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Flood suspension proves U. learned little from Mike Rice


Head coach Kyle Flood’s three-game suspension that doesn’t include a ban from practice is so dubious that it tells you two things: Rutgers administration’s motive and how it got to this point.

The rest is uncertain. Since Flood can lead the team’s practices, he is partially responsible for those three games’ results. We will not know the punishment’s true severity until we know whether Flood will keep his job next season, and if we find out how much those three games’ results related to his firing.

Although Flood’s punishment appears similar to Mike Rice’s three-game suspension in 2012, Flood’s punishment actually reflects significant change in the University administration — not necessarily for good.

Three games hold far more weight in a 12-game football season than a college basketball season close to 30 games.

Flood’s actions that got him punished were at best immoral and at worst devious. Rice’s actions that eventually got him fired were at best abusive and at worst significantly harmful for the present and future of several student-athletes.

But the University athletics in 2012 looked relatively clean and just needed to stay the course after announcing commitment to the Big Ten in November 2012. Rutgers athletics in 2015 needs to right the ship.

When Rutgers administration became aware of Rice verbally and physically abusing players, it decided a month later to protect his job and reputation with a mild punishment.

It’s been 2 and a half years since videos of Rice’s actions became public, and the climate surrounding University athletics isn’t much better. This climate maintains toxicity not because of what Rutgers administration did, but what they didn’t do.

Rutgers administration did not originally give Rice a serious enough punishment.

Rutgers administration did not investigate Julie Hermann’s questionable past closely enough before hiring her as athletic director, looking ill-prepared when several former players alleged she abused them.

Hermann most likely did not speak to Jevon Tyree’s parents when the former football player accused former assistant coach Dave Cohen of bullying.

After last year’s football game against Penn State, whoever uploaded photos to the Rutgers Athletics official Facebook page did not check the photos closely enough. That allowed the page to display Rutgers fans with signs and t-shirts joking about Jerry Sandusky’s pedophilia case.

Hermann did not apologize to all the right people after that incident. Hermann apologized to Penn State Athletic Director Sandy Barbour, Penn State fans and Rutgers fans. The biggest victims of these jokes are victims of sexual abuse, who deserved a specific apology more than anyone.

It seems Rutgers administration learned it cannot keep taking hits for inactivity during conflict resolution. Flood’s three-game suspension offers the appearance that Rutgers is serious enough to do something.

But since this punishment leaves so many questions, it is difficult to determine how much has truly changed with the University administration’s approach to misconduct.

Perhaps Rutgers still protects coaches during wrongdoing, and Flood’s misconduct will not affect his job status. Perhaps the University will fire Flood within the next few months, using the three games he missed as reason for incompetence.

But Rutgers administration’s peculiar punishment leaves the impression of fear in taking a harsher or at least clearer stance on coaching misconduct.

University administration cannot change past mistakes, but they can improve future approach. It’s been two and a half years since Rice’s firing, and all Rutgers administration has done is offer the appearance of serious action.

If the University has not learned after 30 months and several athletics fiascos that it must take sterner action on misconduct, it likely never will. Only offering the illusion of doing so shows something stagnant: A lack of visibly effective administrative leadership. 

Josh Bakan is a Rutgers University Class of 2014 graduate. He is a former Sports Editor of The Daily Targum. 

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