From Christie to fired coach Flood: Everyone’s talking about Rutgers football shakeup
Today's a new day for Rutgers football.
Coming off a 4-8 season that was plagued by scandal, Rutgers is installing new leadership — booting both head coach Kyle Flood and his boss, athletic director Julie Hermann.
Herman's replacement is already lined up — Patrick Hobbs, a dean emeritus at the Seton Hall School of Law. The school will be relying not only on his experience as an academic and athletics leader, but on his reputation for cleaning up troubled institutions.
He served on the New Jersey State Commission of Investigation from 2004-14 — the group that, among other things, is tasked with rooting out public corruption and waste — and was its chair for the last four years.
After Bridgegate, he resigned his post as dean of Seton Hall's law school to become an ombudsman in the governor's office — responsible for ethics training and improving policies among Gov. Chris Christie's high-level staff.
He cleaned house as interim athletic director at Seton Hall in 2010 and 2011, firing the men's basketball coach and arranging the departure of women's basketball coach Phyllis Mangina. He made the controversial move to cut programs to balance the athletic department budget.
The message Rutgers is sending is clear: No more shenanigans. It's time to get things running right.
"There is a lot of pressure in this league and we have to succeed," Rutgers University President Robert Barchi said in a conference call with reporters Sunday, as reported by NJ Advance Media.
Here's how some key figures are responding to the shakeup:
University President Robert Barchi: In a letter to the Rutgers community, Barchi spoke highly of just-fired coach Flood, praising him as a "loyal and dedicated member of our community for more than a decade and our head football coach for four seasons, during which his teams won 26 games and played in three bowl games." But he said continued struggles meant it was time for new leadership.
Barchi was more tepid in acknowledging Hermann's contributions — perhaps not a surprise, since she's never had the same clout at Rutgers that Flood did — saying only that Hermann came to Rutgers in 2013 when the "when the program was in turmoil, with a vision of where she could take our Athletics Program. I believe, however, at this point, when major changes are being made in our football program, we need a fresh start."
Fired head coach Kyle Flood: In a Tweet Sunday evening, Flood said he wanted to thank all of the Rutgers community "for the opportunity to be part of their F.A.M.I.L.Y for the last 11 seasons," saying he was proud of victories that included bowl championships and all-time high team GPAs. "This program has been built on a strong foundation, I have no doubt that the best is yet to come."
Star-Ledger columnist Steve Polti: Polti called Hermann's firing "long-overdue" and Flood's "necessary" after a season of on-field and off-field problems. And he said moving quickly was "exactly what (Barchi) had to do."
"So write down the date: Nov. 29, 2015. We don't know if it'll be the day this athletic department finally takes its place as a respected member of the Big Ten, or if it's just another misstep in a long series of them on the way to a prolonged place in the conference basement," Polti wrote. "No one has that crystal ball. But, on first glance, there is a lot to like about the moves — provided, of course, Barchi and Hobbs go 1-0 again in the coming days and hire the right football coach."
Chris Christie: The governor didn't comment on Flood's or Hermann's departure in a statement released Sunday. But he did heap praise on Hobbs, who'd been his ombudsman.
"I've known Dean Hobbs for many years and he has always been a person of great character and judgment, as well as an effective leader and manager. I can think of few people better suited to step into the role of athletic director," Christie said.
The governor called Hobbs "a valued resource for the office during an important time and I thank him for his willingness to serve."
Josh Moyer, ESPN writer: Moyer notes that the scandals plaguing Rutgers football have been going on for some time. And yet, Flood and Hermann weren't fired earlier.
"In the end, the pair made plenty of missteps — enough where they could’ve been justifiably fired three months ago — but they were primarily fired Sunday for the on-field product. Let’s not pretend otherwise," he writes. "It wasn’t until a bowl game became completely out of reach -- until weeks and months after Rutgers’ off-field incidents — that university president Robert Barchi decided to act. If these firings were about Rutgers taking a stand against off-field issues, then Hermann would’ve been fired two years ago and Flood would’ve been fired in September instead of suspended for three games."
Rutgers has made headlines more for its scandals than its rare wins this season, after several players were charged in an alleged series of violent break-ins and an alleged unprovoked attack against a student.
Star player Leonte Carroo missed games while facing charges — later dismissed — related to a hectic brawl outside of a game. He has since been reinstated.
NJ Advance Media has reported the university's office of enterprise risk management, ethics and compliance has been investigating allegations of failed drug tests and other issues, citing unnamed sources.