NORTHERN EXPOSURE: A Plan To Revive Rutgers' Football
"It's a huge game because it's an opportunity to go out and compete and an opportunity to go out and win a game. But we can't treat it any different than any other game, regardless of the opponent. ''
Nothing special, right?
. A statement that could have been made by dozen of college football coaches this week as we work our way towards the elimination portion of the season in terms of championships, bowl eligibility and other accomplishments.
Wisconsin coach Paul Chryst, perhaps talking about the Badgers' upcoming meeting with Ohio State, after being stunned last week by Illinois?
Auburn coach Gus Malzahn, discussing his team's upcoming trip to Baton Rouge and the SEC West showdown with unbeaten LSU?
Notre Dame coach Brian Kelly, commenting on what's at stake for his Irish team when it goes to the Big House on Saturday to face Michigan?
Good guesses, but Nope.
It WAS a Big Ten coach talking about his team's task on Saturday afternoon.
Say hello to Rutgers' interim head coach Nunzio Campanile, discussing the Scarlet Knights home game with....Liberty on Saturday, a game in which...wait...LIBERTY is a 7.5 point FAVORITE.
That would be Liberty, competing in its FIRST year as a full FBS member against Rutgers, a school which played in the first game of college football in 1869.
But this is also 5-2 Liberty and it is 1-6 Rutgers, which hasn't won a GAME in the Big Ten in two seasons and has already been shutout 3 times this season since its opening game romp over hapless UMass.
It is Rutgers, whose latest football fiasco was the shortened tenure of Chris Ash, who was fired midway through his fourth season with the Scarlet Knights, following a 1-10 season a year ago and another 0 for start in Big Ten play this season.
The question of the month, week, day and hour in the constantly shrinking circle of Rutgers supporters is who can fix this is, if it indeed can be fixed.
Which brings us to another statement of fact from the the Rutgers football archives.
Greg Schiano's record from 2001-2011 at Rutgers was 67-66.
Greg Schiano WON at Rutgers.
In the past 36 years, 8 coaches have had the title of head football coach at Rutgers. Only Schiano has finished above .500.
When Rutgers Director of Athletics Patrick Hobbs fired Ash last month, the question was logically and correctly asked, why make the move in September, rather than November?
Here's our theory on that--using logic, which is always dangerous in matters concerning Rutgers. Hobbs had someone in mind when he made the switch and with all the publicity surrounding Rutgers' part in college football's 150th birthday party, he wanted someone in place in the first week of November to generate some positive news.
Why? Well, look at what awaits the Scarlet Knights after Liberty. A road game against an Illinois team which scared Michigan and beat Wisconsin and three other games against Ohio State, Michigan State and Penn State, in which the odds of RU scoring aren't much better than the Knights winning, which won't happen.
Schiano is the only coaching candidate who will move the interest needle for the long suffering Scarlet Knight fans. He is a Jersey guy, who can recruit the talent rich state. He is available, taking a year off to spend some time with his family. And he has won at Rutgers--although in Big East, not Big Ten competition.
Whether he wants to retrace his coaching steps is a key question, which is why the Scarlet Knights must again dip into their future Big Ten television money and make him a Godfather offer he can't refuse both financially and control wise.
It is the only move that makes sense.
It is the only move that can bring Rutgers football out of one of the deepest holes in college athletic history.
And it could all be wrapped up in a neat package in the next two weeks.
But it's RUTGERS, which doesn't really need any more of an explanation.