The failure of Rutgers to put the finishing touches on a contract agreement with Greg Schiano has reopened the search for a football coach and left many Scarlet Knights fans unhappy that the onetime program builder won’t be returning.
Eric LeGrand, who was paralyzed during a 2010 game while playing for Schiano, said Monday that he was disappointed, embarrassed and sickened that Rutgers failed to bring back the man who led the Scarlet Knights to six postseason bowl games between 2005-11.
Ryan Hart, who played quarterback for Rutgers from 2005-07, was among a number of former players who were reaching out to anyone in power at the New Jersey university to beg them to resurrect the talks with Schiano.
Rutgers has been looking for a coach since firing Chris Ash in late September. The 53-year-old Schiano, who spent 11 seasons with the Scarlet Knights before becoming coach of the Tampa Bay Buccaneers for two seasons, quickly emerged as a front-runner.
The two sides were close to finalizing an eight-year, $32 million contract, but the deal fell apart Sunday after they could not agree on what investments into facilities and infrastructure were needed for Rutgers to be able to compete in the Big Ten Conference, a person familiar with the negotiations told The Associated Press. The person spoke on condition of anonymity because neither side wanted to make the negotiations public.
Rutgers, which has posted a 7-44 record in the Big Ten since joining the conference in 2014, released a statement Sunday on its ongoing coaching search that did not mention Schiano.
“We remain engaged in that search with a clear focus on building a successful Big Ten Conference football program,” the university said. “It is anticipated that a new coach will be named shortly after the conclusion of the season.”
Rutgers (2-9, 0-8) will play its final game at No. 12 Penn State on Saturday. The Scarlet Knights have lost 20 straight conference games dating to 2017.
Athletic director Pat Hobbs repeatedly has refused to answer questions on the status of coaching search. Nunzio Campanile has been the interim head coach.
Schiano’s representative, Jimmy Sexton, did not immediately return a telephone call Monday from The Associated Press seeking comment.
The blame for the breakdown in talks has fallen mostly on Hobbs and Greg Brown, a booster and one of the leaders on the board of governors.
University President Robert Barchi reiterated Monday that Hobbs wants a football coach that would be “the best fit for our university community, our fans, and our student-athletes.”
“I am confident Pat will find the right coach for this transformative job,” Barchi said in a statement.
The list of potential candidates includes former Tennessee coach Butch Jones, a current member of Alabama’s staff who interviewed for the job and later withdraw from consideration. Former Michigan and UCLA assistant Jedd Fisch, who is an assistant with the Los Angeles Rams, and former Arkansas and Wisconsin coach Bret Bielema, now an assistant with the Patriots, also have drawn interest.
However, none is the man the fan base and the boosters want. Schiano, who led the program to its greatest heights in a tenure between 2001-11, was the guy they believed would restore the program again.
“Yesterday’s actions leave me Disappointed and Embarrassed,” LeGrand tweeted Monday. “I try to represent Rutgers with the most respect I possibly can. To see how this situation was handled makes me sick. The words I preach come from the man who they said wasn’t “All-In” HAAA what a joke #KeepChoppin.”
Hart, who now works for Dell Technologies, wants to see Schiano in charge again.
While he has not spoken with his former coach, he said he has spoken with people who are in contact with Schiano and they say he is still eager to take over again.
“We are literally on the half-yard line,” Hart said in a phone interview. “Why can’t we get this deal done? You have seen the outrage and anger in social media and other outlets. The only way Rutgers can be successful is bringing somebody back like Greg Schiano and what we are trying to do is not let this be decided by one or two people.”
The breakdown in talks with Schiano apparently had one immediate effect. Quarterback Art Sitkowski, who decided to redshirt his sophomore season after Ash was fired, reportedly entered the transfer portal Monday. Other players are expected to follow.
Schiano was a good recruiter who understood New Jersey because he was born there. He had plan to restock the shelves.
Former Scarlet Knights defensive back and current Lincoln High School (Jersey City) athletic director Keith Price called the failure to hire Schiano “disappointing and embarrassing.”
“Everyone in the Big Ten is building facilities,” said Price, who played from 1991-94 and attends three or four games a year. “If you want to go bigger and better, then put your money where your mouth is. If we were ever going to go big-time, this was the chance. I’m getting calls from my friends who are alums at other schools and they’re laughing at me.”
AP College Football Writer Ralph D. Russo contributed to this report.
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