NEW BRUNSWICK, N.J. (AP) — Rutgers has suspended football coach Kyle Flood for three games and fined him $50,000 for contacting a faculty member over a player's grade — an issue separate from a string of recent player arrests.
Rutgers President Robert Barchi announced the punishment Wednesday, a day after he said he received an internal investigative report that found a professor felt pressured by Flood into allowing a player to complete an additional assignment in an attempt to improve his grade.
The report found that Flood emailed and met in person with a faculty member even though he knew or should have known of the university's policies prohibiting coach-initiated contact with faculty members regarding students' academic standing.
"I believe that the discipline is severe and justified for his failure to follow policy," Barchi said in a letter to the Rutgers community, adding he met with Flood and that the coach accepted responsibility for his actions and the discipline.
In a statement Wednesday, Flood accepted responsibility but defended looking out for the academic interest of players. "I care deeply about my student-athlete's academic performance," he said. "As the head coach, when I recruit players, my responsibility to them and their families is to do all I can to make sure they leave Rutgers with a degree and are prepared for a successful life off the football field."
The report also found that Flood provided grammatical and minor editorial suggestions for a player's paper after talking with the student and professor to come up with the plan for him to improve his grade. The report said that assistance was in line with standard student support and did not constitute academic misconduct.
Athletic Director Julie Hermann said in a statement that running backs coach Norries Wilson will run the team for the next three weeks, including the team's game Saturday against Penn State. He is the only staff member with previous head coaching experience. He was the first African-American head football coach in the Ivy League with Columbia (2006-11).
Barchi said the university needs to protect academic integrity and ensure that faculty members are free of intimidation and interference by outside parties
Barchi said the investigation started on Aug. 12 and focused on whether Flood intervened on behalf of junior cornerback Nadir Barnwell.
The investigation found that Flood used his personal email to contact the faculty member and had an in-person meeting with the faculty member regarding Barnwell's academic standing. The multiple email contacts came both before and after the meeting, which occurred at an off-campus location.
The meeting with the teacher came after a member of the athletics academic advising staff reminded Flood not to have contact with any faculty member regarding a student's academic standing. Flood still had the meeting.
The faculty member agreed during that meeting to review an additional paper as partial satisfaction for the requirements of a course the student had already completed. The paper was submitted but ultimately was not graded and the academic status of the student and his final grade were not changed.
The professor told an investigator that "she felt unable to resist the implied pressure from someone like Coach Flood and thus felt uncomfortable not agreeing to an additional assignment to allow the Student to become eligible," according to the report.
The penalty comes with Rutgers (1-1) reeling from a series of player arrests and suspensions over the last month. Six players have been dismissed from the program — including Barnwell — following arrests. Three former players also were arrested.
Star receiver Leonte Carroo was suspended indefinitely this past weekend after he was charged with body slamming a woman he was once romantically involved with following the Scarlet Knights' loss to Washington State on Saturday.
In a telephone interview with The Associated Press, Barchi said he hopes this doesn't hurt the reputation of New Jersey's flagship state university.
"Make sure we put this in perspective," he said. "We're talking about actions that are occurring with a single coach and a single team."
The penalty for Flood relates only to the academic improprieties and not the string of arrests of players and former players this month on allegations including home invasion and dorm-room robberies and domestic violence.
Barchi said that because the alleged crimes are part of an investigation by a prosecutor, the university can't do its own probe now.
"There's no correlation or interrelationship between the two at all," he said of the legal issues and Flood's talking to a faculty member about a student's status.
Flood is entering his fourth season as coach. He has a 23-16 record and took the Scarlet Knights to bowl games in each of his first three seasons.
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