The college football season kicks off on the banks of the Old Raritan in Piscataway later this afternoon, when Rutgers faces that scary world power Norfolk State.
It won't be like any other seasonal kickoff at Rutgers, because this year, there's a dark cloud hovering over the football program and unfortunately that cloud is just about covering the Scarlet Knights' wonderful head coach Kyle Flood.
That's because on Thursday, five members of the Scarlet Knights football team were arrested and charged with felony assault, possession of illegal weapons, home invasion and possession of a controlled substance (marijuana).
These bastions of society were charged with stealing cash and drugs from students in a dorm at gunpoint. Another incident saw an innocent 19-year-old Rutgers student get his jaw broken, just because he was in the way of a botched robbery attempt.
The five players have not only been suspended from the football team, but suspended from school. Rutgers president Robert Barchi, who has already proved his worthlessness in prior incidents involving the former Rutgers basketball coach and the hiring of the current athletic director, called the arrests "deeply troubling."
"The alleged behavior is abhorrent and unacceptable," Barchi said in a released statement, which is the only way Rutgers officials offer anything to the media these days. "This behavior is not reflective of Rutgers or of the members of our academic community."
These arrests come on the heels of five other players getting suspended for the first half of today's game, because they were caught using fake ID cards to enter drinking establishments.
And it comes just a week after it was learned that Flood apparently inappropriately contacted the professor of one of his players (off a private E-mail account) to talk about the academic progress of one of his players.
Incredibly, that player, Nadir Barnwell, was one of the five players arrested in the robbery and assault parade on Thursday.
You're right. You can't make this up.
Let's go back to front here and start with that almost ridiculous "investigation" into Flood's inappropriate e-mail to the professor.
It's absolutely absurd. Does anyone think that a coach hasn't contacted a professor before to talk about his players' grades? It's probably happened going back to the days of Walter Camp and Pop Warner. I would bet you dollars to donuts that good old Knute Rockne probably called some English teacher to check on George Gipp's performance in class.
Point being made: Coaches have been contacting professors forever. It's part of their job to monitor the academic progress of their players, to insure that they remain in good academic standing in order to remain on the field and off the sidelines on Saturdays. College coaches just don't coach football. They have to worry about whether their players get to class and get sufficient grades. It's part of the job requirement.
Why this became such a huge incident and needed an "investigation" is beyond me. It's the least of the worries going on at Rutgers, but since that brilliant and forthright athletic leader Julie Herrmann _ the athletic director with a ton of skeletons in her closet and yet keeps her job _ launched the "investigation" because the professor blurted it out that Flood had sent the e-mails about Barnwell's progress, it became headlines.
Frankly, it's hogwash. There's nothing that states that Flood asked the professor to change Barnwell's grades in the e-mails. Flood just wanted to know how he was doing, because without a good grade, Barnwell would probably have been shown the door. So Flood sent the e-mail from his private account, asking about Barnwell. Naughty, naughty. Herrmann says "Let's launch an investigation."
When the bottom line is this: For some reason, Herrmann doesn't like Flood and wants him gone. She didn't hire him. It was the previous regime's hire. How anyone cannot like Flood is beyond my wildest imagination, because he is one of the genuinely nice and honest people you'll find in the sport of coaching football.
But being likable doesn't exactly help when it comes to Julie Herrmann's affections. She didn't bring him in. She wasn't the one to promote Flood when used car salesman Greg Schiano scooted from the Scarlet Knights and scampered to Tampa to steal $25 million from the Buccaneers.
So this investigation as to whether Flood did anything wrong in contacting the professor from his private e-mail account is a complete waste of time. Coaches have been doing such things _ just probably with untraceable phone calls and not electronic proof _ for as long as there has been college football.
Now, the second from the bottom. Kids will be kids, right? How many of us didn't try to have a fake ID in order to purchase something that we couldn't have when we were teenagers? A show of hands would probably state about 80 percent. We all had a friend who had a cousin who had a cousin who could get a genuine fake ID that could gain us entrance into the disco or allow us to buy beer. I never really had one, but I paid $5 to get one that I never got.
The thought is that using a fake ID isn't the biggest mistake these kids will make. So Flood did the right thing and suspended them for a half today. Maybe Flood could have gone a step further and shown his authority by keeping them on the sidelines for the entire game, considering that curfews were also missed in going out to the club and using the fake IDs.
But Flood could have never known about the other shoe that dropped Thursday.
This one is serious. The real problem here _ besides the actual act of using a weapon to steal things from a college dorm _ is that they more than likely conspired together to commit the crimes. They didn't act alone. They were among a group of 10 that were charged. So that smells of conspiracy.
And that means that they planned it out, talked amongst themselves and drew up a strategy, in order to pull off the hideous acts.
And that's just flat out wrong and disgusting. "Nadir, it's Razhonn. Listen, bro, let's go to the dorm, break into a room, flash a knife and steal some money. I know these dudes have pot in there, too, so we can steal that as well."
That's just illogical for college kids. Who thinks like that?
So these five get arrested in the days prior to the season opener. There was the other incidents floating around.
What it all adds up to is some more black eyes on Rutgers, once again, courtesy of the athletic program. It's all over the news once again. Rutgers is associated with something wrong, something hideous. Whether it's a basketball coach assaulting and verbally abusing his players or a new athletic director suddenly forgetting her abusive past as a coach or another coach failing to report that he didn't have a college degree when he was hired, it's all negatives on the banks of the Old Raritan.
This time, the attention isn't laughable. It's downright scary. I know that parents sent their kids off to Rutgers last week for another school year, thinking that their kids were safe and secure in the Rutgers dorms. Then, whammo, this story of weapons and forced entries and marijuana theft comes out. Suddenly, little teenage Brandon and teenage Lisa don't seem so safe anymore.
