Tue, Dec 10, 2019

After negotiations appeared to have stalled last week, Rutgers is indeed going back to Greg Schiano to pull the Scarlet Knights football program out of the basement and turn it around. Again. Rutgers and Schiano have agreed in principle to a reunion, according to NJ.com and Yahoo Sports’ Pete Thamel.

The Scarlet Knights have brought back Schiano to lead the program two months after firing Chris Ash. Schiano previously coached Rutgers from 2001-11, compiling a 68-67 record. The Scarlet Knights are 2-10 and winless in the Big Ten play this season with their only wins over UMass and Liberty. The program endured its fifth straight losing season. 

Reports of a Schiano-Rutgers reunion have been circulating for weeks — basically ever since Ash was fired. The delays in the inevitable were, reportedly, numerous demands made by Schiano that included a new indoor practice facility, other upgrades, a hefty increase in salaries for assistant coaches and use of a private jet for recruiting and other purposes. Many of those requests required high-level university authorization, but the school was apparently willing to meet Schiano on them until it suddenly was not last week.

That’s when things apparently dissolved with Schiano turning down an eight-year, $32 million offer to return to the program. The salary itself was not a holdup, per Thamel, but rather other parts of the negotiations that Schiano felt would “give him a realistic chance to win” in the Big Ten.

However, the glory days of Schiano’s first tenure with Rutgers were not lost on prominent boosters or fans. Schiano is also still greatly respected among New Jersey high school football coaches, and the state has plenty of talent from which Rutgers can mine. Athletic director Pat Hobbs, university president Robert Barchi and other members of the Board of Governors came under intense scrutiny for failing to get a deal done given Schiano’s popularity. That apparently was the impetus for both sides to reopen talks earlier this week

Ironically, the same popularity that got Schiano rehired at Rutgers is the same type of pressure and force that resulted in him not getting the Tennessee job two years ago. In the aftermath of firing Butch Jones, the Vols looked poised to hire Schiano, then the defensive coordinator at Ohio State. However, heavy backlash among fans ended up with Tennessee going in another direction, eventually landing on Jeremy Pruitt. Jones, by the way, was heavily connected to the Rutgers job as well. 

After being passed over by Tennessee, Schiano returned to Ohio State in 2018. That proved to be his final season with the Buckeyes, as it was announced in February 2019 that he would not return. Schiano briefly joined the New England Patriots’ staff before resigning for personal reasons. 

But Schiano’s time at Rutgers remains special. At its peak in his first tenure, Rutgers was a player in the now-defunct Big East conference, posting winning records in six of Schiano’s final seven seasons. That included an 11-win season in 2006, tying the school record for most wins in a season with the 1976 undefeated team. That year, the Scarlet Knights were ranked as high as No. 7 in the AP Top 25. In all, Schiano is responsible for five of Rutgers’ 11 best seasons ever.   

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