Moments before the first kickoff of the new season, Rutgers placed a well-timed public relations statement in the wild where it would surely be lost in the shuffle. In it, Rutgers announced it has dismissed five players recently arrested and charged with assault.
Nadir Barnwell, Dre Boggs, Ruhann Peele, Delon Stephenson and Razohnn Gross have all been dismissed from the program, effective immediately. Barnwell is the one connected to the ongoing investigation of head coach Kyle Flood with regard to alleged direct contact of a professor to discuss Barnwell’s eligibility. Stephenson was listed as a starting free safety for the Scarlet Knights. Both Boggs and Peele were listed as potential starters at defensive back (both appeared on the same spot on the depth chart with “or” between them). Barnwell also had starting experience with the program, which adds to the size of the dent in the defensive secondary depth for Rutgers. That means Rutgers is losing four possible starters from its defense.
Rutgers should manage to get by Norfolk State this afternoon, but the losses in the secondary will be a much larger problem in the coming weeks. Rutgers hosts Washington State next weekend, with Mike Leach and his Cougars always opting to go through the air. Rutgers will hope to have the secondary in better shape when it heads on the road to open the Big Ten season the following week. Rutgers visits Penn State, with quarterback Christian Hackenberg hoping for a bit of a rebound season this fall.
Well, I suppose now we know what all the commotion was about at Rutgers practice today.
Of the four Rutgers students and two former students charged today with assaulting a group of individuals, five are Rutgers football players and another is a former player. The assault left one student with a broken jaw and the attack was reportedly unprovoked. A total of nine defendants were arrested today, and one more is still to be arrested. Five players confirmed to have been charged are defensive backs Ruhann Peele, Nadir Barnwell, Dre Boggs and Delon Stephenson and fullback Razohnn Gross. Barnwell is the player linked to the separate ongoing university investigation of head coach Kyle Flood, who was allegedly contacting a professor about Barnwell’s eligibility status. Boggs and Stephenson were projected starters for Rutgers this weekend. All five of the current players have been suspended from the program while the legal process develops.
The former player arrested was Tejay Johnson, who was charged with robbery, criminal restraint, theft, and possession of a weapon for an unlawful purpose. Johnson’s career was cut short due to injury in 2014 prior to Big Ten media days.
According to a report from NJ.com, the arrests come as a result of an ongoing investigation by the Middlesex County Prosecutor’s Office and the New Brunswick Police Department. The investigation commenced in the spring following a reported home invasion in New Brunswick. Per the report, three men wearing masks forced their way into the home and left with an undisclosed amount of cash and marijuana as five students were held at gunpoint.
At this point there has been no statement from Rutgers regarding this latest news, although this post will be updated as soon as there is a statement to share.
Last week it was reported Rutgers head coach Kyle Flood was being investigated for alleged impermissible contact with a university faculty member. The latest twist in this story suggests Flood may have done so despite being advised not to do so by academic support staff members.
A new report from NJ.com cites multiple unnamed university officials in saying Flood was instructed by academic support staff not to make contact with a professor to inquire about the academic standing of one of his players, reported to be cornerback Nadir Barnwell. The university is investigating an email allegedly from Flood from a private account. But the scope of the investigation is focused more on the possibility Flood tried to work around the process regarding academics and football, not simply just that Flood used a private email to contact a professor.
While only one side of the story, the story painted by the NJ.com is none too flattering to Flood’s involvement with the status of Barnwell. Per the report, academic support staff had been communicating with a professor of Barnwell’s since May with regard to his academic standing. Flood was kept apprised of the situation, which is customary for an academic support staff and coach. However, one source to NJ.com suggests Flood attempted to intervene directly with the professor with regard to Barnwell’s eligibility despite the academic support staff handling the situation.
“The communication with him was clear as to the status of Nadir’s grade and he still decided he could fight it,” said one official, who claimed Flood “had a long paper trail of information” and still contacted the professor.
Another official said: “It was already done and everybody in the program knew it. Kyle was told, ‘It’s done, leave it alone.’ ”
If found guilty of violating university protocol, the punishment for Flood could range from something as light as a reprimand to as severe as the termination of his contract. The Big Ten already had one coach fail to reach the start of the new season. The chances a second loses his job before kickoff are probably pretty small.
Flood responded to the initial report last week by saying the accusations insulted his integrity. When given an opportunity to respond to this latest development in the story, Flood did not comment out of respect for the university process.
The 2015 season may not start off with a bit of controversy off the field for Rutgers head coach Kyle Flood. NJ.com reports today Flood is being investigated for impermissible contact with a university faculty member over the status of one of his players. The report suggests Flood could ultimately face a suspension, or perhaps even be fired, although that is purely speculation at this point in time. Either way, it sure makes it sound serious.
Per NJ.com‘s Keith Sargeant, the investigation at Rutgers is centered on an email from Flood’s personal email account to a faculty member of Rutgers’ arts school. The player in question is reportedly cornerback Nadir Barnwell, a junior. Barnwell reportedly faces academic ineligibility for the upcoming season. Depending on the outcome of the investigation, the punishment Flood could face ranges from a public reprimand to a termination of his contract with the university. If the worst-case scenario plays out, Flood could potentially be out of a job before the start of the season, as the investigation is expected to be wrapped up in short order.
Rutgers prohibits coaches from having direct contact with instructors of student-athletes, which is why Rutgers is investigating this manner. At this point there is no word on whether the NCAA or Big Ten have taken a look to see what is happening, although it would be wise to assume each will monitor the situation closely and weigh in if needed.
UPDATE (1:40 p.m.): Flood has now responded to the story, suggesting the accusations insult his integrity. His comments, via NJ.com;
“Let me start by saying I’m disappointed at the tone of the article that (associate athletic director for media relations/football) Hasim (Phillips) showed me this morning. I’ve been the head coach now, this is going into my fourth season, and I’ve had a lot of interaction with the teachers on our campus. I think that that article not only insults my integrity, but insults the integrity of our faculty. I’ve come to realize that our faculty here at Rutgers is beyond reproach and I have a tremendous amount of respect for them.
“Our faculty are part of our program. Just as recently as the other day, we had two faculty members at our practice. Now, any correspondence that I had with a professor in regard to a student-athlete would really be of this nature: One, to be in support of whatever decision that faculty member made, and two, to inquire as to whether or not there would be an opportunity to earn a better grade. Now, this practice is not unusual at Rutgers. Many students all over campus receive what are called ‘T grades’ doing work outside of when the class ends that semester to earn a better grade.”