a hashtag that said ‘find another team’.”
The countless ways that the Rutgers athletic program has devolved have been front and center to alumni and fans to witness, yet Hermann remains no where to be found to say something, anything that at least would give the impression that someone is steering the ship. Flood has only been able to pour gasoline on this fire, as his stewardship of the football program leaves the distinct impression that he feels no need to concern himself with events outside of HighPoint Solutions Stadium,
Surely Big Ten commissioner Jim Delaney has some buyer’s remorse right now, but competing Big Ten institutions can only feel so much concern for the downtrodden. In the cut throat world of major college football, surely Ohio State, Michigan, Michigan State and Penn State would like to continue to mine New Jersey for its best talent. And hopefully, someone at Rutgers realizes that this situation requires immediate resolution, not search committees with agendas, not faculty input, and not more lip service.