So the sun might be shining brightly on this first Saturday afternoon of college football. It may be picture perfect in Piscataway. But once again, there's a dark cloud looming _ and it's hovering real low these days over the head of Kyle Flood.
You can be rest assured that the affable Flood will be made the scapegoat in all of this mess. An unnamed Rutgers official was quoted as saying that Flood would have already been fired if it weren't for the fact that the school would still be on the hook for Flood's salary _ already the lowest in the big money world of the Big Ten.
The sad thing in all of this is that Kyle Flood will probably lose his job. From a perception point around the state of New Jersey, that idea is just criminal, because Flood totally changed the image of the football head coaching position at Rutgers, once he was promoted to head coach upon Schiano's flirtation with Florida.
In an instant, the high school football community went back in unison to embrace Flood. Many of the New Jersey high school coaches were just sick and tired _ more tired than sick _ of Schiano's constant lies and debauchery when it came to recruiting the New Jersey high school football player.
Some went as far as to say that they would never open the doors of their locker room to Schiano ever again. Imagine that. The head football coach of the state university of New Jersey getting shunned by high school coaches in his own state? That's what happens when you lie and connive and manipulate high school kids. Once you're nailed being a liar, there's no coming home. After a decade, most everyone in the New Jersey football community got to realize what Schiano truly was.
Quite frankly, Greg Schiano was more full of horseshit than one would find in American Pharoah's barn. If Schiano told me that it was 4 p.m. in the afternoon, I'd have to check my watch, the bank clock, turn on 1010 WINS and ask the man on the corner to see if it really was. He was THAT bad.
So Flood as the head coach was a breath of fresh air. He was welcomed back into the local fold. Coaches now insisted on their players making recruiting visits to see Flood. Things were going to be good again. The top New Jersey players were going to stay home instead of going to points elsewhere. Flood was going to make it all good again, because let's face it, no one outside of Julie Herrmann wants to see Kyle Flood fail.
You want to root for Flood. You want to stand and cheer for him. Yay, Kyle.
Not now. That good feeling is gone. It started to ooze a little last year when the Scarlet Knights proved that they just simply didn't belong in the Big 10, even after beating Michigan and almost beating Penn State.
That good feeling just went right out of the bag Thursday with these five players getting arrested, one of whom is the one that Flood apparently risked his entire career over.
Will Flood finish out the year? Who knows? But he's done after this year. Julie Herrmann is going to get her way, much like she did when former football SID Jason Baum was bounced out in favor of former sportswriter Tom Luicci.
Baum did a great job coordinating Rutgers athletics and did so in the face of adversity, like the Mike Rice fiasco and of course, Herrmann's hiring.
Herrmann didn't like the way the media portrayed her in that entire debacle, so she blamed Baum and he was out the door. And how a sportswriter who used to blast Rutgers on every occasion in print was able to land on his feet with the demise of the Star-Ledger and get a six-figure job working at Rutgers in sports information is beyond anyone's wildest dreams.
But that's besides the point. Flood is going to be left holding the bag here _ and this time, there's just not enough good feeling air left in that bag to save his hide.
And frankly, that's a shame. There's talk floating around that the school may reach out to that old car salesman and see if he would like his old job back. Isn't that special?
So the season begins today with a win over Norfolk State. It will end with the pursuit of a new coach, a young one that won't mind getting paid $600,000 a year when the other coaches in his league all get in the millions.
There's pandemonium in Piscataway for sure. It's just not on the field. Once again.
Now, as for the judge upholding Tom Brady's suspension.
All these people are out, punching their chests, screaming "I told you so," proclaiming that the ruling proves that Brady was innocent and did nothing wrong, like the golden boy always said from the beginning.
WRONG! It does not prove that Brady was innocent of cheating. It proves that the judge thought the penalty was too severe and that the NFL bungled the investigation and the suspension hearing. The judge did not absolve Brady of any wrongdoing. He just said that the four-game suspension and fines were unfair.
What the ruling also did was totally castrate the powers of NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell. If you're an NFL player, why are you worried about getting suspended for doing something wrong? Just take the suspension to court and have the damn thing overturned, because Goodell and the league are now 0-for-their-last-7 in terms of suspensions.
If I'm the owner of the Carolina Panthers or Jacksonville Jaguars, I have to seriously wonder why my contributions to Goodell's $44 million salary are worth it. Am I getting any bang for my big buck? Goodell won't resign, because that's a load of moola to leave on the table. But now, it's hard to take the man's power seriously after getting ruled against yet again.
I'm not even going near jinxing my beloved Mets, because we all know what has happened in the past. But it's Sept. 5 and the Mets are entrenched in first place. Just sayin'.
And I know it's dreaming, but Freddie Coupon and Coupon Jr., the two boobs that are majority owners of that franchise, should do anything and everything in their power to make sure they scrounge up enough money to keep Yoenis Cespedes, because he's the best position player to grace the Mets' lineup since the acquisition of Mike Piazza in 1998.
Freddie Coupon and his little boy, who reportedly is the one who pushed for Cespedes, should take some of the money they get from SNY and put it towards signing Cespedes to a nice five-year deal worth around $160 million.
There shouldn't even be a debate. Cespedes is that good and proves it every single day. If he could only pitch middle relief, then he'd really be worth it.
You can read more of my stuff at www.hudsonreporter.com (high school football previews galore), www.theobserver.com (high school football previews galore) and www.dailyrecord.com (high school football previews galore, but later this week). I've written more heights and weights over the last three weeks than ever before.