Rutgers Got Their Man, But Didn’t Really Have a Choice
The Rutgers reunion with Greg Schiano has been celebrated by Scarlet Knights fans and alumni here in the Garden State - even Governor Phil Murphy took to social media to recognize the move.
While it might have been the right move, frankly it was their only option. The problem is, sequels typically don't go the way you hope they would.
Pittsburgh brought back Johnny Majors, who won the National Championship in 1976 with the Panthers, then bolted to Tennessee. In 1993, Pittsburgh brought Majors back to try and recreate the glory days, he went 12-32 in four seasons and retired.
Louisville brought back Bobby Petrino, who went 41-9 in four season with the Cardinals, reaching as high as No. 5 in the AP poll. After signing a 10-year deal, he left to try his hand at the NFL with the Atlanta Falcons. Petrino struggled in the NFL and left the Falcons. He was hired by the University of Arkansas before finding his way back to Louisville in 2014, and went 36-26 in five seasons, including 208 in his final year before the Cardinals moved on.
Schiano went 68-67 during his first tenure at the New Jersey school, what will his second act bring?
From 2005-2011, Rutgers went 56-33 under Schiano, including six bowl games (5-1) in his final seven seasons. His 2006 team finished 12th in the AP poll at the end of the season, going 11-2 overall.
"I'm thrilled to be back," Schiano said. "Can't wait to get this done."
One of the keys to the Rutgers run during that time was their ability to recruit the state of Florida. The Scarlet Knights were a member of the Big East at that time, which also included South Florida. That allowed Schiano to grab players that were overlooked from the very talented Tampa and surrounding areas and come to New Jersey to play for Rutgers.
"We recruited these players with nothing, we kind of hid our campus," Schiano explained when asked how far the Rutgers campus has grown since his first stint. Now, I cant wait to show them the campus, there is no place nicer, this place is beautiful."
"I think we are in better position to make our move (than last time he took over the program), and I can't wait to do it."
Since then, Rutgers has moved to the Big 10, making recruiting a much different animal, coupled with the fact that Rutgers has had a tough time keeping the top talent from New Jersey in the state.
New Jersey has some of the top talent in the country when it comes to high school football, but many times Rutgers isn't at the top of their wish list when it comes time to making a decision.
Will Schiano be able to use the same blue print in recruiting? He was able to bring in overlooked players from Florida to play in New Jersey to face teams in Florida, and in the northeast. Will he be able to convince that same kid to come to New Jersey to play Purdue, Northwestern, Indiana, Minnesota, and some of the other Big 10 Midwestern schools.
"We have been on the phone with players constantly," Schiano. " We aren't going to take guys just to fill up the roster. We are going to take guys that are Rutgers men. We are going to go out and find players who want to be here."
Rutgers went from 1978 to 2005 without making a bowl, and haven't made a bowl game since the 2014 season under head coach Kyle Flood. Flood was dismissed after the 2015 season and replaced by Chris Ash. Ash was fired this season a day after a 52-0 loss to Michigan, which led them back to Schiano.
One of the reasons Schiano is the only guy on the radar, is the school has had very little success. In New Jersey, they are stuck between Philadelphia and New York's professional teams, which means they do not have the same profile as their Big 10 rivals like Penn State, Michigan, and Ohio State. College football just doesn't have the same rabid fan base at Rutgers as it does at the top universities that reside in the Big 10. That leaves Rutgers at a disadvantage.
"When we really had it cranking here, there was no division," Schiano explained. He mentioned the divide of north and south jersey, home of both Giants and Eagles fans. "But there is one thing in the state of New Jersey that's all about us - that Rutgers."
Schiano might not be the right option, but he truly is the only option for them with the state of the current program.
"You can not say anymore that Rutgers is not all in, Schiano said at his introductory press conference on Wednesday. "Rutgers is all in."
While I don't have the answer on who would be the right coach for Rutgers, they are now 'all in' with this hire. I just caution Rutgers fans that this might not end well.