Schiano’s Coaching Tenure at Rutgers

Rutgers

Three years ago at just about this very time, Phil Murphy sported a red tie and joined others in celebrating Greg Schiano’s return as Rutgers University football coach.

Schiano, the man who had made Rutgers football relevant for a few seasons in the first decade of the new century, was seen as just the guy to make Rutgers football relevant again – this time in the more competitive and more prestigious Big Ten conference.

How’s that working out?

Well, Rutgers just completed its third season in the Big Ten under Schiano with a conference record of 1-8. In the three years of his second tenure as coach, Rutgers has a conference record of 6-21. The Scarlet Knights have done better against clearly inferior, non-conference opponents, but that’s not the idea. The goal is not to beat Wagner and Temple, but to be competitive in the conference. With that in mind, consider that Rutgers lost its last two conference games by scores of 55-10 (Penn State) and 37-0 (Maryland).

The point here is one I made precisely three years ago when Murphy led the state’s political establishment in embracing Schiano, and more importantly, his $4 million a year contract, not including such perks as a private plane for recruiting trips.

It’s that college football is just not “big time” in New Jersey and that’s going to be the case regardless of how Rutgers tries to make it so.

When it comes to sports, New Jersey lives in the shadow of New York and Philadelphia.

With so many pro teams in those cities in all the major sports, there is really, very little room for college football. I am talking about fan interest, not the talent of high school players. The priority of New Jersey football fans are the Jets, Giants or Eagles, not Rutgers.

No matter what Rutgers does, it’s going to be nearly impossible to duplicate what we see elsewhere in the Big Ten – stadiums filled with up to 100,000 people and a team supported by all sports fans in the state. This is not a mystery to the best high school players in New Jersey, which is why so many of them bypass Rutgers.

It is hard to see that changing anytime soon even if you give Schiano the benefit of the doubt.. He has been back for three years, but maybe he merits a pass for year one, 2020, given the fact it was a COVID year. Then again, Rutgers won three conference games that year; they won just one this year.

With the Rutgers season ending, the sports pages of state newspapers have been filled with stories about Schiano planning a total reassessment of the program. Fans have heard that before.

One can not undo what’s been done.

Rutgers is playing Big Ten football and Schiano is getting paid oodles of money.

Interestingly, his salary is actually on the lower end of the scale when it comes to Big Ten football coaches. That’s probably more of an indictment of ridiculous salaries for college football coaches than it is a defense of what the state decided to pay Schiano.

The problem is Rutgers is stuck with Schiano’s contract for another five years. And given the passion – and frankly, unrealistic expectations – many sports fans have, it seems likely that Rutgers will pay somebody (maybe Schiano again) similar sums of money when his contract expires.

As a devoted sports fan myself, I certainly understand how a desire for a great, or at least a winning, team clouds your judgment.

Back in January, a report by Northjersey.com said the school’s athletic department had a $73 million deficit.

Asked about that at the time, the governor said it’s important for Rutgers to be competitive on the field while also remaining a top-flight research and educational university.

“Rutgers endeavors to be both,” Murphy, a big sports fan himself, said at the time.

As we are seeing, when it comes to football, it’s not easy doing both.

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7 responses to “Schiano’s Coaching Tenure at Rutgers”

  1. Rutgers is heading for serious labor unrest next spring as its negotiations with at least 17 employee unions is going nowhere. It’s hard to take seriously the administration’s claim that they “don’t have the money” to pay their adjuncts and grads living wages when they squander so much of it on the likes of Schiano.

  2. When I was at Rutgers, the school axed six varsity sports (including some of the top academic performing teams and athletes) while simultaneously funding a $100 million stadium expansion. Rutgers’ priorities have always been off. It’s sad because it’s such a great academic institution and it could be better if we weren’t funneling $100s of millions into a failing football program.

  3. Other than Football, the other sports have done well since Rutgers became part of the Big 10 conference. The Mens Soccer team won the Big 10 title and made it to the NCAA playoffs, the women’s field hockey team won the Big 10 regular season Division. The wrestling team has done well. Also mens basketball did decent last year. The Football program will take time. Not only that but academically joining the Big 10 allows for professorsamd students the change to share research with other Big 10 schools.

  4. Higher Ed is a business, let’s not kid ourselves. Football in the B1G 10 is great advertising for the University as a whole.

  5. One of the commenters above said that other sports at Rutgers have done well, e.g., Men’s Soccer, Women’s field hockey, wrestling team, basketball. The commenter then says the “the Football program will take time”. Take time? Rutgers has always had bad football teams, whether in the Big 10, or prior to that, in the ACC. Rutgers will never have a good team unless recruitment starts with hiring a real big name NFL coach and staff like U. of Michigan did to run the program. Schiano wasn’t good in the NFL and isn’t good at college football.

    Otherwise, NJ taxpayers are going to keep funding throwing money away on hundreds of millions of dollars per year.

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