Flood’s job security left doubts in recruits
Sports Desk Editorial
Were you surprised by the excessive number of high school decommits from Rutgers football with the Big Ten on the horizon? You shouldn’t have been.
Recruits like to know the direction a program is moving in, a multitude of issues this past season clouded the future of the Scarlet Knights.
It started soon after Rutgers’ pivotal conference loss Oct. 24 at Louisville, which thwarted nearly all hope the Knights had of making a BCS bowl for the first time in school history.
Save for a last-minute touchdown on 4th down to survive 2-10 Temple on Nov. 2, Rutgers completely fell apart midseason. The Knights lost five of six games — three by at least 24 points.
Here was a 4-1 team, seen as a favorite to win the AAC after coming up four points short of the Sugar Bowl last season, looking lifeless in all phases of the game.
Outside perception swirled that players were not giving their full effort. Fans started pointing fingers at junior quarterback Gary Nova, former defensive coordinator Dave Cohen and even head coach Kyle Flood. From top to bottom, the program lacked accountability and stability.
This was supposed to make recruits feel confident in their verbal commitments?
The dominoes fell in mid-November when allegations of Cohen’s bullying added another black eye to an athletic department still reeling from former head men’s basketball coach Mike Rice’s abuse scandal in April.
Rutgers allowed a season-worst 619 total yards to Cincinnati the morning after nj.com broke the news on Cohen. Four-star quarterback Tyler Wiegers — the Knights’ top high school prospect — withdrew his verbal commitment the day after that.
All of these factors contributed to what hurt the Knights the most — Flood possibly finding himself on the hot seat in terms of job security. It’s understandably difficult for recruits to sign a letter of intent and commit to four years somewhere lacking stability at the top and a clear vision for the future.
It did not help that Athletic Director Julie Hermann remained mum on Flood’s status for several weeks. She finally gave him a vote of confidence the day after Rutgers clinched a bowl game in the season finale against South Florida, but media pressure likely played a significant role in that.
Flood also left doubt in recruits when taking two months to search for a new defensive coordinator before finally promoting interim coach Joe Rossi.
It also took the Knights nearly two weeks — only a few days before National Signing Day — to hire a new offensive coordinator after Ron Prince left for the NFL.
Still, most of Rutgers’ 13 decommits were gone before the coordinator vacancies.
Flood has insisted the youth movement within the program leaves room for optimism — reason to keep faith in the Knights. He has noted teams coming off bad seasons that found themselves in the national championship picture the next year.
But until Flood establishes his own stability and track record of success at Rutgers, recruits have every reason to be skeptical.