GLASS: Football team is on downward spiral
Opinions Column: Extra Curricula
Whenever she sees one of the beautiful new buildings on the Rutgers campus my wife says, “I think that Barchi is the best Rutgers president since we came here,” which was 43 years ago. I respond, “Yes, except for football.”
University President Robert L. Barchi will not be known in history for the reuniting of Rutgers University with its medical school or the new construction or administrative improvements. He will be known as the college president who ended college football where it began. This did not happen all at once. The first steps were taken before he became president, another was made early on in his term and the final step will be made next week.
The first step was made when Greg Schiano unexpectedly resigned from Rutgers football to become the head football coach of a professional team, the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. When the head football coach of the member of a Power Five conference like the Big Ten resigns and the college administration is committed to winning football games, then the winningest coach at another Division I school is given the opportunity to move up or make a lateral move for emotional reasons and take over the program. This is what happened at four of the schools in Rutgers' division, Ohio State, Michigan, Penn State and Michigan State. The combined record of these coaches against Rutgers is 17-0.
But, that is not what Rutgers did. It hired the offensive line coach at Rutgers, Kyle Flood, who Schiano left behind when he took other members of his staff to Tampa Bay because he was inexpensive and, as a familiar face, he helped hold together what was the best recruiting class in Rutgers history.
The foreseeable result of hiring an unqualified head coach was that he lost games that he should have won. He attempted to pressure a professor to change a football player’s grade, for which Barchi gave him a three-game suspension and fined him $50,000.
The losses under Flood continued, though. He was fired as a result, but not for cause, so Flood was owed a severance payout of $1,400,000.
The second step in the destruction of Rutgers football was the decision for Flood’s successor. The head coach at Ohio State, Urban Meyer, 1 of the 2 most successful active head coaches in college football, is constantly shedding assistants in favor of someone better. That is how the unqualified Chris Ash went from being the defensive coordinator at Ohio State to the head coach at Rutgers. Meyer replaced Ash with the much more experienced and successful former collegiate and professional head coach Schiano, who Rutgers had declined to rehire as head coach.
The foreseeable result of hiring an unqualified head coach with no ties to New Jersey, hence unable to recruit sufficiently talented players from the rich local pool, has been that Rutgers is no longer able to field a competitive football team.
The few remaining fans wait in dread for the end of the season next week, which will be followed by 1 of 2 disastrous courses of action.
Most observers expect that Ash will be kept as head coach because under his contract he receives $10,000,000 regardless of if he coaches. Consequently, season ticket sales next year will dwindle to an unsustainably low level. For most games, the stadium will be empty, except when Ohio State, Michigan and Penn State fill the stadium with their fans.
In the unlikely event that Ash is replaced, it is assumed that the replacement will be an unqualified Ash/Flood clone and the outcome will be unchanged. In fact, two outcomes are possible. Rutgers is no longer in a position to recruit players sufficiently talented to make it a competitive football program at the level at which it plays. What it needs is a miracle. Miracles do not happen very often. Rutgers went “big time” in college football in 1973. After some early success, it had no more from 1979 to 2004. Without any compensating success, Rutgers football will be both an embarrassment and a money pit — which brings us to an even worse outcome.
The football deficit is paid for by the fees of students who will spend decades paying off their student loans. It is one thing to borrow money for your own education, quite another so that Rutgers can pay someone $10,000,000 to coach a football team that you did not know existed. It is only a matter of time before the students demand to end their support of the program, which will end the program itself. I will be devastated, but since the Athletics Department has deliberately antagonized both the fan base and the faculty, no one else will care when football is gone.
Arnold Glass is a professor in the Rutgers Department of Psychology. His column, "Extra Curricula," runs on alternate Thursdays.
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