Greg Schiano's return to Piscataway is reminder of Ash's role in rebuild


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Rutgers fans that are impatient with head coach Chris Ash's progress should abandon their short memories and look no further than the career of former head coach Greg Schiano.

It at least should be a source of comfort to know that Ash's 3-11 start through roughly one and a half years at the helm of the Knights was prefaced by similar numbers from his predecessor two times over.

Schiano arrived on the Banks removed from the worst five-year stretch in program history, as Rutgers went 11-44 under the guise of Terry Shea from 1996 to 2000.

Though former head coach Kyle Flood's tenure at Rutgers — strictly in terms of win/loss record — was above average, the ways he went about achieving that notwithstanding, the move to the Big Ten was just about as disadvantageous to an incoming head coach as a program sapped of a winning season for nine years.

The latter was what Schiano inherited in 2001.

After enjoying a dismal season in 2000, in which the Knights finished 3-8, Schiano assumed the reins and, slowly but surely, turned around a program that was so used to the cellar of the Big East.

It is a story that Ash in particular can resonate with, and it is a source of admiration from him to Schiano.

"I've always had a great appreciation for what Greg did here at Rutgers and what he accomplished and the way that he built the program up," Ash said. "And having been here and listening to all the stories and really getting a good feel for this place, you know, I do have a greater appreciation, but I've always had a pretty high appreciation of what he and his staff and players accomplished during his time here."

At the end of Schiano's first year as head coach, Rutgers finished with two wins — exactly the same as Ash's first season.

For all the talks of regression among the ranks in Piscataway and how Ash's squad should double its win total from last season, he could just as well point to the 2002 campaign that boasted one win.

It took time. And though it is counterintuitive to lose games and think "this is what should be happening, we're rebuilding," it should at least cease to be an indicator of Ash's success at High Point Solutions Stadium.

At the end of his second year, Schiano and his crew were 3-20. It was not until his fifth season that the Knights would have their first winning season since 1992 and its first bowl game since 1978.

Rutgers could very well finish with one win this season. It could just as well finish with four if the team finds ways to close big games the way it tends to start them.

But Schiano's return to Piscataway evokes a nostalgia that is not afforded to Ash in the present — his was a process that did not come to fruition for half a decade.

That, of course, is neither to say that Ash's time at Rutgers will mirror Schiano's nor that the pieces have lined up to this point perfectly.

But it is enough to say that setbacks like the Knights have seen in the early season — throwing away an Eastern Michigan matchup and slipping up in a winnable affair versus Nebraska — are not indicative of the destination.

As Ash will say himself, Schiano's path in taking Rutgers to a Big East powerhouse is a similar one he wants to forge in the Big Ten. In fact, it is one of the major reasons he dons that Rutgers polo each Saturday.

"It's remarkable what they were able to do, and you know, that's ... honestly that's one of the reasons that I made the decision to come here is because it's been done before," Ash said. "It takes a lot of time, effort and a lot of people to get it done but hoping to be able to rebuild it and get it back to where it was during his time here."


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Jon Spilletti

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