Wednesday, February 1, 2012
Who Is Kyle Flood, and Where Will He Take Rutgers?
As much as I'd like to talk about how the Devils beat the Rangers in a shootout last night at Madison Square Garden -- Henrik Lundqvist, "King of Shootouts," my ass...
4-3! We beat The Scum, 4-3! 4-3! We beat The Scum, 4-3! 4-3! We beat The Scum, 4-3!
Instead, I have to talk about the new Rutgers University football coach.
Yesterday, Kyle Flood was promoted from assistant head coach and offensive line coach under Greg Schiano -- and interim head coach since Schiano left us in the lurch for the NFL's Tampa Bay Buccaneers -- and made the head coach.
Who is he? He was born in in Queens on January 20, 1971, meaning he just turned 41 -- meaning he's just over a year younger than I am. That's a little depressing.
Being from the Bayside section of Queens, he's from what Schiano called "The State of Rutgers" -- which he defined as, pretty much, the combined metropolitan areas of New York City and Philadelphia, running roughly from Poughkeepsie in the north to Rehoboth Beach in the south, from Montauk in the east to, in the west, areas of New York State and Pennsylvania that are traditionally the prime recruiting areas for Syracuse University, Penn State and the University of Pittsburgh; plus his outposts in Florida, getting the kids that weren't recruited by the University of Florida, Florida State University, and the University of Miami.
He attended St. Francis Preparatory School, in the Fresh Meadows neighborhood of Queens, formerly seated in Cobble Hill, Brooklyn. This is one of the most prestigious high schools in the country, in terms of alumni. In the world of football alone, it has produced Vince Lombardi, Ed Jenkins of the undefeated 1972 Miami Dolphins, former Atlanta Falcons and Boston College head coach Dan Henning, former Lousiana State (LSU) coach Gerry DiNardo, and several former Rutgers players: Cincinnati Bengals tight end Marco Battaglia, and all 4 Pickel brothers including Bill who won a Super Bowl with the Los Angeles Raiders as a rookie and closed his career with his hometown Jets.
St. Francis Prep also produced a pair of baseball-playing brothers, Frank and Joe Torre. CBS newswoman, host of Big Brother, moderator of The Talk, and mistress-turned-wife of CBS head Les Moonves, Julie Chen. Fox "News" Channel newswoman Patti Ann Browne. Actor Peter Facinelli. Hot 97 show host DJ Envy. And Frank Serpico, the crusading cop who inspired the Al Pacino film Serpico.
Flood attended Iona College in New Rochelle, New York, was All-Conference as a junior and team Captain as a senior. He assisted at St. Francis Prep, and was an assistant at Long Island's C.W. Post and Hofstra, and then the University of Delaware, before joining Schiano's staff at Rutgers. He is married, with a son, a daughter, and a son on the way.
At yesterday's introductory press conference, Athletic Director Tim Pernetti said:
The criteria was simple. We built something really special here. Continuity was a big piece of the criteria. Somebody who believed in the core values of this program was a big piece of the criteria. Somebody who believed in the core values of this program was a big piece of the criteria. Relationships in the state of Rutgers, the Tri-State Area, in recruiting, was a critical part of the criteria. All those things together made the search a very targeted deal. We found all those things in Kyle Flood.
And the most important thing we found in Kyle Flood was my most important criteria in the search, which is character. What this program has been built on, the class that it's been, the way we are perceived, what Rutgers stands for, it's pristine, it's precise. It's as good as there is in college football. We will never sacrifice or compromise the core values of this program for any reason whatsoever. We will not win at all costs here. It's about character. It's about developing young people. And that was the most important thing we looked for.
Character, huh? Well, Schiano left us for a younger football team. (Much younger: Rutgers started playing football in 1869, before anyone else in America, aside from our first opponents, Princeton, while the Bucs only started in 1976.) And Schiano trusted and hired Flood. What does that say about his character?
Without Greg's vision and drive 11 years ago, the Rutgers football program would not be what it is today. He's a mentor to me. He's a friend to me, and somebody that I consider a lifelong friend. Thank you, Greg.
