Jan 262012
Greg Schiano, EX-Rutgers coach

With the news coming out that head coach Greg Schiano has bolted Rutgers for the supposedly greener pastures of the NFL, the immediate concern for Scarlet Knights fans focuses on the program’s future relevance. BCS concerns aside, can Rutgers continue to field even a modestly successful football program (defined here as at the very least an average of 6-8 wins/year).

The historical answer, pre-Schiano/post-1978, is a resounding no. Except for Greg Schiano, no other coach has won big at Rutgers. Except for Greg Schiano, no other coach has gotten a firm commitment (read: financial) from Rutgers’ administration to field a winning big-time program.

Greg Schiano, EX-Rutgers coach

I didn’t realize this but apparently Rutgers was once an academics-first/only institution. As opposed to fellow northeastern schools Pitt and Pennstate which both boast outstanding academics but also strive to run with the big boys in college football, Rutgers didn’t even put itself in the game. This was the eye-opening passage for me from CFT’s Matt Hinton:

Traditionally, Rutgers belongs to the class of academically oriented schools in the Northeast that disavow the corrupting influence of big-time football: Before Division I was split into “I-A” and “I-AA” classifications in 1978, its schedule consisted overwhelmingly of teams from the Ivy League and the kind of wannabe-Ivy schools that would go on to form the Patriot League — that is, second and third-rate programs that care so little about sports that most of them still don’t offer athletic scholarships.

And Rutgers were mostly successful in that setting. 7, 8, 9-win seasons weren’t uncommon. It was only after trying to join the big boys post-1978 that Rutgers became a laughingstock of a program. In fact, in 1976, Rutgers went 11-0… against a lineup of Navy, Bucknell, Princeton, Cornell, UConn, Lehigh, Columbia, UMass, Louisville, Tulane and Colgate. Four of those schools were non-IA. That team didn’t even go to a bowl game.

By comparison, the 1976 National Champion, who went 12-0, played a schedule consisting of Notre Dame, GA Tech, Temple, Duke, Louisville, Miami-FL, Navy, Syracuse, Army, WVU and Pennstate with a Sugar Bowl win over Georgia. That team was Pitt. (Hail).

Beano Cook once wrote that if you’d asked him in the early 1970’s to name the programs with the most un-tapped potential, he would have named Miami-FL (duh)… and Rutgers. The strength of northeastern teams from Pitt to Pennstate to Syracuse has often been supplanted with the fantastic talent that comes out of the Garden State. Greg Schiano tapped into that base, to a degree, and it helped him build a modestly successful program.  Whether another coach can build on that legacy or even sustain it is debatable.

My guess is that Rutgers fades into semi-irrelevance; partly by choice of not paying ridiculous huge sums to keep up with the Ohio States of the world and partly by being excluded from the big boy conferences upon the demise of the Big East.

Photo Credit: Jim McIsaac/Getty Images

Feb 042010

In honor of NLI Day, let us speculate.

In the fall of 2010, sophomore Kevin Newsome and mega-recruit Paul Jones will lose the PSU starting QB competition to true freshman Robert Bolden. Not willing to ride the pine for three years, Jones transfers to Pitt and Newsome follows in the footsteps of Jeff Hostetler by transferring to WVU. Three years later, Paul Jones starts for Pitt at Panther Hollow Field as they welcome Pennstate back to their eastern roots as a member of the re-formed Eastern Elite Conference (along with new/old members BC, ND, UVA, VT & UMD) in Greg Schiano’s first year at the helm of the State Penn. Mr. Schiano leads Pennstate out of the tunnel in true Jersey fashion – doing the fist pump.

Former PSU coach Joe Paterno is given a rousing chorus of “@$$h0le” by the Pitt faithful. Pennstaters at the game respond by throwing their beverages high up in the air but are surprised when said concoctions come straight down and hit them in the head. Former DC Tom Bradley weeps in a corner, alone and forgotten.

Schiano’s personal guests include the newly elected Governor of New Jersey, Mike “The Situation” Sorrentino and first lady Snooki. Inspired by Schiano’s Jersey pride, The Situation subsequently passes a bill requiring all New Jersey/Staten Island/guido athletes to do the Fist Pump during pre-game ceremonies and changes the state song to Kernkfraft 400’s Zombie Nation. Mr. Schiano’s controversial replacement of White with Orange as PSU’s secondary color to more closely mirror the color of all his NJ players’ skin pays huge dividends as Pennstate’s new Orange-Glo Nights (sponsored by Fanta) will come to be devastating to opponents who can’t handle the burst of color from the students’ section. (Incidentally, PSU loses its first Orange-Glo against Mr. Schiano’s old team Rutgers because the PSU players can’t pick out the Rutgers’ players amidst the sea of orange).

Pitt avenges the memories of 48-14 by blasting Bolden into the ground in Dave Wannstedt’s swan song as Pitt coach before turning over the reins to OC Frankie Cignetti. Wannstedt’s first act as new Athletic Director is to bring back the script PITT as a third jersey. On the Pitt sideline that day are former greats Mike DITKA, who commands that all Pitt men must grow mustaches, goatees or beards, POTUS Larry Fitzgerald, Governor of Florida Danny Marino and the man responsible for finally destroying the BCS and instituting a college football playoff, NCAA Commissioner Tony Dorsett  (pronounced DOR-sett, not dor-SETT).

Pitt Defensive Coordinator Tony Siragusa, one of the holdovers from Wannstedt’s staff, threatens to eat anyone who goes against DITKA’s commandment or doesn’t believe that Larry would’ve have caught that. Mr. Siragusa does end up eating Bob Nutting on orders from Pirates, Penguins and city of Pittsburgh owner/Wizard of Oz Mario Lemieux. Mr. Lemieux’s Man-Behind-The-Curtains, Ron Burkle slides into the all-concealing shadow as he seeks to find the Jade Monkey, road maps and ice scraper before the next full moon.

From up on high, the Four Horsemen of Pittsburgh Football – Art Rooney Sr, Pop Warner, Jock Sutherland and Myron Cope look down on all that they have wrought and smile. For behold, it is very good.

Photo Credits: Joe Hermitt/The Patriot News, Matt Freed/Post-Gazette