Rutgers announced Sunday that it had fired its football coach, Kyle Flood, and athletic director, Julie Hermann, and had hired her replacement, Patrick Hobbs — three moves amid a flurry of personnel changes in major college football programs.
The move by President Robert Barchi was quickly followed with the announcement that Patrick Hobbs, dean emeritus of Seton Hall University’s School of Law and a mediator in the negotiations that brought the New Jersey Devils to the Prudential Center in Newark, will be Rutgers’ new athletic director. Norries Wilson, the Rutgers running backs coach, was named interim head coach.
The Rutgers athletic department has faced one controversy after another since head football coach Greg Schiano left in January 2012 to coach the Tampa Bay Buccaneers of the National Football League and head basketball coach Mike Rice, in April 2013, was fired after a video showed him throwing basketballs at players’ heads and cursing them. Hermann’s predecessor, Tim Pernetti, also resigned in the fallout from the Rice episode.
Rutgers had fashioned itself as a program on the rise, jumping to the Big Ten in 2014. But its crash-and-burn moment came Sunday after a tumultuous autumn. Six football players were arrested and kicked off the team, with four being charged in an assault and two charged in connection with armed home invasions. Flood was suspended for three games and fined $50,000 after the university determined he had made inappropriate contact with a faculty member about a player’s grade. Wilson served as interim coach during that period as well.
Last month, assault charges characterized as a domestic violence incident against star receiver Leonte Carroo were dismissed when the alleged victim opted not to testify.
Then, too, there was the football team’s performance on the field. The Scarlet Knights struggled to a 4-8 record this season and will miss out on a bowl game for the first time since the 2010 season.
In her 2½ years in the job, Hermann has also come under scrutiny, including allegations that she verbally abused her players when she coached volleyball at the University of Tennessee. Earlier this fall, a former football player (who was arrested in an off-the-field incident) said players who flunked drug tests went unpunished.
“Julie came to Rutgers in 2013, at a time when the program was in turmoil, with a vision at where she could take our athletic program,” Barchi said. “I believe, however, at this point, when major changes are being made in our football program, we need a fresh start.
“Having reached that conclusion this past week, it would not have been fair to Julie, to Rutgers and our student-athletes, or to potential football coaching candidates, for her to continue in her role. She is a capable administrator whose dedication and passion for Rutgers never waned and I wish her and her family all the best in the next step in her journey.”
The firings came less than 24 hours after Rutgers’ season-ending 46-41 loss to Maryland, a game in which the Scarlet Knights squandered a 21-point lead and gave up 401 yards rushing.
Barchi met with Hermann on Sunday at his home, and the meeting took 11 minutes. Flood was traveling to Long Island to scout a potential recruit at a high school championship game and nj.com reported that Barchi informed Flood of his decision in a phone call. In his statement, Barchi said he spoke with Flood and met with Hermann.
The Rutgers president acknowledged that he had met with Hermann’s replacement, Hobbs, last week.
There was no mention of financial obligations to Flood and Herman, only that their contracts were terminated without cause. Flood is owed a $1.4 million buyout unless the school shows cause. Hermann had a five-year deal worth $2.25 million.
Barchi met with the football team at 2 p.m. Sunday, less than an hour before the school confirmed media reports that Flood and Hermann had been fired and that the search for a new coach will be a quick one.
“Our continued struggles on the field combined with several off-the-field issues have convinced me that we need new leadership of our football program,” Barchi said in a statement. “I would like to thank Kyle for his service to Rutgers and I also wish him and his family well in his next endeavor. Norries Wilson will serve as the interim head coach leading our off-season program until a new head coach is hired.”
Rutgers must move quickly because there already is a large number of coaching openings. Matt Rhule of Temple, whom Rutgers could be interested in, reportedly is going to talk to Missouri about its vacancy.
Would Rutgers be interested in the return of Schiano, who rebuilt the program before his departure for the NFL? Schiano, who’s been out of coaching since Tampa Bay fired him after two seasons, is still popular with Rutgers fans and influential boosters. But when approached by boosters a month ago, he reportedly said a condition of his return would be that he could name his own athletic director. The hiring of Hobbs, who Barchi originally thought of as an interim AD, may diminish Schiano’s interest.
Another name to consider is Al Golden, a Jersey Shore native who recruited New Jersey well when he was an assistant at Penn State, his alma mater, and Virginia, and who turned around Temple’s program as head coach. Golden was fired by Miami on Oct. 24 after the worst loss in school history — 58-0 to top-ranked Clemson. He was 32-25 at Miami, including 17-18 in ACC games.
Recruiting will be a big consideration in the hiring. Flood, who was 27-24 after he was promoted when Schiano left, was unable to lure many of the best players in the state, especially from the parochial powerhouses in North Jersey.
Regarding the search for a new football coach, Barchi said Hobbs would be the point man and that he and Board of Governors members Greg Brown and Ken Schmidt will have input.“We all believe that Rutgers football can be competitive in the Big Ten Conference,” Barchi said, “and we will find the right coach who can get us to that place.”
Sportact Editors and Wire Services