This is true. Schiano took a program that was a laughingstock. "Rutgers invented college football in 1869, and hasn't done a damn thing since." Not quite true: There were, among other achievements, the undefeated seasons of 1961 and 1976, although since Rutgers was an independent until the founding of the Big East Football Conference in 1991, we've never won a Conference Championship. Schiano made Rutgers football matter more than at any time since Ulysses S. Grant was President.
Then he brought us some success. Then he brought us to the brink of some major success. But he couldn't quite get us there. Then he got a "better" offer, and he took the money and ran.
Oh well, at least we can say Schiano had enough integrity not to go back to Penn State, where he was once an assistant under the late Joe Paterno. Though I suspect that, if he had, Jerry Sandusky would have been allowed no closer to Beaver Stadium than the federal prison at Lewisburg (57 miles).
The core values of Rutgers football don't come and go with any one person. This program is built on a philosophy of family... That's something our players carry with them everywhere they go. It's how they live their lives. It's really what we're about here at Rutgers.
My message to the team was very simple. We're going to do things here in the Rutgers football program. We're going to raise you from young men to grown men, and we're going to win championships while we do it. It's an honor to be the head coach at Rutgers. I'm looking forward to doing the job. I'm as excited as I've ever been, and I can't wait for tomorrow.
Flood was asked, "Who would you say your influences are throughout your coaching career? Who's had the greatest impact, and what will be your philosophy going forward?" In addition to Schiano...
Well, certainly, the first head coach that I worked for was Vince O'Connor. He was the head high school coach at St. Francis Prep High School in Fresh Meadows, Queens. He's been there as the high school coach, the head football coach for over 55 years. And just a tremendous person in the way he cared for his players. Whether you were Kyle Flood, who had gone on to play Division III football, or Marco Battaglia going on to play in the NFL, when you spoke to Mr. O'Connor, you were the most important person in the world. It was a valuable lesson to learn as a young football coach.
He was asked, "What makes you think now you could succeed where Greg couldn't in 11 years, since you were here most of the time? Obviously, the goal is to win a Big East title and championships. Greg came close, didn't get it. Why you as opposed to Greg, who put 11 years in?"
I don't think it's Kyle Flood as opposed to Greg Schiano. I think the time is right for Rutgers to win championships.
He was asked, "How are you prepared to handle the pressures that come off a nine-win season?"
I don't make any assumptions in this business, that's for sure. I think, if you just watch TV every day, you know not to do that. When you're given the opportunity to do a job and it's a job you're really excited about, you take that opportunity without hesitation. The Rutgers football program is going to go on and do some great things here. I'm excited to be in charge of it.
Well, that's good. As Felix Unger (Tony Randall on The Odd Couple) taught us, "Never assume. When you assume, you make an ASS out of U and ME."
I have to confess, I'm a bit skeptical. If you're going to promote from within, or give a man his first head coaching job, you probably couldn't get someone more appropriate than Flood. In all seriousness, I'm not questioning his intelligence, his character, or his dedication -- at least, for the moment, he has given me no reason to question any of those things.
But... With the way Schiano raised the profile of the program, Pernetti and University President Richard McCormick should have showed more ambition. They should have said, "Schiano has gotten us to a point where we could, and should, hire someone bigger than Schiano." At the very least, they should have gotten someone as big. Apparently, they didn't even try: They quickly narrowed the list down to 2 choices: Flood and Mario Cristobal, another former Schiano assistant, who has spent the last 5 seasons as head coach at Florida International University (FIU) in Miami.
Couldn't RU have gone after someone else? Maybe someone on the staff of the Super Bowl-bound Giants -- who are, after all, a local team? Or another widely-respect NFL assistant? Or a former NFL head coach looking for a new start? (Hell, if Lane Kiffin could get one... ) Or perhaps Kevin Callahan, who started the program at New Jersey's Monmouth University in 1992, and has built it from nothing into one of the best Bowl Championship Subdivision (formerly known as Division I-AA) programs in the East?
I wish Flood all the success that Schiano got at Rutgers, and the remaining success that Schiano couldn't get here.
But when you've watched Rutgers football as long as I have, you learn not to hold your breath.